Enjoy the ride

For the 10th day of NAPOWRIMO and for Poet’s United Midweek motif

Enjoy the ride
“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it…” Oscar Wilde

so like, mid-way between obtaining my PhD
I was cooking in a local hotel to pay for my basics
in university. I had a full scholarship.
But I needed things. I needed dope
and food and a place to live so I decided
to drop out and go to culinary school.
I was totally dysfunctional and I fit in
like a hen in a pot of dumplings.
The few months became 20 years.
Seventeen hours a day, 6 days a week.
Sex in the cooler, smoking pot outside
among the trash bins, cussing like a chef –
throwing and juggling kitchen knives during the slow times, lifting food and
partial bottles of wine,
I had a love for rare steaks, stinky cheese,
and oven fresh bread with French butter.
I indulged all of this at the restaurant,
my true home. I learned the truth there.
Enjoy the ride.
And I did.

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.

Haibun: Things I learned in the CIA

Posted for Mish’s prompt at dVerse Poets Pub – finding beauty in the ugly.

Haibun: Things I learned in the CIA
“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.” Anthony Bourdain
Many years ago, I attended and graduated from the CIA – The Culinary Institute of America that is. I was paired up with a tall lanky homely young man with curly hair and large deft hands. Unlike the rest of us, he always had a piece of rotting fruit or vegetable on his work station. Out of reach of the knives and other items, but always there. I remember once one of the instructors yelling at him to get rid of that damned piece of rotten fruit. He would but the next day, another one took its place. I think the others felt sorry for me because I was paired with him but I liked him a lot. He was dryly funny and open to everything. We became lovers after a fashion and finally I asked him the question: Why the rotting fruit? He smiled and said, “in its own way, it is so beautiful. And we all come to this you know.” I would sometimes see him lift a pear, an orange, a bell pepper and look at it from all angles before carefully replacing it on the table. After graduation and working under some excellent chefs, he went his way and I mine. I never forgot him. And no, it was not Tony Bourdain.
rotting fruit
in its season –
so must we all

You Don’t Know Me

I will be posting this on Real Toads Tuesday Platform.

You don’t know me
As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”Anthony Bourdain

You don’t know me.
I have listened to men making crude comments
about women in the kitchens I have cooked.
I have been beaten, stabbed, raped and robbed.
I have lost people I love due to
Illness, murder, and suicide.
I have been in the depths of despair,
I have danced on rainbows of joy.
I have loved deeply and been loved in return.
I have eaten the food from a James Beard Award winner,
I have eaten beans and beans,
I have starved.
I watched my mother dying
and identified the body of a friend dead by suicide.
I walked out on being a chef after having won an award
and almost hung myself that same day
but was saved by my little needy cat.
A year later I watched that cat being stomped to death
after my home was invaded and she hissed at the invaders.
I have seen lonely days and nights
And I have been alone by choice
And I have chosen my few friends wisely.
I learned the languages of water, trees and stones
and the language of the French and Japanese kitchens,
the language of the heart,
the language of cicadas at night.
I have dwelt in darkness of spirit
and darkness of the sweet night.
I have scars on my body and soul.
I have wept and laughed.
You don’t know me.

copyright kanzensakura
Kanzen in the snow 1957

Chef to the Stars

For Rommy’s Prompt at Real Toads – write a job description. I retired three years ago but find myself working again, for free.

Chef to the Stars
I used to be a chef but burned out.
I used to be an engineer but I retired.
Now I am a chef again
cooking for free in the kitchen
of our local Food Bank.
I cook for those I love:
My husband
My friends
The kids with one meal a day
The homeless with their belongings
in a black plastic garbage bag
The elderly, the almost forgotten.
I share my homegrown produce with them
I put together meals of whatever is on hand
I think of myself as Chef to the Stars.
These folks shine in the darkest
of their night.
Like the stars
they look at me and smile.
Potato soup and hamburger macaroni surprise.
The stuff of which dreams are made.

Stairway to heaven – 1983

For Susie’s prompt at Real Toads – stairs

public domain image

Stairway to Heaven – 1983

sweltering day in Philadelphia –
the air downtown smells of rotting vegetables
exhaust and pretzels.
I climb the two steps up into
the trolley –
exhausted from a day of cooking
and glad there are not more than
two steps –
the air from the open windows
is sweltering is hot as the air
blasting out of a 500 degree oven.
I get off at my stop and begin
the slow slog up the rickety
apartment stairs to my
third floor apartment –
I open the door and step inside
and…
alone at last – the overhead fan
and the fan in the window cool the apartment.
I sit in the rocker by the window
and look down on the street below.
I fall into a short nap –
My bare feet are up on the coffee table.
Heaven.
A cold glass of lemonade.
Heaven.
I hear footsteps coming up the stairs –
I ignore the knocks.
I am in heaven and nobody else is allowed.

wiki image

Haibun: Nyuk nyuk y’all

As a child of the 50’s, I spent many hours in front of the TV. When I got home from school I would plop in front of it with a snack on the floor in front of me. Often an apple or an orange, sometimes a dumdum sucker or a an oatmeal snack cake. The consistent part was always the Three Stooges. I loved them. Or at least I loved Curly. He was always being poked in the eyes, bonked on the head, or catching his suspenders in the door and being dragged backwards to his original starting point. I’d imitate his bark, the way he would twist his hips and do the Curly shuffle – he’d put his head down and pump his feet making the Curly sound: whoopwhoop! Ruff ruff! Nahhhhhh. As he once told bully Moe, don’t hit me in the head. I ain’t normal. Nope. Curly wasn’t normal and neither was I. I’m still not normal. I hated dolls and loved dogs and cats instead. I began reading Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot at the age of 11. I began writing haiku when I was six. I stood on a chair so I could make pancakes for the family when I was four. I hated school but loved studying. And I would bark at people I didn’t like. I still do. Not.Normal. Nyuk nyuk. Ruff ruff. Y’all.

times change – people change –
children discover strange heroes –
laughter and not tears

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