I walked into the staff lunch room to silence.
Most of the day this would be normal, but at this point in time there were about 15 guides, waitresses, and others wedged in around the brown wooden tables, hunched over plates and hiding behind the assorted stacks of napkins, juice jugs, condiments and clean mugs lining the centre of the tables.
Hardly anyone even looked up when I entered.
It was slightly disconcerting, though half of me suspected that it might be okay.
The other half instantly thought “Okaaaay…. Awk-werrd!” in a sing song voice. Good luck trying to think of something interesting to say without sounding forced! Besides, the waitresses talk shoes and shows and the guides can be taciturn bunch, so I said the only thing that seemed relevant:
I spoke to the room and slid my plate on the table to perch at the end of a bench. There was a ripple of miniscule head nods and a few eye contacts of assent. But mostly, the murmurings were at minimum because the mouths were full.
So I smiled, pleased. This was a good silence.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
you know the food is good if the table is quiet! Mouths full is a good sign.
Mind you, I suspected Sloppy Jo’s would be a hit. It was a busy day and staff supper was to be hamburgers, but after a moment of inspiration examining my extra-large homemade hamburger buns, sloppy jo’s and potato wedges sounded simple and good. Between the accomplishment of an All-Anna staff supper (including leftover dessert of that famous lemon posset – weirdest pairing ever with sloppy jo’s, but still good!) and a complimented cauliflower soup at lunch, I felt like there was solid success today.
It was refreshing, because honestly
being a cook is scary!
The tough thing about cooking is it brings out my biggest perfectionism and strongest insecurities. I’m still working on the “winging it,” something I have to do here quite a bit. Every meal is an exercise in creativity, risk-taking, and letting go. I’m sure I’m my worst critic but it is really hard to trust my own taste! Everyone has their own preferences, making it hard to know how to people-please when you can’t survey the whole room first. Yes, I’m learning lots about myself these days…
Insert delicious photo here when the internet has more gusto.
(Just use your imagination, for now.)
At the end of it all I really have to screw up my courage and face the facts, or rather, face the food – and just do it. Throw in some butter or spice and keep the fingers crossed! No catastrophes yet but I will keep you posted!
So a reminder from the other side of the counter – be kind to your cooks. They may have major insecurities that has their mental health dangling on the precipice of salty-or-too-salty or the slowness of bread rising. There is much to fret about.
It’s a big task, with the greatest difficulties (for some) a more mental battle than the intricate concoctions or scientific procedures. At least, that’s the way it is for me. Compliment the chili, and give honest feedback. Be specific or succint – “good soup” works for me!
Even if you’re short on words, you don’t have to rave. Just say “thank you”, and ask for seconds, if you like it.
And dig in! Make the tables silent. It’ll do wonders for your cook’s soul.