Line Cook in the Morning

I get up early three days a week and leave before dawn. It makes me feel like part of the work force to join the daily migration to work via Interstate 80. Luckily, my path is opposite the commute direction as I drive eat to pick up Highway 12. Coming over the hills that separate Vallejo from the rest of Solano County, I sometimes get a nice view of the Sacramento River wetlands reflecting early sunlight.

Sonoma Hills covered in vineyards and a eucalyptus wind break next to Fremont Diner where I work as a line cook.Crossing through hills on Highway 12, I see lights dotting the dark hills and mountains of Napa and Sonoma county. I like the mystery of what those lights are. By the time I reach Carneros Highway leading to Sonoma, rooftops begin to appear in the now not distant hills, thus ruining my earlier wonder. I come down a vineyard hill, pass a eucalyptus wind break and see a red diner sign, where I turn in and park. It’s cold in the morning, and the land smells of animals and crops. Sometimes the lambs in the field neighboring the parking lot will come greet me. I give them ear scratches and then head in.

The diner is oddly cold in the morning when we open up. Stoves, ovens and fryers have not had the chance to warm the space yet. We immediately get to work, warming up food, stocking the line, finding utensils, making daily salads and putting away deliveries. As soon as the “open” sign is flipped, at least a couple of regulars walk in ready for breakfast. The ticket machine comes to life and it’s “game on.”

Sausage and eggs sizzle bringing the stove and grill to life. The next few hours are primarily dedicated to breakfast dishes. I poach and cook eggs over easy, ladle on hollandaise, cover biscuits with gravy, and make huevos rancheros. I even sling the proverbial hash which comes with an egg sunny side up.

There’s a lot to being a good line cook. First you have to be prepared, which means having everything you need plus back ups. This takes a few times to get right on a new line. Knowing which cooking utensils are going to make your job easier is half the battle. The other half is grabbing those utensils before someone else does. Next is knowing what backups you need. Having to go back to the walk-in during service is not only severely inconvenient, but a major fail. If you go through your back up and need more of something, that’s understandable, but not having a backup is not doing your job. Running out of something entirely on the line is a public shaming worthy offense. Then there’s tickets, but that’s perhaps another post.

To some it may seem a waste for someone of my background and education to be working as a cook. To me though, it’s as though I’ve been training for this for a long time. It requires forethought, attention to detail and split second decision making. Plus, it’s physical, very physical. That’s another post to write about too. I finally feel like I’m doing something I always wanted to do. I enjoy my work and don’t mind being on display as I work in our open kitchen. I remember once, watching a short order breakfast cook at a place in LA. I was fascinated at how he could pump out, order after order and keep track of so many things at once. Now I do that regularly. It’s not uncommon for me to have 3 or four pans going at once plus something in the broiler. It’s fun, it’s challenging, and right now it’s what I do.


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Adventures With Chickens

I’ve wanted chickens for a long time. But to be honest, I was a little scared of them. I never really dealt with livestock before outside the occasional visit to a local farm. We had ducks when I was a kid, but they seemed a lot less intimidating. But for the the past few years I still longed for chickens, and the eggs they gift on a regular basis.

It finally happened for me bout a month ago. After getting over my fears by house sitting for a friend with chickens, I learned that it really wasn’t that hard to do. So I read multiple internet sites, checked out books from the library, did a skill trade with a friend to build the coop, and got my first two girls. I couldn’t have been prouder of our first egg if I’d laid it myself.

And the whole thing continues to be an adventure. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Yes, You Can Pet A Chicken

Chickens can be trained to come when called, and if handled correctly (hands over those wings to prevent flapping) they can be petted and rather tamed, depending on the breed. I started by just spending time in the coop so they would get use to me. I try to handle them at least once a day, holding them close, speaking in soothing tones and petting them gently. But remember chickens can have a lot of germs. No kissing, seriously, and always wash your hands after handling your girls.

Pecking Order Is Real

If you think politics are harsh, check out what’s going on in your coop. I started with two hens that came from the same flock. Although this was a new dynamic for them, they quickly figured out who was in charge. Dumpling is my dominant Sussex. She’s the largest of my hens and the most vocal. She hems and haws a lot when she’s not happy with one thing or another, but overall she’s a good egg (layer). Her flock mate is Teriyaki who kind of just goes with the flow. After a couple of weeks we introduced two new girls to the mix, Noodle who’s barely 6 months old, and only just laying, and Paul,who is likely a few weeks ahead of Noodle and laying daily. ¬†When we introduced the new girls to the flock, Dumpling went full on Heather. Almost immediately her personality changed, and it became very clear that Dumpling is the HCIC. Paul it seems has more moxi than is good for her, and thus gets pecked from time to time to remind her who is in charge, but she is more or less accepted into the group. Poor Noodle, the youngest, still timid and not at all assertive is not in the clique yet. Paul is accepting of Noodle, and I’ve seen Teriyaki being tolerant of Noodle on the sly, but sadly Noodle is not a Heather yet.

Chickens Are Smart

When you see their dinosaur legs and relatively small craniums, it’s easy to write chickens off as stupid animals. They’re not. The first few nights we had our girls it stormed. The wind howled, it rained sideways and the shelter we had was not nearly sufficient. So, we put the girls into the dog kennel, set them up with food and water and shavings, put a blanket over the kennel and called it a night. No problem. After the second night of this, I slept in a little later than I should have. The girls were not amused. I was awoken by a clatter. When I got up, I found that the girls had somehow figured out how to open the crate, and were perusing the kitchen for crumbs and food from the dog’s dish. Now Dumpling believes this is her right. If the sliding door is open enough for her to get her head in, she will shimmy until the door slides to let the rest of her in. While we don’t mind her detailing the kitchen floor, I’m not sure how long the dogs will be tolerant of her poaching. And sadly, any service Dumpling performs as a floor detailer is negated when she shits on her way out. Meanwhile, Noodle has figured out how to scurry under the chicken wire around the raised garden beds.

Chickens Talk

I never knew chickens had so many vocalizations. They coo and purr when they are content. They cackle when they are annoyed and want to be free of the coop in the morning. They scream when alarmed or startled. And they sing a song of self congratulations when they’ve laid an egg. Some hens talk more than others. If learned that Teriyaki is most likely to sing after laying. dumpling complains the most. Paul is my drama queen and most likely to scream over the slightest thing, and Noodle, we don’t hear much out of her beyond quiet timid clucks.

Overall, I find Operation Chicken Keeper to be a great success. We love the rich, flavorful eggs, but oddly, love our chickens even more for providing us the eggs and for enriching our lives. We spend a lot more time outdoors now that we have chickens, and enjoy their daily adventures as though they were our own.


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The Truth About Materialism

This blog has taken a turn over the years. And yes, I’ve been focused on living a frugal and simple life. But, a recent influx of cash has changed my tune. Money it seems really does make me a better, happier person! 

Now that I’m well, rich, and can buy everything and anything my heart desires, I see the world for what it really is: mine for the taking. It started with clothes. I put every single item I owned in the trash. No one could possibly want them, no one in their right mind that is. Then, I hit all the stores, only bought the most recent  styles and now I feel great! Why shouldn’t I? What I wear tells. The world I’m better than everyone!

Next will be my car. Because of my immense wealth I must display my happiness with my mode of transportation. Everyone will know how wonderful my life is because I ride around in a car that costs as much as a house in most states. It’s fabulous! And I can tell that people are so happy for me. This vehicle is like bringing joy to everyone.  

April Fools Day , interior of a gold plated ridiculous car I don’t know what I was thinking before I could have all these things that make me so happy. Did I really think happiness would come from a rich and fullfilling life? And who wants to spend time figuring out more ways to be frugal when I can focus on showing everyone how amazing my new life is. Yes, I had it all wrong. Materialism is wonderful. It’s granted me a life full of the best of everything, exceeding my needs and thus granting me a life of true riches. It’s changed everything, even my credo. You can learn more about how materialism is truly better than anything else here.  I’m sure you’ll agree. I had it all wrong before. 


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