THE Job

For Poets United Poetry Pantry and Real Toads Tuesday Platform. I cooked through university balancing studying on an academic scholarship. I eventually obtained my MS and became an environmental engineer. But I missed cooking. A few years ago I retired and went back to cooking volunteering at the Food Bank and at church. I began cooking with my father when I was six. This is also why I don’t keep a handwritten notebook. I kept things in my head for years and still do and arthritis in my hands due to cooking professionally.

THE Job
“It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”Anthony Bourdain

My once dainty hands became ugly –
Scarred with burns from handling hell hot saute pans,
knife work and the vanity of not wearing
a protective chain mail glove.
I broke down my back,
my knees, my feet, my hands
from carrying heavy stock pots,
manhandling sides of beef,
emptying out bathsized mixers,
Developed arthritis from standing over hot fires
and going outside in the freezing cold to smoke a cigarette or a joint.
I sacrificed lovers on the altar
of cooking – separating them from myself with one long bloody slice.
My first love,
My best love,
My most faithful love –
Cooking.
The longest relationship I had –
Twenty years professionally.
Sixty years total from start to now.
I don’t regret one minute.

36 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sherry Blue Sky
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 13:41:34

    What a wonderful journey you have made and are making – delicious meals from start to finish.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 21, 2018 @ 13:59:14

      I have to laugh. Some of the meals at the Food Bank are very basic – often soups made from whatever is available and cheese sandwiches. But we feed people and send them away filled.

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      Reply

  2. Olga
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 14:14:22

    Quite the story about your ‘most faithful love’, so worthy of celebration. I feel the passion in your words. 🙂

    Reply

  3. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 15:06:51

    My cooking is mostly quite basic.. but I do love to prepare something (especially slow-cooked)… I just taught myself to make carnitas… so tasty to share…

    Reply

  4. gillena cox
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 15:34:19

    Luv your poem and its message. I enjoyed so much cooking for my husband daughter and son.
    That phase ended.
    Now i cook on a whim for therapy and also for my personal nourishment
    Cooking is nice

    Happy you dropped by my sumie Sunday today

    Much love…

    Reply

  5. coalblack
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 16:30:20

    It’s a calling for you, whether you’re a professional or a volunteer.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 21, 2018 @ 16:38:20

      Yes it is. It calls my name, no matter where I am. I love watching the rhythm of a good group of line cooks on a busy night – the Rocketts got nothing on their moves.

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      Reply

  6. Vicki
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 17:00:00

    So nice to do what you love.

    Reply

  7. Mary
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 18:26:19

    I really love this, Toni! Your longest relationship ever. Since you were six. That does indeed say something. I enjoyed the idea of sacrificing lovers on the altar of cooking. Ha, after all, what is most important in the end? I too love food. I am not the best of cooks, but i savor GOOD food. I bet I would enjoy what you make.

    Reply

  8. Pat: willow88switches
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 20:02:03

    Cooking is a calling – it shouts, begs, pleads, demands, orders, seduces with a siren’s song, and allows for the angels to weep – for the pain, the burns, the scars, the blisters, and all of the wear and tear …. but still, it is a beautiful thing. (This reminds me of my grandparents, in particular one grandmother who was a lifetime cook in many capacities – as well as the others, 3 out of 4 were in the culinary industry; so this is chalk filled with memories for me, in its own way).

    I love how you’ve walked us through this – and wow, what lines, the sacrifice of self and lovers at the altar – with a bloody knife swipe …. superb!

    Reply

  9. Wendy Bourke
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 20:04:58

    LOVE ,,, LOVE ,,, LOVE ,,, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS POEM. It is TOTALLY written in my language. I am not a cook (outside of my home) – and yet – this piece TOTALLY resonates with me.

    Reply

  10. ZQ
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 20:49:16

    No problems here 🙂

    Reply

  11. Truedessa
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 21:46:15

    I admire your relationship with food and cooking. When I was in high school I worked in a hospital kitchen helping prepare cold foods. I also had the responsibility to help the floor staff feed the patients that needed help. For a sixteen year old it was a dose of reality. I had found a connection with the sick and elderly that is still with me. I guess you stirred up some memories.

    Reply

  12. Rosemary Nissen-Wade
    Oct 21, 2018 @ 22:58:20

    It is always good – nay, essential – to follow what one loves; to express that love. For me cooking isn’t it, poetry is; but I do realise that cooking is an art form too, and I am very glad of other people who love to cook, as I certainly like to eat well. The sacrificial cost of your great love was illuminating to read about – I’m glad you don’t regret one minute in spite of all that.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 21, 2018 @ 23:24:36

      Rosemary, it says a great deal about my husband that he has not be sliced from my life and that he understands this strange lifestyle.

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  13. Colleen@ LOOSELEAFNOTES
    Oct 22, 2018 @ 00:34:58

    Wow! I can’t imagine loving something that much and doing it that long!

    Reply

  14. mhmp77
    Oct 22, 2018 @ 23:27:36

    kaykuala

    Kitchen happenings are always accompanied by passion for the culinary delights.Long term negative effects can be a let down but worth it! Bravely taken Toni!

    Hank

    Reply

  15. anmol(alias HA)
    Oct 23, 2018 @ 17:35:04

    Ah, the images of the toil of a kitchen — all the handling and heating, the carrying and cutting, can have that kind of an effect on the bearing. The hands which have dealt with it all, that have made this journey are truly beautiful because it has been for the love and passion for something.
    This reminded me of my brief stint with hotel management. I used to like the kitchen works, though the chefs were rather brutal and demeaning — the service industry is not for everyone. It wasn’t conducive for my well being and so, I had moved on to another field. Some of my friends are now working with hotel chains, in big kitchens and restaurants.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 23, 2018 @ 18:17:59

      It is a male dominated profession definitely not for the weak or the sensitive. It is often brutal. I don’t know about hotel food service. Lol. We often referred to them as bottom feeders. I worked in several good restaurants feeding about 400 per night. Small restaurants, about 14 hours a day. Everything made from scratch.

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  16. Helen
    Oct 23, 2018 @ 17:55:47

    Wow! A huge wow! My youngest son is a chef and you have provided insight into that part of his life I never fully appreciated. A spectacular write! (Thanks for the tip.)

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 23, 2018 @ 18:50:54

      Glad it gave you some insight. It all depends on where you are cooking. Some places are perfectly civilized and other places it is a crazy dysgunctional place. Some places are quiet, well organized and others are brutal macho knife fights. I came up in both types of restaurants. But in both, even though a woman, I had to pull my weight, 14 hours a day. Where I cook now at the Food Bank is one of those quiet civilized places. we are respectful of each other. Not so often in the world of the crazy places. I once had a line cook who refused at first to do what I told him. I had had it one day. He was standing against the wall jawing with the dishwasher and he didn’t move when I told him to. Next thing he knew a meal cleaver slammed into the wall and stuck there. After that, it was always Oui Chef!

      Reply

  17. Margaret Elizabeth Bednar
    Oct 23, 2018 @ 22:34:02

    Obviously a passion and one that you have remained infatuated with. It comes and goes with me – I am a cook (not a baker of sweets) and love making historical meals… and LOVE lingering over a meal with family and friends (with good wine 🙂

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 23, 2018 @ 23:24:35

      And this is the difference in being a home cook and being a chef. Your interest waxes and wanes and you can sit down after fixing a meal and have wine with your guests. A chef fixes a plate, fixes another and another and another until about 400-600 plates are fixed a night. You can sit down after fixing a meal as a home cook. A chef does not sit down until the last mealnif the night is served and only then after clean up somewhere around 12-3 am. There is a lot of difference between being “a cook” and being a chef. Not to mention the several years of education, of interviewing for a job and if finally making your bones.

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  18. oldegg
    Oct 24, 2018 @ 02:35:06

    No one is more fortunate than those that love their work; their chosen career despite the peaks and lows. To have a lifetime of that work is enviable as often you are promoted away from that which you feel most creative, satisfying and rewarding.

    Reply

  19. Brendan
    Oct 24, 2018 @ 04:15:14

    Such a pairing of mind and body work — engineering and cooking. This is a fascinating peek into the lived life (cooking, I never would have thought that of you) and the road we have travelled with it. This one with cooking is a marriage to a jealous lover indeed. Not delicate, like dancing with whales.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Oct 24, 2018 @ 06:52:19

      Like tangoing with tigers or waltzing with whales. God bless the runners, wait staff, dishwashers, and night porters, the line cooks, the prep cooks, and the loyal sous chefs – without them we would be well and truly lost. Brendan, I lived in a world dominated by men and held my place.

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    • kanzensakura
      Oct 24, 2018 @ 06:56:16

      I hit send too soon. I am 4’10” tall as well. I am one of those people who thrive in dysfunction although the years of drug and alcohol abuse caused me to crash, burn, and rise again from the ashes. It was not until years later that I finally felt safe enough to return to my first lover. ________________________________

      Reply

  20. sanaarizvi
    Oct 24, 2018 @ 05:28:19

    I love this poem so much 😀 and can truly hear your voice in it. To be so passionate about something and to carry on with it for so long with such dedication says a lot about the person ❤️

    Reply

  21. Kerry
    Oct 24, 2018 @ 11:21:21

    I sacrificed lovers on the altar
    of cooking

    This says a lot about the nature of choice.. choose your passion.

    Reply

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