The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
I know it’s overly dramatic, but pretty much every Monday night I say these lines under my breath, and none more so than this week.
This is how my working life goes: in the summertime things are slow. No truffles to ship in the hot weather, so I catch up on projects and recipe testing and make truffles for local clients and the one shop I will wholesale them to (truffles are so labor intensive that wholesaling them doesn’t make sense. But The Cheese Plate is a cute place, and I can’t resist selling vegan truffles at a cheese shop, you know?).
My meal delivery service always gets busier in the fall when people go back to school and work, and I start making truffles when it’s cold enough to ship them safely. Things get busy, then suddenly Thanksgiving is around the corner and the business intensifies. I offer extra meals for Thanksgiving, and though the week always just about kills me, it’s what allows me to take my customary four weeks off every winter to frolic in Hawaii (free airfare—hello, frequent flier miles!—and free room and board—hooray, kama ‘aina in-laws!—also help with that).
The woman is perfected, peeps: 85 hours of cooking and truffleizing in 7 days, no mistakes! We have come so far, it is over, and I’m delighted. Lovely Veronique the sous chef helped out a lot this week too—by the end of the week we were both obsessively rubbing coconut oil onto our red, raw hands created by the combination of a too-cold kitchen and too-frequent handwashing in too-hard hot water.
What can my hands make in 85 hours with part-time help from another set of quick, careful hands? I wondered that too:
300 phyllo triangles with fall vegetables, sage, and tempeh
200 cabbage rolls with rye bread, apples, & homemade seitan and house-cured sauerkraut
55 stuffed squashes with chestnut stuffing and thyme
16 lonely cups of cranberry-citrus compote with local currants—no one really orders this lovely little lady, I have no idea why.
Mountains of roasted garlic mashed potatoes with caramelized cabbage
Gallons of shiitake gravy, dill sauce, ultra-velvety bourbon sweet potato soup with caramelized onions, and deeply lovely escarole soup with slow cooked garlic and pasta
A giant pile of sautéed turnips and apples with fresh apple cider, tempeh bacon and sage
A heap of sauteed chicory and other bitter greens with crispy garlic
Cups and cups of three salad dressings, two sets of lettuce, and salad garnishes
Squash salad with…oh, stuff, I can’t even remember, but it’s a tasty one
Five pumpkin bourbon tarts with walnut streusel
Three apple pies with pretty little pie crust leaf garnishes
And of course: dishes dishes dishes dishes dishes, sweep, mop, drive home, sleep, wake up, feed cats, drive to work, repeat x7.
Oh, and 500 truffles made at the beginning of the week (you didn’t think I would make Thanksgiving meals a week early, did you? Freshness is all!), packed and shipped out and/or delivered to Woodstock. Oh, and running around to a zillion farms to buy all that produce. And packing everything up, writing up the menu sheet thingie, printing it out and tucking it in the pocket of all the cooler bags, and all the other zillion, endless little tasks. Phone messages and emails and coordination. Thanksgiving.
Plus: 12 hours of West Wing (with special thanks to my pal Aaron for ferrying the all-important Netflixes to the kitchen one cold night in exchange for a nice meal of cabbage rolls and dill sauce. When I realized I left them in my home mailbox and had a long Veronica-less night of cooking ahead of me I became mildly panicky), countless podcasts and hours of music, especially some super rad Wanda Jackson, whose loveliness I was happy to introduce to Veronica.
On Sunday night I had 24 more hours in which to make food that would take a mere mortal at least four days, and I called my sweetheart on the drive home utterly exhausted and super sad because he was flying the next day to Mexico for another week of touring as the conclusion to his apparently-not-endless endless 2008 touring cycle. (That was an amazingly convoluted sentence, wow!) He told me that he had arranged a special present to be waiting for me when I got home Monday night, in celebration of my biggest week of the year and because we were going to be apart on Thanksgiving. I figured it was flowers, and it did perk me up.
Monday night, the long week finally over, I drove home through sleet and fog at an hour so obscene I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say that I had to get up four hours later for a dentist appointment. I walked in the door to find a roaring fire in the fireplace and my sweetheart’s tour laminate on the doorknob with the Mexico tour dates blocked out.
I was so exhausted I couldn’t process what was happening, and stood on the doorstep with my mouth open wondering if someone broke in and was planning to burn me alive. Eventually my sweetheart crept down the stairs and told me that his tour had been canceled the week before and he wanted to surprise me with his extra week at home. I finally understood the laminate and the cozy fire and started jumping up and down crazily.
So here I am, home from dinner with sake at Youko’s noodle shop (where she showered us with special nori rolls and artisanal shoyu and I gave her tips on vegan tempura—having a friend who owns a restaurant is a treat indeed!) with Jacob asleep next to me for the first time in a month, cats fanned out all over the bed, sneaking some of that delicious cranberry compote as I watch the sun set outside the bedroom windows. Thankful for my job and our crazy lives and just everything.