Thursday, December 01, 2005

New Culinary Rhythms

The day before Thanksgiving was punctuated by the constant background notes of Led Zeppelin, The Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The dusty black radio perched on a shelf in the bakery was switched from its usual soft classical twinkle to the more raucous, louder classic rock drawl. It was a one day phenomenon, a fitting marker for the hectic pre-Thanksgiving rush that began that Wednesday morning in the cold darkness of 4am. The crooning noise of Stairway to Heaven and Free Bird reverberated around the steamy room, inspiring me subconsciously to move with just a bit more bounce. Beethoven’s lyrical melodies leave me with a relaxed smile on my face as I delicately twist buttery dough into symmetrical rounds for Danish pastries. Bach conjures up images of crackling fires and windswept grain fields in the back of my mind as I roll out linzer dough to cut for holiday cookies. On that pre-holiday morning, however, The Rolling Stones gave me just a bit more oomph as I carted around stacks of pumpkin pies and frosted cakes with the speed of one who has a herd of turkeys nibbling at her feet.

The musical change in the bakery, surprising and short-lived as it was, is a good summation of my recent life. I’ve switched from a self-imposed classical slow to a more energetic rock of busy movement. Recovering at home after the accident was a calm (however depressing) endeavor, filled with quiet thought and slow healing. Since I discarded my crutches and began work in the bakery, my tune has changed. The bakery is a complicated balancing act of buttery pastry melodies. At home, Thanksgiving was a feast for 10; my mom and I stewed in the delicious (and minorly stressful) preparation of the aggressively planned meal. Butternut squash soup with brown butter and sage, roast turkey and sausage cornbread stuffing, sauteed beans with almonds, sweet potatoes with lime syrup, fresh cranberry sauce, apple and pumpkin pies, chocolate cake – they seemingly catapulted themselves out of the kitchen. Or perhaps that was just our laughingly wine-induced perception. And not even 48 hours later, still full of turkey, I had my first stint as a caterer.

About a month ago I received a phone call. A rusty, highly toned female voice: Hi Molly. I am a colleague of your mother’s - I have heard your story and today I had the privilege of trying the cookies you made for your mother to bring to our meeting. I was wondering if you would be interested in catering a lunch for me. Surprised (the oatmeal cookies I had made on a whim for the meeting were simple at best) yet happy, I heartily agreed to make up a menu and get back to her the next day. And I found myself last Saturday running around with pans of marinated salmon and plates of sugar-dusted almond cakes. Manchego cheese had been grated into oblivion, candied walnuts broken into small pieces for salad. There was a sizzle of asparagus and the softly cloying melt of the parmesan sprinkled on top. Hiding my fear of making a mistake with a calm smile and measured rhythmic gate in the kitchen, I plated fish and vegetables, garnished with a sprinkle of toasted seeds, a dollop of balsamic syrup. Molly, this is the best salmon I’ve ever had. My face, I’m pretty sure, lit up with exhausted glee.

In the midst of these wonderful new things in life, I can’t help but admit that I am frustrated. I am at times overwhelmingly disheartened by my lack of smell, the limping step of my left leg, my muted taste buds and the overwhelming exhaustion enveloping my body every evening when I fall into bed. A pang of annoyance resonates through the pit of my stomach with every exclamation of It smells amazing in here as customers waltz into the bakery. I would be lying if I said that my happiness and deep thankfulness (strong as they are) are not countered with those flutterings of frustration and annoyance. Perhaps this is because in my other life I would be moving to Hyde Park tomorrow, shaking with delicious anticipation of my first day at the CIA this weekend. But I am soldiering on; each dark moment is followed by one of light. Whether it is Led Zeppelin or Bach, I feel motivated by the new rhythms echoing in my life.


Unknown said...

amazing, truly amazing

Helen said...

Hey there Molly!

Congrats on your first catering gig :) Your dishes sound so delicious! Hope it gets a little less stressful now that Thanksgiving is over.


*fanny* said...

Hi Molly,
congratulations for the catering experience. The dishes sound delicious.