While cleaning, I came across this memory of living in New York City ….
Recently married. Graduates with high-end degrees. We find ourselves having to lie just to get an interview for a place to live. Extravagant lies to people who don’t care. We do it. Accept this new way of living. We land in Sunnyside, a community of Mexican and Irish families. Tony and Helen from Dublin are our landlords for a space with high ceilings and wood floors and that black and white tile in the bathroom... it’s the first time I’ve seen a tub separate from a shower and I am elated.
The romanticism of the first year of marriage and living in ‘the city’ thins as hours of work outweigh moments of rest. Days turn to months as I travel all over the island in a polyester tuxedo. Taming my long hair into food-safe styles turns me androgynous. I offer hor’douvres in museums after hours, corndogs at the Big Top Circus on the upper West side, beef braciole on a yacht in dirty harbor water. Transplants from around the country, dreams waylaid in order to pay rent, we don cheap suits and bow ties to french serve with trays half our body weight to strangers we do not wish to know.
But then, with a little white lie, I con my way into the kitchen. Every morning at 5am I hop onto the 7, transfer to the 1 or 9 to the village. Grab a coffee at Grey Dog Cafe which opens right at 6, walk past Murray’s Cheese Shop and Faicco’s Sausage, past tightly packed brownstones to stairs leading underground.. with Rick, the executive chef, Paul, the soux, and Grace from Poland, with an accent so thick her hybrid language is more sounds than recognizable words.
Hours of folding and filling and cutting mushroom strudels; roasting bones for vats of broth; mashing berries for jams and coulis; rendering duck fat; rolling chicken roulades; scoring and blanching and peeling and seeding tomatoes; roasting peppers directly on the wall sized stoves, heat pouring into every corner of the space ... pots clanking, spoons tapping, a dance of efficiency. Repetition. Muscle memory.
On the subway home, so thankful to finally sit after 10 hours on my feet, I write everything down from the day. Recipes, techniques, ingredients, how to score pastry, how to work with phyllo dough so it doesn’t dry out or rip; how to wrap meat with twine; how to sear, saute, steam, poach and reduce; how to cut 50 radishes into roses, how to make a quart of remoulade; how to make 15 lbs of brownies...
I smile as I read this. I never wanted to leave Seattle. Never desired to live in NYC. Never dreamed of working in a kitchen. Catering was a third job to make ends meet while I relentlessly pursued my true passion of acting & teaching.
What felt like a detour at the time, became a true north. The kitchen a space of clarity. The art of baking a meditation.
There were contrary signs all along... unexplainable joys in all the wrong places. Strangers more familiar than family. Home felt in places I'd never been before.
Why is it so hard to trust a bone-deep knowing?
The violences of spirit I’ve committed between the time I knew something and the moment I allowed myself to live forward from that knowledge… Little violences excused as learning curves, rites of passage, logical, sensible, responsible..
What is it to be led by bone knowledge... allowing the whispers of something wild, deep within, to be heard... to breathe from this infinite space...
A body moving and the voice speaking from that deeper place of knowing… perhaps this is another way to alignment...