Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cooks In The Stew Squeel The Broth

Art. So many people define themselves as artists, creating masterpieces…or at least ‘talking’ about their ‘art’. I did it for years, no fooling.
Mine was cooking, the culinary art. I have worked many different places, many types of restaurants…and the art isn’t just in the food. It is also in the effort to make all of the food perfectly, in timing this to be ready with that, whatever this and that happen to be. A musician needs to be able to keep time; a good cook is both Conductor and Musician.
“But Doug,” you might say, “cooking in Restaurants isn’t really Art.” It can be.
Meet two cooks; let’s call them Ricky and Fred.
Ricky is 21, works at an upscale Italian restaurant, is enthused about creating food art. He has a copy of “LaRousse Gastronomique”, he does fancy when even plain would be fine…he thinks he is an artist.
Fred, on the other hand, is 44 years old. He’s been in kitchens for 30 years, knows it all, has done it all. He doesn’t think he’s an artist. And he’s right.
Each presents a good plate. Both have the timing, know the proper mix of how to get all the elements ready at the same time. For Ricky, it is still a joy, still “art”. For Fred, it is drudgery, hard unending work. He knows that five years from now, he’ll be exactly where he is today, on the cook line. And he hates his job and his life, but he has no other skills, no other way to make a living. He’s trapped in the kitchen.
Now we meet a third cook, whom we will call Doug.
Doug was a mess in the mess hall-he tried to learn the skills, the timing, how to cook. He hated it. He also hated his life. He was miserable, angry; every day was another defeat for him, another ‘epic fail’. He couldn’t get water to boil, let alone make a palatable meal.
One day he was sat down by his boss. It had been decided that Doug was not able to handle cooking. Doug
was going to be sent back to the ranks of general labor. In the military, on board ship, that meant going back to the ‘deck force’ from which he had started.
Doug begged for another chance. His self image was so broken, so impaired that he was reduced to begging.
The boss left him alone for a few minutes to think. Instead Doug reached out to God, asked God to save him; not from his job, but from his screwed up life. And God answered him.
When the boss returned, he found Doug smiling. Doug assured him that he could indeed do the work of cooking, and if the boss was willing to take one more chance on Doug, he would become a good cook.
Which I did. From that day forward, I not only learned the skills, but also began to enjoy the art of cooking.
I was a ‘Ricky‘. I didn’t often have the latitude to do ‘artsy-creative’, but I enjoyed my work. It didn’t really matter what I was doing, because I wasn’t doing it to simply survive. The Bible says, whatever you do, do it as if you are doing it for God. When I grew tired of cooking, I learned other skills, and now can basically do anything. Presently I work in an office, sitting at a computer 8 hours a day. The art isn’t in the job, but in doing it for God.
Remember Ricky and Fred? Chances are good that Ricky the creative artist will one day become a ‘Fred’. Without God, all life is drudgery. Fred could escape that kitchen without leaving it, if he were to reach out to God, but he hasn’t; God does the choosing, and makes the moment happen or not. A few days after the talk with my boss, I formally asked Christ to forgive me, to save me. Not in a rush of emotion, but with a clear mind, a ready mind. I am so thankful that God saved me, made my moment happen, nearly 30 years ago. Rockin’ good news. Mighty cool. Praise God!

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