Food For Thought

Or thoughts of food, as the best and worst jobs I had were in food prep.
I love working with food; nothing I have ever done is as gratifying as making good-looking and tasty food. It appeals to almost all of the senses. It can be beautiful, delicious, smell fantastic and have texture pleasing to the palate. I come from a long line of good cooks and married into a family of good cooks; I am a certified, (and maybe certifiable), FOODIE.
The first full-time job with food I had was good training in time-usage, making-do and public tastes, but it was a bad job. I cooked in the deli department of a major grocery chain. I won’t go into too many details, but suffice it to say that the harder I,(and others) , worked, the more was put upon us; the goof-offs were given light duty. I received a major burn,(from which I made a truly miraculous recovery),I was put on duty that was admitted by the boss to be a two-person job, I was expected to be in THREE, places at once: cooking, working the counter and also to be back in the cleaning area where I could not see the counter, which I caught heck for not minding…I was back there to clean what were considered MY pots and pans. When I was told to also do inventory, I asked the boss why. I was told that they felt they could rely on me. I replied that obviously I was being punished for being competent. I finally left when I had a major order for a group of fully-cooked turkey dinners on top of all the other work. That in itself did not cause me to quit, but I gave notice when they pulled the turkeys half-cooked out of the oven because the bread baker said the loaves were ‘proofed’ and could not wait; SHE needed the oven .I wanted no part of possibly giving people food poisoning.
The best job I had was working for a small bakery /restaurant. The boss there gave me free-rein to stretch my wings and encouraged confidence in me. I helped him in his work,(even though I hated doing the early morning doughnuts), to doing whatever I wanted to with fancy desserts, custom cakes, cookies and pastry. A world famous movie/TV producer lives in the small town where the bakery was,( his wife was the building’s landlady),and we’d get calls that said VIP’s had arrived and what did we have on hand? (We never knew who they were, although sometimes famous faces were seen in town, and we heard rumors afterward.)
When that boss decided that he did not want to continue with the venture, my niece and I ran the bakery/restaurant for a while. We really cut loose with whatever our fancies felt like trying. We had special-order, custom designed cakes, we continued with the tradition of a soup du jour for lunch but made our own signature styles. We made deluxe salads: vegetable, fruit and pasta. We did well with fancy box lunches for tour busses-full that came to see the producers’ mansion and shop at his wife’s antique store… the tourists would come in afterward to buy more of the pasta salad and fruit compote and also try to wrangle the chicken-salad recipe from us. My niece made killer ice cream and we had really good business on Sundays with carry-out dinners, as well as a few full houses of eat-ins, (tiny as the place was). Although turkey and meatloaf dinners were requested and made, we pressed our luck with the customers and succeed with non-Kentuckian dishes such as lasagna, Chicken Paprika, quiches and baked spinach puff . Breakfasts were a hit as well, with homemade biscuits and sausage gravy,(a southern staple that I learned to make after I moved here). We quit the doughnut business and put in more muffins, fruit breads and full-line breakfasts. Our breakfast burritos had a faithful following; we even had them as the contest prize on a morning radio show we sponsored. We put in flavored coffees and had card-holders in our coffee club.
Alas, we needed to relocate and before we could, our house of cards tumbled. Every area of our lives was hit with some problem or another. We tried to plan new strategies for a few years but….
To be honest, we’d still like to think that one day we can open a bookstore with a coffee shop and serve my cookies, mini cakes, tea breads, my niece’s cherry bread and her biscotti-to-die-for. Maybe we’d serve lunch…we’d have discussion groups, book signing…yeah, well, maybe when we win a small lottery…sigh…
Would you come? Did anything I mentioned sound good to you?

About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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9 Responses to Food For Thought

  1. jeff7salter says:

    Well, your listing of foods, specialties, & desserts — from that second job — have made me drool all over the keyboard. What a shame for that phase of your life to end … seemingly before you were ready for it to. It sounds like a LOT of HARD work and LONG hours, but clearly you found fulfilment … and clearly your customers loved your operation.
    As for the employee politics, and management letting slackers do less and less (as hard-workers had to do more and more) … well, let’s just say that those were some of the issues which led me to an early retirement.
    As for the half-baked turkeys, and numerous safety issues — it makes me shudder to imagine what I’ve encountered — from the customer side of the counter — without even realizing it.

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  2. tonettejoyce says:

    Yes, Jeff,it’s frightening.Repairmen who came in always commented on how clean our kitchen was and gave me a few horror stories.I know that inspectors can be careless or bribed, and I know of some restrauteurs who brag about how they deflect some of the inspectors’ attention from problems,and get their employeed to lie.

    There are always family and friends to cook/bake for here, Jeff.I ran into WalMart one evening years ago and actually only grabbed the two items I went for. I had to pick my sons up from Scouts so I zipped up to a check-out and immediately looked into my purse for my wallet.The cashier said,
    “Are you getting ready for your Christmas baking and candy-making?” I looked at the counter at my purchases:a card of buttons and a lingerie item. I looked up; how could she get cooking out of that? She said,”Oh, you don’t recognize me! I’m Bonny, from Joe’s office”. If I had thought that I wouldn’t be giving goodies to the staff,I re-thought it and planned who-got-what on my way to pick up the boys.
    Unfortunately,I don’t have that office to impress now, either. But I still cook…something new all the time. I am working on my food blog on WordPress:Tonetet Joyce: Food, Friends, Family
    http://tonettejoycefoodfriendsfamily.wordpress.com/
    It needs more work than I have put into it lately, but I’ll find my niche. I started writing about meatless and food sensitivities. Would you consider guesting on gluten -free?

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  3. Micki Gibson says:

    “Did anything I mention sound good to you?” Are you kidding? I just gained ten pounds from reading your post! It sounds FANTASTIC! As to your worst job, that sounds like hell and I would’ve been one of the slackers. Many women claim to be great at multi-tasking, but I’m not one of them. I’m horrible which is why I’m not a great cook. Oh, I can make some good dishes, but done expect any of the side items to turn out as well or on time. Don’t even get me started on Thanksgiving. My rule is to make something and bring it to someone else’s place. I bow down to people like you, Tonette, who not only manage to do all that food prep, cook, and clean, but also do it well. Delicious post! Have a great weekend!

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  4. tonettejoyce says:

    Thanks, Micki..what a compliment! Too bad you aren’t nearby, we have enough at Thanksgiving for an army, you and yours would be fun to have! I was thrilled that my cousin whom I had not seen a many years came with her husband and two kids last Thanksgiving and stayed the weekend…I got to show off to a new audience…I hope they make it back this year. You might want to check out my food blog.It’s in its infancy, but I want to give people easy recipes, confidence and help them entertain without stress. I will be posting more soon.
    I hope you also have a great weekend!

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  5. Funny story about the half-cooked birds. DId you ever see the movie with Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas where she went to Nazi Germany as a spy and had to serve the half cooked ducks? SHINING THROUGH it was called, I think. Your turkeys reminded me of that.

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  6. tonettejoyce says:

    Yes,Jillian, ‘Shining Through’;It got the “Razzies” but I like it. And Melanie served squabs, I think,totally raw; she didn’t have enough time to cook them.It wouldn’t have mattered if she gave botulism to a bunch of Nazis, (although,Liam Neeson was there as a romantic widower who was a loving father…he managed to make a Nazi attractive!), but I wasn’t going to kill of my customers.

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  7. SweetMarie83 says:

    It ALL sounded good to me! You definitely have my mouth watering. I’ve always dreamed of owning a bookstore with a coffee shop, too. You never know, it might still happen for you – dreams do sometimes come true! 🙂

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  8. tonettejoyce says:

    Thanks, Marie! I don’t know how I didn’t see that this was YOU,or catch your blog.Thanks for dropping in.

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