I’m a Chef, He’s a Chef, She’s a Chef, We’re ALL Chefs…Not…

I love the Food Network.  I’ll be the first to admit that shows like Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen are some of my favorites.  The problem I have with the Food Network, Bravo, and other cooking shows?  Their blatant disregard for a term that I have grown up respecting, admiring, and essentially idolizing.  Chef.  That word isn’t there to describe some fool off the street who can follow a recipe or someone who occasionally throws a dinner party using some hipster ingredient popular for that year.  It isn’t a title to be bandied about. It’s a profession that describes men and women who sleep, breathe, bleed, sweat and cry for the love of food.

I don’t consider myself a chef, even though I’ve had friends and family call me Chef.  I’m a home cook.  I have a culinary background for most of my life, but I don’t believe that I’ve earned the right and the honor of being called Chef.  I have worked with some amazing chefs, though.  I’ve had the honor and pleasure of being taught by amazing Chefs.  Can I cook great food?  Hell yes I can.  I can bake some tasty cakes and superb cookies and scones.  I understand the principles behind cooking, but I’m not a chef.  I say all the time how hard it is to offend me.  It generally is, but calling yourself chef when you haven’t earned it is offensive and downright disrespectful.  And who decided it was okay to take one of the few professions left and brand it as the new cool title?  Home chefs?  Cafeteria chef?

Home “chefs” look at cooking as a hobby.  It’s something cool to do to show off a recipe you saw someone else cook and you want to imitate it for your friends so you can say you know how to cook.  You don’t live it day in and day out.  You don’t live through struggling marriages and fighting with your need to be right in front of that grill or flat top instead of wanting to be at home with your kids.  You don’t understand the stress of trying to cater an event with only a few people you can genuinely trust to execute your food the way you want it to be.  You don’t know what it’s like, staying up past 3am almost every night (on a good night) because you’re so stressed out from the day you just want to unwind and have a beer with the same people who you’ve been trying not to strangle most of the day.  You sure as hell don’t know what it’s like to spend hours pouring over your own recipes and ideas and scraps of food trying to figure out how to make something that some hoity toity know-it-all “foodie” isn’t going to complain about.  It’s about trying to educate your servers so they describe your food in a way that’s appetizing and still honors what you’ve done.  And why? Why do that at all?  Love of the food.

Food is what sustains us as human beings, but to real chefs, to real cooks who actually do this hell dance on a daily?  It’s like an addiction you can never break, and all you want to do is pass those skills on to someone who genuinely bleeds the same way you need to bleed.  It’s about respecting the ingredients, about using every bit of it you possibly can.  It’s about throwing the “trash”, that most normal people throw away, into a pot and using it in something else.  It’s about years of dedication with barely a pittance to show for it, because you won’t sell yourself to some big corporation.  It’s working for a community college because you want to pass down your legacy to people who struggle just as hard as you did.  Or owning your own restaurant and not catering to anyone else but yourself.  It’s about breathing in that heady wood fire smoke, feeling that exalted joy when your fume is perfect, knowing that someone out there actually admires you.

Being a Chef isn’t glamorous.  Food Network and Bravo make it that way, but in all honesty, it’s not.  It’s a screwed up back, bad feet, an exorbitant amount of nicotine and coffee (for most of them), and a lot of long, hard days with only your staff to keep you company. It’s stressful, hot, and some times, you hate it.  But to the ones who are bonafide chefs, who have really earned the title?  It’s worth it to them.

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My Response to an FDA Attempt at Regulating E-Cigarette Market

As someone who had been smoking for over eleven years, I am so glad that I found e-cigarettes.  It’s been five weeks since I quit smoking cigarettes, and I feel like a new person because of it.  I tried quitting cold turkey, but I work in the restaurant industry where everyone smokes.  If you’re not smoking with someone, you’re bumming or giving someone else a cigarette.  I’ve saved so much money, so I can start paying off bills and things I need to take care of to be a much more productive member of society.  I put money back into the community I work in instead of giving that money to large cigarette corporations.  I’m helping create jobs by the choices I make.  Working in such a small town in Virginia, I know it’s hard to run a business.  There are three major businesses alone in the town I live in, Fredericksburg, and those of us in the vaping community strive to go to them to help out our fellow Fredericksburg members. 

As I stated, I feel like a whole new me.  I don’t feel as though I’m weak and tired in the morning, my throat doesn’t hurt, I notice that I have much more energy, my clothes don’t smell, and my boyfriend, who is allergic to cigarette smoke, will actually spend time with me while I vape.  My sugar levels have dropped quite a bit as well, since I’m diabetic.  I thought about buying the patch or some other form of FDA-approved quitting products, but they cost/benefit analysis just isn’t there.  I might as well be smoking cigarettes, as opposed to using these products.   

When I was smoking cigarettes, I bought one brand of cigarettes and that’s all I smoked.  When I made the choice to change all of that, I discovered that I could broaden my horizons.  I slipped easily in three weeks from an 18mg nicotine level to a 6mg nicotine level and found all of these flavors I never knew I could experience.  Not only that, but the local city store is run by a veteran, and some of his juices proceeds go to the veterans.  Does big tobacco do that very often?  I doubt it. 

I honestly don’t know what would happen if the FDAs proposed restrictions went through and the products I’ve come to love would disappear.  I’d probably start smoking again.  I’d find myself back in the hole I was in before.  My sugar levels would go up again, I’d be fatigued much faster, I’d be a much less happier person.  I don’t want to experience that hell again.  I don’t have that kind of money to be bandying about anymore. I like being healthier. 

The vaping community is a warm, welcoming one, where people can step away from the harm and destruction of smoking cigarettes.  Jobs have been created, people have become healthier.  I’ve become much healthier.  This community already regulates itself.  We don’t support minors using these products.  We don’t support the usage of chemicals that are used as pesticides the way the big tobacco companies do.  We want to be healthier, more mindful human beings.  We don’t litter.  We don’t throw our butts on the floor because we don’t have any.  The FDA is supposed to provide a service to the populace of the USA, not destroy a growing, thriving marketplace where people can escape the unhealthy addiction to cigarettes. 

 

To Whom Do I Blame for this Burden?

Every day I look through Craig’s List at the pets posted in the community section.  Every day, I see excuses for why people get rid of their animals. “I moved to a new place that won’t accept my breed.  I have to pay a fee I don’t want to pay for my pet.”  “I’m moving across country and I don’t want the hassle of traveling with a pet.”  “We’re expecting a baby and so we’re going to discard our pet.”  “I’m tired of having a pet.”  “I can’t afford it anymore.”  “I’m bored with this older pet so I’m going to get rid of it for a baby.”  “It’s getting older so I’m just going to get rid of it so I don’t have to watch it die.”  These are excuses for laziness and carelessness. 

“I moved to a new place that won’t accept my breed.  I have to pay a fee I don’t want to pay for my pet.”  “I’m moving across country and I don’t want the hassle of traveling with a pet.”

 

Do people not do research when they move somewhere?  Do they not look at the pet restrictions before they sign a lease?  Why would you move to a place where you couldn’t live with your animal? 

“We’re expecting a baby and so we’re going to discard our pet.” 

This, by far, is the most offensive excuse I will ever hear.  Pets are children of other animal parents, but when we take them in, we become their parents.  Would it be socially acceptable if I were to relocate my child if I got a new pet?  I’d be accused of child abuse.  Dogs and cats are a 12-20 year commitment, snakes are up to 45 years commitment, and birds are even longer than that.  You chose to be responsible for an animal.  Pets aren’t like school majors or jobs.  You don’t just move from one to another one.  They’re living breathing animals that are completely and totally dependent upon us as their caregivers. 

“I’m tired of having a pet.” 

Excuse.  A LAZY excuse.

“I can’t afford it anymore.” 

Then you need to figure out how you can afford to have your pet.  I lost my job a while back, my car put my family and I back quite a bit of money, and I had my gall bladder removed right after I’d gotten my new job.  I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to afford anything.  My family was there to help me so that we could keep our three ball pythons and our Elkie puppy.  Make it work.  You don’t get rid of your children because you lack the funds. 

“I’m bored with this older pet so I’m going to get rid of it for a baby.”

So, if you’re married and you’re starting to get older, should your spouse divorce you for someone younger?  Is that right?  Pets aren’t like electronics.  You don’t get rid of them when something bigger and better comes along in technology.  They’re family that you choose.  You normally don’t get rid of family. 

“It’s getting older so I’m just going to get rid of it so I don’t have to watch it die.”

Again, does your spouse divorce you because you’re going to die soon and they don’t want to watch you die?  Who wants to be alone when they’re dying?  Who wants to be alone normally, for that matter?  How selfish are you that YOU don’t WANT to because of how YOU feel? 

I am an animal lover and I have been since I can remember.  I grew up with a chocolate lab that passed away when I was thirteen.  She was amazing.  I have had horses, cats, other dogs, lizards, bunny rabbits and I have snakes.  I can sympathize with people who have tried to work with their pets.  I even talked my parents into getting another dog after not having one for over eight years.  The dog they adopted has cancer that is no longer operable, but they’re not abandoning him.  They’re taking care of him and trying to make his last days as comfortable and happy as possible.  Maybe you have an extenuating situation that perhaps I’m not able to empathize with, and maybe I should be a more lenient. 

I look at the numbers from PETA and HSUS of the millions of dogs and cats euthanized each year and I can’t help but stop being so empathetic to the most offensive excuses I’ve listed here.  Every time I hear something along those lines, I look at my Norwegian Elkhound Magnus, and I know that, no matter what, I’ll push through to keep him. 

When you decide to make the investment, and that’s what parenting a pet is, you need to think about all of the aspects of having one.  Vet bills, medication, food, toys, treats, exercise, grooming, spending quality time together.  There are so many factors that are involved in having a pet.  Do you want to neuter/spay, pay for obedience classes, show them, put them through agility or therapy training, set up play dates with local dog owners?  Do you want a rack system if you get more than one snake?  Do you want to have a breeding colony of rats for your snakes or do you want a cricket colony for your bearded dragons?  Should you get the ferret condo for your ferret?  The floor to ceiling cage for your African Greys?  You don’t responsibly just decide to have a kid and then stop planning, do you?  Why would you do that for a pet? 

THINK before you act.  Your actions not only affect your life, they also affect the life/lives of your pet(s). 

 

Dirty Surfaces

There seems to be lack of understanding the concept of surface respect in these latest generations.  I grew up in a family where you were respectful to adults and you showed them respect.  When you meet someone, you’re not being fake when you stay polite; you’re being a civil human being. 

I feel as though this generation is so damned opinionated and so narcissistic that it fails to possess this modicum of surface respect.  Are there adults who are complete and total idiots who shouldn’t be allowed in polite society?  Of course.  BUT…it doesn’t matter what your opinion is.  You don’t pop and attitude at every corner and bring out the dirty just because you think they fail to deserve your respect.  You smile politely, verbally say, “yes sir; no sir” and all the while you can think fuck you, fuck you, fuck you ’til the cows come home.  This is how we must live in order to have a relatively peaceful world to live in as a society. 

Furthermore, when we battle our own families over childish, petty things, we’re counterproductive to the harmony that can be there in our homes.  I have been a failure in many cases where this is concerned.  I have fought and struggled through my own childishness as I grew up.  I have hurt my parents deeply at many turns in my life and I have paid the emotional consequences of that.  Mostly, I’ve hurt myself through my stupidity.  I’ve learned from my mistakes, though. 

I’m just so tired of watching children, and that’s really what they are, be so damned disrespectful to adults when all they have to do is smile and then go on their merry way cursing adults into oblivion.  Shut up, smile and leave it alone. 

You need to learn to pick your battles.  If you don’t, you’re just wasting time, air, and important family time.

Love of Beef

I am from Texas and I love a good steak.  I’ve had a few really great ones in my lifetime.  Some of them cooked by me, in fact.  So far in my life though, the best steak I’ve ever had was at Longhorn Steakhouse.  It was a 12 oz (I didn’t finish it all) sirloin topped with an over easy egg, strips of apple wood smoked bacon, and drizzled with a beautiful bordelaise sauce.  Now, I don’t usually like all of the extra toppings, I think it’s a way for companies to get away with crappier cuts of meat, but this steak was just perfect.  It melted in your mouth, and even though I ordered my steak blue, it wasn’t chewy at all.  It was so amazing. 

What my biggest beef (oh boy) with a lot of people is that they overcook perfectly good meat.  Anything cooked over medium is, in my eyes, as close to blasphemy to the cows that lost their lives for your hunger as it gets.  A friend of mine visited a while ago and I about lost my mind hearing her order steak well done.  It just broke my beef-loving heart. 

I subscribe to the Great American Restaurant philosophy of Order Chicken in reference to well done. 

 

In Another’s Eyes

Monday night I was driving home from work after having to close.  Still getting over being sick, so I was pretty much exhausted after having to get back into the swing of things.  The shift lead I get to work with is a country girl, so she kind of inspired me to listen to Garth Brooks. 

I grew up in Texas.  Country music is just a part of who I am, it’s my roots.  My first concert ever was a Garth Brooks concert too; it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. 

One of my dearest memories, though, came to mind while I was cruising down the road in my father’s old 1994 Cadillac.  The thing’s a beast.  It’s old, huge, comfortable, and the safest thing I could ever drive right now.  “In Another’s Eyes” by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood came on.  When my father and I took our road trip in the summer of 2003, we would sing in the car to all sorts of country music and old rock. 

The song is totally inappropriate in context for a kid of eleven or twelve, but singing with my dad in a duet was all I ever thought about.  He was always so proud of me singing, of me using my God given talent. 

I burst into tears on my home.  My parents just recently moved back down to Texas and I chose to stay here and try and make a life with my other half.  I wanted to see if I could survive without them.  Sometimes I feel like I can.  Other times, I feel the trepidation of growing up creeping into me. 

I never knew how much I loved my parents until they moved away.  For the past ten years I’ve had them to myself.  Now I let my sister have them.  I try and call my mother all of the time.  Some times it’s painful, though.  I miss her.  She’s been my rock for the last decade, always there, always willing to give me a hug, listen to me bitch and cry, push me up when I fall.  It wasn’t always like that though.  It took me hitting rock bottom to really begin to appreciate her.  I wish I hadn’t wasted the time I had with her when I was trying to get my head out of my butt. 

My father is an all together different beast of his own.  I have always been my father’s little girl.  I haven’t always made him proud though, and we’ve butted heads a lot since I started getting older.  I think I disappointed him a lot while in Richmond.  I made some really stupid, screwed up mistakes.  I think now I’m making mostly right decisions.  I think he’s proud of me now. 

It’s funny though.  We always laugh about cliches and how they just can’t possibly relate to our lives.  We’re all wrong.  My parents have always been extremely important to me, but I didn’t realize how blessed I was to have them until they moved back to Texas. 

I hope I can keep making them proud of me and I hope I can live up to my potential.  It’s a hard road ahead of me and I know that it’s going to push me to my limit.  I’m not a patient person.  When I want things and I know I’m capable of having them, I want them now.  Now.  NOW. 

Only time will tell what’s out there for me. 

Anti-Gay Chick-Fil-A and the BSA

As someone who supports the values of gays being able to marry freely, I find myself at a crossroads where I may be in opposition with many of my gay marriage supporting friends.  I am also a huge supporter of the constitution and I believe that there’s a point where we need to remind ourselves of what’s in it.  Amendment I of the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Chick-Fil-A has every constitutional right as a private business to stand behind whatever it is that they wish to believe in.  On the flip side of that, dissenters have every right to disagree with Chick-Fil-A and boycott their restaurants and just as Jim Henson’s legacy has chosen to remove themselves from the Chick-Fil-A political views.  That is the beauty of our country. 

As far as the Boyscouts are concerned though?  This is where I find myself very much frustrated with the entire situation.  If the BSA were a private organization that did not use government/tax payer owned land I would have the same feelings I do about Chick-Fil-A for them.  I believe that as a private organization, the BSA should have every right to say what they will, regardless of whether or not I agree with it or not.  Augusta National has the right as a private organization to deny women the ability to play on their course.  Women’s colleges are generally exclusive and deny men.  The BSA, however, denies gays the opportunities of joining their ranks but also uses public grounds, military bases, etc., for their gatherings.

I just feel as if the entire situation is pretty messed up.  I support gays having the same rights and available privileges as straights do.  Marriage has been around since before Christianity ever took its hold upon the world.  It is a union between people in love who wish to be together in that love.  Who are we, as a nation, to deny consenting adults from joining in that union?  I have known my fair share of people who just happen to be gay.  They’re parents, friends, brothers, sisters.  They are just as worthy of the opportunity to marry as I am.  Chick-Fil-A is also just as worthy to disagree with me in this and those who disagree with them are just as worthy to do so.  Isn’t America beautiful?