I moved behind him and called out enthusiastically “Hot behind!” He turned, eyes crinkling above the gang style teardrop (in his case a fleur de lis ) the prison style, inch tall, hand lettered, four letter tattoo on his neck clearly visible, “Why thank you!!” he said, grinning.
Perhaps I should explain?
Some of you know I began Culinary School this past year. It has been a remarkable experience. I have learned more about food, cooking and baking in the last few months than I have learned in a lifetime. I’ve also learned much about my physical endurance and its limits. There have been classical techniques to learn, mountains of arcane facts to memorize and a long list of kitchen protocols to observe. The anecdote above was simply an example of the last. Commercial kitchens are very dangerous places with a multitude of accidents just waiting to happen. Hot pans are being whipped around, ovens are opened suddenly, people rush, carrying a knife over to the sink to wash off before it is needed for its next task.
So…we need to be careful, for our selves and others and one of the protocols includes shouting out cautions. A knife being carried from one place to another requires a shout of “Knife Walking!” a hot pan going from stove to be worked on a stainless steel table (“Hot Walking!”), carried behind others is, you guessed it, “Hot Behind!” and all mixed in with a chorus of “Oven Open!” “Freezer door opening!” . The kitchen can be downright cacophonous in addition to being an absolute mad swirl of highly focused activity.
I have been delighted to find my years of theater training have unexpectedly helped. After this long stretch of stage work I am well aware of where my body is vis a vis others (one needs to be aware of this at all times on stage). It is so clear when fellow students haven’t had that kind of experience. We get hyper focused on work and it is a trick to be simultaneously taking in the environment around you. I am used to being alert to warnings too. “Five minutes to places!” the stage manager will call out, meaning in 5 minutes all actors are to be stationed backstage in the wings, poised for entrance on stage. In theater the proper etiquette is to echo back “Thank you 5 minutes!” to show you have heard the time correctly. (It took me weeks to get out of the habit in the kitchen not to respond “Thank you Oven Opening!” so well trained was I … I can thank the bemused looks from my fellow students for helping me break the habit.)
It is exhausting, it is demanding, it is wonderful and I am here completely by accident.
A trip taken on a whim last year began this particular phase in life. I wrote about it in this blog. For something that has pretty much taken over my life for now, culinary school, I am struck by the fact that finding out about that trip was an accident, as were so many of the most important things that have happened in my life.
Meeting my dear husband of so many years? Blind date (first ever for either of us) the first day of college. My first “grown-up” job? My father in law worked for the company and got both my husband and I interviews. My amazing and dear daughter? An utterly unplanned delight. My cherished friends? Randomly met through volunteer work, theater and school. (One I met by chance at a health spa…and she rekindled the love of biking by suggesting a trip that engendered bike trips around the world the last several years). The improv teacher who changed my life by teaching me to trust my instincts? Learned about in a flyer posted on my local library bulletin board. The list goes on…and on.
Do you see a pattern here?
I had met a newish friend for drinks in NYC several weeks ago. We were bringing each other up to date on where our lives had taken us, as new friends do. She is much younger than I and after telling me her story she sighed and said “It seems like I just don’t have a plan for my life, I just kind of float from one thing into another.” I looked at her and said,”I’ve lived my whole life that way and you know what? It’s been Awesome.”
And so it has. It also, to me, begs the question. Were all these things just accident? Random events? Or was there fate involved? Or God? I have no idea. None. All of these things that have so indelibly shaped this life… out of the blue it might appear.
Mind you, this is not to say I haven’t had heartache and pain and fear in my life… none of us get through life without our share of each. But what I can say is that I have really, really loved my unexpected life so far and gratefully anticipate the life enhancing surprises that still are to come. I look eagerly forward to the years ahead of living accidentally on purpose ~