What I Really Want

francisI’ve moaned and I’ve groaned about being unemployed but it’s about time I came clean with a little bit about the flip side. For instance, it’s around 10:30 and I just finished a brunch of stone-ground grits, amplified with pimento cheese and Iberian ham, sprinkled with Hungarian bacon and topped with a lightly poached egg. Texas Pete found a place at the table, of course, and there were some fresh tomatoes topped with mayo.And, oh yes, of course, a double espresso made with my beloved Francis Francis (this is actually my old model, which is visually more interesting)

(One of the reasons I fixed myself a fab breakfast is the weight I’ve lost working at the restaurant. My belt is now secured three holes from where it was when I last ate three meals a day. I go to work at 4 and I’m not hungry for supper and there’s simply no time at work to eat. I have a snack and beer when I get home, but the physical labor is burning up the carbs.

At any rate, it was pouring rain at 6:30 when Anne got up to go to school and this was one of the rare mornings that, when asked whether I wanted to sleep in, I replied in the affirmative. I was up past midnight, as I often am after I get off of work zinging with adrenalin. Sleeping until 8 was a luxury. My reading material with breakfast was an article on Lambrusco from the Oxford Companion to Wine. I’m reviewing six bottles of Duplin Wine and am going to compare their Black River Red Table Wine to the Lambrusco we guzzled in the late 1960s and early 70s. I also “tasted” their Hatteras Red with breakfast (“a nose tease, loaded with muscat and floral notes, with a sting of pepper in the background that keeps its sweet notes from being cloying or overbearing”)

No, I don’t have wine with breakfast on a regular basis. In fact, I am adamant about the 5 o’clock rule. But this was work. So was touring a flavor factory to revamp a web site the other day. So was eating out at Mozelle’s in Winston the other night to review it, where I had their tomato pie (“. . . my, what a pie. Take the traditional, flaky crust –as good as my grandmother used to make. Add three kinds of cheese, San Marzanno tomatoes and a generous dollop of butter along the way to the oven, and you have something uniquely Southern—and one you’re not likely to find anywhere else that I know of.”)

Friday, Anne and I are headed to McClellanville to factcheck a tour book of the Lowcountry written by Billy Baldwin. It’s 11 daytrips, each beginning in downtown Charleston and we’ve driven four or five so far, checking the mileage to the 10th of a mile, noting where intersections have changed or stoplights have gone up and making sure nothing’s burnt down or closed. We’ll tour Georgetown and Murrell’s Inlet and environs on this trip.

I’m also providing About.com’s coffee web site with some content in hopes that they’ll take me on as their guide (“Try Allegro Coffee’s Kenyan Grand Cru (http://www.allegrocoffee.com) . . . a coffee that awakens the taste buds with lively, flowery acidity with notes of oranges and lemon.”) That entails my trying out recipes for the site. So far, Anne helped me bake an espresso chocolate cake that was problematic because I substituted liquid espresso for instant, and I’ve turned in a recipe for a shakerato, an espresso with a little sugar shaken to a heavenly froth with ice in a shaker. I’ll have one of those as soon as I finish here.

{NOTE: About.com decided to  do without  this coffee geek}

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Winnie, my dog, and my Illy X1 espresso machine have been my constant and faithful companions during the day, never disappointing me. Just so you don’t think my life’s a continual picnic, last night I cleaned two industrial ovens that hadn’t been cleaned in a long while. Chunk removal was required before I could even begin to see what was under the build up. My fingernails are split and you can see bruises beneath the nails. After that, I did the nightly washing of the hoods—the stainless-steel enclosures over the stoves that need wiping down each and every night. This requires perilously balancing yourself atop the stoves, ovens and counters and reaching as high as you can and giving the stainless steel all the elbow grease you can find at 10:30 in the evening. In a word, it’s backbreaking. If I don’t take aspirin before going to bed I wake up in the middle of the night needing them.

On the other hand, I’ve really learned where things are in the kitchen, how to cook or finish off a number of new dishes and occasionally have moments of actually feeling competent. And I keep telling myself that I’m really lucky—to have the opportunities that I have, to be making enough to pay the mortgage, to be living a life that many would envy and that I’m obviously enjoying when I can stop worrying about money.

I realize that what I really yearn for is security, something I had for six decades without interruption. As I’ve said before, I don’t buy the song and dance that people keep giving me about how my losing my job is a great opportunity, a door opening, something I’ll look back on and one day say what a good thing it was. Maybe that will be the case, but it’s not what anyone wants to hear when they’ve lost one of the best jobs on the planet and they might lose their house. I reply that I’ll be glad to trade my opportunity for their job—and that usually shuts them up. I don’t believe in destiny or that things are meant to be. I believe in having lots of options and acting on them. In my case and given my interests, those options haven’t been boring. And for that, I’ve been thankful.

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8 Responses to “What I Really Want”

  1. Kathleen Scott Says:

    Sounds like you’re making your own opportunities…not easy, but good. Your writing is engaging. Hope you’re keeping a journal, this journey would make a good book.

  2. Richard Gilbert Says:

    Great post. I am drooling with hunger for that breakfast and admire your tough stance–many others, including most likely me, would be in the fetal position. You got up and grabbed the handles.

  3. Richard Gilbert Says:

    Great post. I am drooling with hunger for that breakfast and admire your tough stance–many others, including most likely me, would be in the fetal position. You got up and grabbed the handles. Not just tough, but a very creative response as well. Bravo!

  4. Lisa Wats Says:

    Thank you David. If one more person mentions the one-door-closing thing…and I know I chose my unemployment, but for reasons I’m sure you can imagine. I’ve landed a full-time gig at Winston-Salem State U and feel very lucky to be gainfully employed again.

    I remember working in a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard one summer in college and losing weight just as you describe — hard, hot work and you lose your appetite. Hmm — wonder if it would happen again.

  5. Elaine Wilder Says:

    David, you are such a talent! I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time while reading your story. An adventurer you are! All good thoughts . . .

  6. Lynn Coulter Says:

    i’m with you…did NOT want to hear cliches when hubby was out of work. i’d rather hear somebody say they haven’t got a clue about why things happen. mystery is easier to live with than platitudes from people who don’t know what you’re going thru.

    and mystery it is…who would’ve dreamed that b/c of my essay, i’d wind up with contracts for 2 books? i believe there is a book in what you’re doing…

    when it’s out, i’ll mail my copy to you for an autograph. deal?

    lynn

  7. caleb Says:

    Hi David-

    I heard your interview on NPR, great job!
    caleb

  8. scott sapp Says:

    curious about balwins tour book, know where i can snag a copy?

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