Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Crap Happens - Have a nice day

I have been putting this post off for at least 2 weeks.  I've had a hard time finding a way to get out all my thoughts and feelings on the subject without this being a 12 page dissertation on unexpected events and crappy lives. Out of anger at recent events in my life I was unable to verbalize all I wanted to say in a way that was interesting and uplifting. Then I spent a few days with one of my brothers, and this morning it all made a little more sense so I'm going to try again.

Growing up my life was somewhat normal, or at least I thought. I was unaware of how abnormal my life was. I might be the only person that could watch an after school special or sit through D.A.R.E. presentations and think, "Wait, what? That's not normal?" I think I am the reason we had those assemblies, the teachers and staffs wanted to make ME aware of how abnormal my life really was. You realize they don't have them anymore? Because I'm fully aware of what crazy is now! It's ok, your welcome.

My first brother came around when I was 9, we were solo for a few years until  my mother had twin girls. One of the twins died at 7 months. My mother took self medicated to deal with the grief for a few years then my baby brother was born soon there after she had the last baby girl. 5 kids 3 girls 2 boys. (Side note: A few years ago I found out I had a sister by my birth father she's a few years younger than me. So I actually have 3 sisters. Though I only grew up with 2)

My mom and I were a good team, she worked, I cooked. I took care of the kids, she paid the bills. Not very complicated always but hard nonetheless. We went through a lot, and still do! We haven't spent a Christmas or any holiday together in at least 3 or 4 years. Some years ago, the baby girl was diagnosed with Lymphoma. I'm happy to say she proceeded to kick cancers ass & now she's a cancer survivor at 15! We have a web  of baby daddy drama so hilarious that Maury himself would need a power point presentation and diagrams to fully understand. Growing up 90% of the stuff in our house was either broken or modified somehow, when I say modified think duct tape and paperclips. I remember when I went to the store to buy furniture and appliances for my first apartment, thinking, Wow - I never had a new Microwave, coffer maker or even a working can opener. Can you imagine my 14 year old self opening 4 cans of chef boy r dee with a knife? Life was hard, but comical!

The Bible says a merry heart is good like medicine, and I truly believe laughter kept us out of therapy all those years. At night we would put on plays & musical productions for my mother. One of our favorite scenes was one from Lion King. Do you remember close to the end when Timon and Pumba tries to sneak Simba back to Pride rock? They dress in drag and do the hula? Yep, we remade that better than any Broadway play! I would also do small private scenes for my mother before bed, such as but not limited to: standing in line, being a tree, Old lady walking, and mowing the lawn - I think being a tree was her favorite!

Somehow in the midst of the crazy, (trust me there was LOT of crazy, domestic violence, drug abuse, molestation, you name it we dealt with it) we all have come out somewhat "normal" we have clear visions of who we are, we love and respect our parents (known and unknown) we tend to give more than usual to the unfortunate, we love each other and fight for each other, we cry together and laugh a LOT. After talking to my brother this weekend I realized we all understand and accept that bad things happen, so you might as well have a good day. Not only is it a waste of time crying of spilled milk, it's a LOT more fun to laugh at the way it fell down and the person who dropped it's face when it happened!

These past weeks have been hard, not just for me but it seems like for a lot of people around me too. Deaths, money woes, sicknesses and lots of questions to God about situations. All I can offer is prayer and the assurance of these Three things, 1. $hit happens, it has to. It's not personal, it's just crap. It's going to happen again. You will be ok. 2. There is not only a reason, but a GOOD reason for it! When my sister passed away my mother listened to a Zhane song frequently that says everything happens for a reason. The Bible goes a step further, Rom 8:28 says: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.& 3. Understanding the reasons are not as important as you may think. God is Sovereign, He does whatsoever He wants when and how he wants.The Word says in  Ecc 11:5 As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.

I can't begin to tell you why the crap happens, I can't explain 9/11 or Katrina, I can't explain why babies die on mothers birthday's or why fighting the men that beat my mother was a pass time of mine for a few years in my life. I can't tell you why nor do I understand, what the hell cancer or asthma or heart disease are even needed for nor why they are not yet cured. I don't know why old people or kids or nice people die. I don't know. What I do know is there is a GOOD reason. I also know, it's typically a waste of time to try to figure out said reason & it's much easier to just trust there is a good reason.

Nobody said it would be easy (and if they did they lied) but I promise you there is a good reason and great outcome from it. Whatever it is. I promise you. So, clean up the milk, laugh at the situation and have a great day/week/month/year/life. Crap happens & God loves you, now have a nice day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Application Process

So for school I needed to write an admissions essay... this is not something I'm used to. I decided to be transparent with this blog SO I decided to add it here. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

It was 7 am we had only been in New Orleans for about 5 hours, it was a long ride from Baltimore but the smell that just hit me made the trip the best idea ever. I was hungry, well I was always hungry but for some reason the smells that wafted through my Aunt Mildred’s house made a new hunger wake up in me, I needed to know what was going on. I decided sleep would come later, I needed to find the culprit. . I grabbed my best friend Sammy, my teddy bear-dog, and began my journey to find the smell that will evidentially change my life forever.

I walked through the house using my nose as a guide like a blood hound on a chase. Sammy and I arrived at the kitchen, what I saw was a bustle of activity. The kitchen had become a dance floor, 2 people dancing around but not even looking at each other. When my aunt would go up my cousin would go back, on at the chopping block one at the oven. Bending, turning all in the kitchen. I had only ever seen one person in the kitchen at a time.

I would watch my grandmother or my father cook, often. My dad would talk to himself the whole time, often eating the food as it cooked and getting very happy with the outcome. He would also make a mess of the kitchen until the last few minutes when he would wash everything. My grandmother was a much quieter cook. She would hum or sing if not fuss about the goings on in the other rooms of the house. She wouldn’t taste her food as she cooked she had full confidence in her sight and memory. She knew what it would taste like cause she had made it a million times before. If it was something she wasn’t sure she would call her sisters and they would walk her through it. If either one came into the kitchen while the other was cooking, it was like WW3. They would fuss each other out, and kick each other out the room. Often you heard "I don’t bother you when you cook don’t bother me when I cook". And I would sit and watch and take mental notes waiting for the chance to try a recipe or walk around the kitchen talking to myself, or on the phone with my granny getting a recipe as I cooked it.

This was totally different, the dance and the smells were totally foreign to me. They worked in silence adding things to each other’s pots when the other wasn’t looking. Ever so often looking up and winking at me with a smile. It was magical. Sammy and I sat in awe. With a smile and deep breathe the dance was over, the last pan out of the oven. A quick scan around the kitchen and finally my aunt yells "Breakfast!" I watched as my cousins and distant relatives complete with Bed head, PJs’ on and Eye crust in their eyes file in line one by one to eat good food and sit down, as I start to get up and get in line as not to miss out on the awesome my Aunt looks at me and tells me "Sit still, the cooks eat last sweetheart"

I wanted to cry. I was unsure if it was from happiness or sadness. I was so happy she called me a cook, but I was so sad I couldn’t eat. As I debated the irony of my predicament, my cousin handed me a plate. She smiled at me and said "JR Chef’s get an early plate to make sure everything taste ok, can you handle that job?" I shook my head scared that my voice would escape me if I tried to verbally answer. Before me was a plate of wonder and pure awesome. Fried Fish, Grits, a biscuit with some form of gravy on it, thick bacon, fried potatoes, cheese eggs and few pieces of fruit. Now the tears began to fall. It was so pretty, and I was so hungry. I had never seen these foods actually together for breakfast. I think I inhaled the food. My cousin stood and watched me. one I can up for air, drinking my full glass of milk she said "Safe?" I smiled and said "Yes Ma’am I think so".

After a quick shower and a hateful session getting my hair done, I took my seat by the kitchen I would spend the rest of our trip watching my aunt and cousin cook. Ribs, gumbo, rice and Beans, Fried chicken, Crawfish Po’Boys, even mini donuts covered in sugar. The end of that trip was bitter sweet, I of course was happy to go home see my parents and start tearing up the kitchen with the things I’ve watched for 4 days. But I never wanted to leave. I wanted to sit in my chair and watch them cook forever. But I had to go home. Summer only last so long.

When I got home, I began to cook anything. EVERYTHING! They didn’t all taste like New Orleans. Some were just plain nasty. But I tried. My father would later say "You were always a smarter and more adventurous cook than your grandmother and I, we are stubborn cooks. We do what we know, you like to try stuff you see, or think will taste good. Yes Culinary school will be great for you"

Still I struggled with the idea of being a chef. Even now I’m frightened by the idea of cooking for people other than my family and friends. When I cook I put my love in the pot and on the plate. I try to tell a story and invoke the same emotions I had the first time I fell in love with food. What do you do when they don’t love you back? How can a cooking school help me love people more? I want to learn how to make everyone feel loved. I want to know how food should taste and look, techniques and understand why I cry when I hear about a new recipe or taste an innovative dish. I feel and I know that L’Academie De Cuisine will help me start the journey to perfect the work that started, 20+ years ago in a kitchen in New Orleans.