Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta kitchen. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta kitchen. Mostrar todas las entradas

martes, 20 de diciembre de 2016

Christmas dinner

   As always for that time of the year, Adele had to out on her best clothes when working. It wasn’t really well seen if the hostess of a very prestigious restaurant dressed in any kind of clothing. She had to have some nice dresses for every single type of occasion, as she was the face of the hotel on the evening people had chosen to come. She represented everything for them and was the go to person if anything were to happen during one of the many dinners the hotel hosted all along the year. It was always vey busy, a successful business.

 Christmas time was especially hard on the hotel workers. For example, Adele had to wake up very early in the morning every single day leading to Christmas. For a week or so, she would have to put on her best coat to resist the fierceness of the weather and also because she really needed to get warm as soon as she arrived at the hotel as many things had to be checked. And in Christmas this was done in the most exact way, as everything had to be in line with perfection that night, as they always promised their guests the most lavish dinner ever.

 The kitchen staff consisted of several men and only a few women. There weren’t many women trying to breakout in the business and she was only closely related to everything they did on the actual restaurant. Adele was only a hostess and she would never be able to grow much more than that in her line of work. It all depended on very well paid jobs in certain events and parties, which he had hosted occasionally but not as prolifically as the events held on the hotel. There, she knew she was prepared to resist anything and everything.

 In the days leading to the Christmas dinner, the menu was checked several times and many testing lines were done. It was Adele’s job to taste everything and determine if she needed to change something in order to have some more time or make it a more successful menu. Two days before, she even thought it was going to be necessary to change the dessert because it wasn’t very well achieved but the person in charge of confectionery convinced her that he could make it more attractive with some superficial design.

 The day before Christmas he presented his corrections and he was lucky enough to be congratulated by Adele. The rest of the dishes were done and they only needed to cook them early on Christmas Eve in order for everything to be on point for the dinner. Many cases of wine were ordered from around the world, as well as many other alcoholic beverages. They also bought lots of cheese for after dinner and had to go to the market to buy the best and most fresh products in order to cook everything they needed for the menu.

 The night before the party, Adele was not able to sleep properly. She had gone to bed intentionally early but it didn’t work out at all. Not only was she worried about the dinner and the results the hotel was going to get with it but she also doubted her personal capacity to resist everything she was going to be held against. After all, the dinner was practically her show and if anything went wrong, it was her skill which had to come to work in order to fix whatever that needed to be fixed. All those thoughts did not let her sleep for a minute.

 When she arrived in the hotel, she checked every produce than had arrived and gathered the staff around her in order to tell them a few things before beginning. Not only the kitchen staff was present during the speech but also the rest of the hotel employees, as most guest were going to stay the night after dinner. Adele asked for everyone to do their best, to make it an experience that none of them could be able to replicate anywhere else. They needed to make that night one of the most special nights ever for every single guest.

 Rooms began to be cleaned and final details were being put on all over the hotel as flowers in every floor to make it smell divine. The kitchen went into full gear from very early in the morning, as they also had to cook for the rest of the guests in the hotel that were not going to participate in the dinner. It seemed to be chaos in the kitchens but the chef, and to a lesser extent Adele, knew how to make it all seem so peaceful, to always have a certain order that may not be obvious but with which every single person can work with to achieve the goals.

 Adele also had to check every single bedroom in order to personally see that the other workers had done a good job. She had to check first the ones where people had the intention to arrive earlier and then she moved on to the rest, checking for the bed to be perfectly done and for the furniture not to have a spec of dust. She also checked the bathroom, as that had always been very popular after dinner. People loved to have a bubble bath at some point so it was better to be prepared. Anything people wanted while staying had to become a reality.

 As she was checking the top floor, Adele received word that something had gone wrong with the dessert. Apparently the ingredients had been on a refrigerator that wasn’t working very well and they had become useless. Many melted and others were simply not the quality needed for the dessert. Adele ordered for all of that to be stored away and demanded the pastry chef and the confectionery guy to come up with something very fast as her customers couldn’t go without desert.

 Dinner was scheduled for nine o’clock at night. At seven, some of the guests begun to arrive and the desserts were not really done yet. Adele was very pleased to escort the first couple upstairs and tell them everything about the dinner, the usage of the bathroom and of the rest of the hotels features such as the swimming pool, the steam room and the spa, among others. She was lucky enough to check that room beforehand because she had discover dirty towels in the bathroom, so she changed that before anyone noticed.

 She didn’t join everyone to their room as, at eight o’clock, many more people started to arrive and she certainly didn’t have any time to waste. She used that moment to go back to the kitchen and see what they had come up with for dessert. As expected, they weren’t having many ideas. The people in charge were not as imaginative as they needed to be and they were really relaying on clichés to make a proper dessert. But the same old pastries and ice cream were not nearly goo enough for Christmas dinner. It would be an insult to the guests!

 Adele decided to come up herself with a new dessert. She knew they didn’t have much time, so she decided to reuse some of the ingredients they had from past parties. She decided to reuse the chocolate balls that melted when hot chocolate was poured on top of them. She decided to change the liquid chocolate for caramel and told the staff to come up with some sort of truffle at the center of the ball, in order for people to have a nice surprise when having their last dish. She put everyone to work and told them they had minutes to come up with a tasting plate.

 She decided to visit the lobby as they prepared, in order to let in the first guests. It was decided they should wait at the lounge bar, as she preferred to know first if the dessert was a go or no. She returned to the kitchen briefly to taste her idea and approved it when she realized it was good enough. Half of the kitchen staff had to help do all the desert plates needed for the evening. Adele left them again in order to open the restaurant and let everyone inside. The music had been carefully chosen as well as the design of the menus.

 The dinner started with applause when the guests saw their first plate, which was absolutely gorgeous. Then came the other dishes and finally the dessert. People didn’t say much about it but, when coming out of the restaurant, they praised the idea for being “simple but effective”. As some guests headed towards their beds and other towards the bar, Adele went to the kitchens and declared the night a complete success. She wasn’t going to sleep much that night either but at least she wasn’t going to be worried.

jueves, 3 de noviembre de 2016

He was a friend

   The problem with having people over was that Tom’s place was always a mess. He tried to keep it clean; to make it look like someone responsible lived there, but it was impossible for him to keep that façade up. He had to confront the fact that he was not the most organized person in the world and that he shouldn’t have said “Yes” when asked if he could have his friends over for their weekly gathering. They had that tradition since they started having their own places. It was an excuse for seeing each other more often because if it weren’t for that dinner, they wouldn’t know anything.

 Marina had almost always hosted the dinner. She had the most beautiful apartment of the group and her husband was very relaxed about them meeting up so often. Sometimes they only met every two weeks because she had something else to do or her husband needed his space so they just didn’t get together. If it wasn’t her house, they sometimes used Greg’s place but the problem with his house was the fact that it was too far away from anyone else’s and that he had a baby so they had to keep it silent and very short.

 So Tom had a lot to do before his friends came over. By his request, the dinner was changed fro mthe usual Friday to Saturday. He knew that if he needed time to plan the whole thing and it was going to be an important meeting because the New Year holidays had just ended and it hadn’t seen each other in weeks. They would normally call for a pizza or something like that but he really wanted to impress them as he had always been the loser of the group, the one that never did anything too impressive, the one that was still single and working a menial job.

 Yes, Tom wanted them to see another side of him, a side that he would hopefully actually have. As he started planning, he realized he was really as dull and simple as anyone would think. His job was really not interesting so they never spoke about that but he always got so tired from it that he had almost no time to actually read or hear about other things in the world. He didn’t have any real knowledge about the interesting things of life. He only knew about the boring corner he occupied in the world and that was it. So he really had to make an effort.

 The first thing was actually planning the dinner. Even in the New Year’s Eve dinner with his family, he had his old timey notepad and a pencil with which he would write ideas for things to eat. His brother insisted he should just order a pizza and garlic bread but they always did that and he wanted to impress them with something they couldn’t see coming. The garlic bread was a nice idea, so he wrote it down and his mother told him a good salad is always welcome so he wrote that down too. The idea was to have many simple things around.

 The days before the meeting, he decided to buy most of the things he needed for his dinner in order to do them first and see if he could do it all by himself or if it really was a better idea to just ask for a pizza. He used the oven and borrowed a bunch of kitchen equipment from his mother, as he didn’t have anything to do proper things at his place. He didn’t even have a blender, just a couple of pans, a cooking pot and the microwave. Tom had to borrow his father’s car too to be able to take all of that back to his place. They thought he was going crazy.

 The first thing he decided to do was the salad, which he thought was the simplest of the dishes he had wrote down. He decided to do one mixing vegetables and fruits. It was supposed to be something refreshing and filled with flavors. He did everything the recipe called for but at the end, he doubted the result was the same as in the recipe. Apparently, the fruits and veggies he had chosen weren’t in their best moment. Some of them were too “green” and others were too ripe. It wasn’t to be surprised, as he had never picked up so many things from the supermarket.

 He put the salad on the side and decided it would be nice if he kept it on the refrigerator. Then, Tom decided to make the garlic bread. It was a rather simple thing to do. His trial test was going to be with cheap bread he had found in the supermarket. Again, he had made the wrong choice, as the bread was much too hard, like a rock. It was almost impossible to cut it. But once he did, he smeared some garlic paste on it and put it in the oven. The thing was he forgot about it when doing another recipe, so the bread got burned and his second attempt another disaster.

 What he was doing in the meantime was mixing the ingredients to make nice thick waffles. He had found a website that advised against the mix they sold in a box and encouraged people to do the mix themselves. The whole kitchen got covered in flour and a couple of eggshells ended up in the mix. He let it harden a bit when he got the garlic bread out of the oven so when he mixed it again, it had a very rough texture, not very similar to the one in the pictures of the website. When he tried it in the pan, it just got stuck there and burned like the bread.

 And all of that happened in a single day, the Monday previous to his gathering with friends. He wasn’t ready at all and he was even more of a disaster than he had thought. Tom had never cooked anything for himself and had no idea about entertaining people. He was a shy person, the kind that would always be asked last about a subject, if asked at all. He knew they had put that burden on him because no one else could do it and that thought made him realized he didn’t want to be that person.

 So early Tuesday, he grabbed the phone and called every single was one of his so-called friends and told them that he had decided against organizing their little event. He didn’t explain why or anything like that. He thought it was best not to say anything that they could use against him, although he knew they were going to talk anyway. After making all the appropriate calls, he decided to go to bed and rest because he hadn’t been able to sleep properly just because of that stupid meeting being in his brain for weeks and weeks.

 A surprise came in Wednesday, after having been able to sleep for ten straight hours. A girl from college called Alicia had come to his door to visit, out of the blue. When he buzzed her in, he didn’t really realize what he had done. But then he did and he started picking up the trash from the floor but then stopped and realized that didn’t make any sense. If Alicia was there, it was because the others had told her about the cancelled reunion. She wanted to know more and he shouldn’t just fake that everything was perfect when it wasn’t.

At the end of the day, that mess in his house was what made him Tom. He was that mess and it was the most original version of his own self. Nothing more could be as perfect to describe him as that pile of things all around, ranging from papers and notebooks to all the ingredients that he hadn’t used and wasn’t going to use for anything, never again. He even had some clothes on the floor, mainly the ones he would pick up and put in bag to take to washing machines in the basement of the building. It was one of those places.

 When Alicia arrived, he greeted her on the door and didn’t ask her to come in. He just wanted to know what she was doing there. She said that a bunch of people, including her, were worried about him because he had cancelled out of the blue. She reminded him that he was always so worried about arriving on time to their other meetings and often gave money for more pizza, so it was weird that he would just cancel the gathering that he was in charge of. So Alicia was just there to receive an explanation and she really got one.

 Tom said he was tired of being the last person they always thought of, except when they needed money or some idiot to do shit for them. He told Alicia to told every other person in their so-called “friend group” that he wasn’t going to be the same idiot that he had been since college. Maybe he wasn’t brilliant or successful or anything, but he still deserved some respect. He closed the door on her face and decided it was a nice time to order a pizza, all for himself.

sábado, 15 de octubre de 2016

Change of pace

   Nicole had been watching birds professionally for about five years. Before that, she had been working in some laboratory where she helped create many types of perfume. But after so many years, she had grown very annoyed by the smells and also the tense environment in the workplace. Not many people would think that working creating the world’s most delicious scents would be tense but it was and she wanted out but didn’t know how to do it. She couldn’t just quit because she could lose many benefits but working there longer was not an option.

 As she decided what would be her alternative path, Nicole decided to take advantage of a two week paid vacation leave that she hadn’t used during her time working for the lab. She thought the best place to go was a quiet one, where people would not be all around her asking things and talking all the time. Nicole certainly did not appreciate that at all. She looked it up in the Internet and soon discarded going to a grand European capital or to one of those luxurious seaside hotels. Too many people in both. Instead, she chose a retreat in the forest, more private and adequate to her needs.

 Nicole arrived a Friday afternoon to the retreat and realized she had chosen the right place to go and relax. Even the staff of the hotel was gentle and not scandalous. The man in the hotel’s reception told her that they owned almost thirty cabins all around the forest and that they were all connected through dirt paths. A young man grabbed her suitcase and put it in a golf cart and helped her to her assigned cabin. It was beautiful, very small but very cozy at the same time. She had asked for a one bedroom one and it was just perfect.

 It had a small bedroom, a very modern bathroom and a living room with a small kitchen space, which worked on electricity. There were not television sets, radios, phones or any type of Wi-Fi connection in any of the rooms. The only place from which a person could do any of those things was the reception structure. As the boy left after leaving her suit case in the cabin, Nicole checked and realized she was really disconnected from the world: her cellphone had no signal whatsoever. She finally felt free and seemed very excited for what may happen.

 As she had arrived in the afternoon, it wasn’t a good idea to wander around the forest, as darkness would be upon her soon. Instead, she decided to use the bathtub and enjoy it thoroughly with hot water and the relaxing sound of the wind among the trees. After that bath, it was very easy for Nicole to just get into bed and fall asleep in a very short time. She never did that back home but she felt so tired from the road trip to the hotel that she fell asleep right away. She had a dreamless sleep that lasted for several hours.

 When she woke up, it was ten past ten. When she saw the time in her watch, she got scared for a moment but then remembered she was on a holiday and not working in the laboratory. She could sleep for as many hours as she wanted and waking up at six in the morning was not mandatory anymore. She decided to check out the kitchen and, just as the brochure said, you could pay for it to be fully packed with things from day one of your stay. So she decided to cook herself a scrambled egg breakfast with some orange juice.

 As she ate it all in a small table by a window, she heard the forest: there was no silence but a magnificent amount of sound coming from every direction. She wondered if that would help her think or would come against her at some point. Nicole decided to take a walk after eating and wandered around the paths for several hours until she realized she didn’t quite now where she was. She had not been smart enough to borrow a map from the reception and asking someone for directions didn’t seem to be a real possibility.

 It was just then when she heard a whistle and the distinctive sound of a photography camera. There was someone near her. She walked around trying to identify the source of the sound but she couldn’t find anyone. Growing a bit desperate, she stepped into some rocks and her feet glided over them ass the moss covering them was very slimy. Nicole stumbled to the ground, hitting her behind hard against the ground and one of her legs being seriously hurt. It wasn’t long before a bearded man, about her age, appeared very close.

 He didn’t ask her anything. He just grabbed her as if she was weightless and carried in a jog to the reception, where they had the infirmary. The doctor there told Nicole she had twisted her ankle but that it wasn’t too bad. She could prevent swelling with a special cream and should prevent movement at all costs. He offered her some crutches to use around but she declined, saying she did feel like she needed them. She would rather enjoy the rest of her stay by just being careful and resting a bit for the next couple of days.

 Nicole wanted to thank the man that had carried her to the doctor but he had left in a huff. Apparently there was something much more important he had to do than checking if the person he carried was all right. Nicole tried not to think a lot about that, instead just been taken to her cabin in a golf cart. There, she decided to rest in bed for a while. When she about to fall asleep, she heard something like a whistle again. She hadn’t solved that mystery before and she wanted to know what was it.

 She stepped out of her cabin once again and tried to hear where the sound was coming from again but there was no more whistling. Instead, she could perfectly hear the wind passing through the trees, which was a very soothing sound. Breathing slowly with her eyes closed, Nicole realized how precious it was to be in a place where the sound of the wind could take you to so many places at once. It was the best experience ever. She had never been in any trip where she could actually distance herself from her life but this time it seemed different.

 The next day, she was lucky enough to stumble upon the man with the beard. She found him reorganizing some things by the main path. Nicole thanked him for his help and tried to shake his hand but he didn’t even look at her. He seemed immersed in something she couldn’t understand. When he finished whatever he was doing, he left the path immediately and started walking towards the deepness of the forest. Not really understanding why, Nicole decided to go after him, almost having to run in order to not to miss him among the trees.

 She finally reached him in a clearing where he sat down on the floor and, with a gesture, asked Nicole to be quiet. He grabbed a camera from his backpack and waited, apparently only hearing the sound of the woods. She heard them too, trying not to make a sound. Then, the man whistled in a very specific manner. When he did, it seemed to be very precise. And it was. Out of nowhere, a flock of small birds flew over the clearing, some of them landing among the dried leaves. The man took several pictures before the birds left.

 When she realized she could speak again, Nicole asked the man how he knew what sound to make in order for them to come and what was he doing in that place. He told her he was a ornithologist, a bird expert and that he was creating a complete catalogue of every bird in the forest. He told Nicole that it was a very difficult job but that it was very rewarding as birds weren’t as selfish and evil as men. He confessed he didn’t really like people. After he said that, he looked Nicole straight in the eye and stretched her hand to hear. His name was Quentin.

 That day, and all the following days in which Nicole had decided to remain in the woods, Quentin would tell her all the tricks to get the best pictures of the birds. He would also take pictures of other animals and of the trees. He found nature fascinating at it most simple. Nicole was so enthralled by all of this that she decided it was time to make her next move. When she came back to the city she quit her job and applied to one in the university to be Quentin’s assistant. The pay was better making perfume but her life felt so much lighter and improved in the forest, in peace.

jueves, 18 de agosto de 2016

The monastery

   The poor creature did it al by itself. It had carried the body of a lost hiker after almost dying in an avalanche. The donkey was exhausted and collapsed after crossing the gate of the monastery. Monk Yato was crossing the yard in order to get to the kitchen and was the first one to see the poor animal and the person it had brought to them. By the touch of his fingers, Yato noticed the donkey had died. It was probably due to exhaustion. As far as the man was concerned, Yato and other monks carried him to one of the rooms.

 He was in some kind of coma for almost a week. Every so often, monks would check on him and realize that he was doing great except for the fact that he was fast asleep. But life in the mountains went on, no matter how interesting it was to have someone from the outside so close by. The younger monks were the most curious ones, whereas the older ones hadn’t cared yet and had decided not to visit the tourist at all

During that week, the monks held a small vigil for the soul of the donkey, which they had buried near the main temple of the monastery. They all appreciated a lot what animals could do for humanity and had a tremendous respect for any kind of life that was lost during accidents in the mountains. The men from beyond didn’t seem too convinced by this but the monks believed it with all their hearts.

 One week after, the hiker woke up in the middle of the night. His name was Greg Emerson and he had been climbing almost every single mountain nearby. It was very dangerous as some of the mountains had special regulations but it had been clear he didn’t care about it, at all. When he woke up in the small room they had put him in, he instantly thought he had been captured by some foreign force from beyond the mountain range. He had no idea of monks or their beliefs.

 The halls were being watched and his bedroom’s window overlooked a large chasm with no apparent bottom. The morning after, when one of the monks decided to check on him, Greg committed the mistake of being excessively aggressive. He thought he was too strong, so he released the man in order to stand up and run away. But the monk had not being that injured and jumped at him, tacking Greg to the ground with ease.

 He was locked up in the cell once again and no one came to tell him anything for a whole day. It was very late when he noticed the movement of a light behind his cell’s door and then some steps. He trusted he was going to be released real soon. When the door opened, it was the Grand Monk, a very small mall that seemed to move his legs really fast in order to move at a normal pace.

 When he entered the cell, he told Greg that he knew who he was, his full name, his job in the city and why he had come to the mountains. He even knew that that his reason for wanting to get to know the mountains and nature was false and that’s why he had been confined to that cell until he got better. Now that he was, they had to check if it was in their best interest to release him or if it was better to keep him for a longer time. He complained, saying it wasn’t legal and ethic to retain someone against their will but the Grand Monk clarified he could leave his room but not the monastery.

 The following day, he noticed the Grand Monk’s orders had been honest: no more monks came to check into him and the door of his cell was now wide open. He could walk all around the various levels of the monastery, including the dining room where all of the monks gather at night to have a very sensible and small dinner. Greg missed the real foods from the city, sometimes being hungry for a hotdog and other times for some pasta with meatballs. In the monastery there was only a lame kind of bread with nothing on it and some goat cheese.

 One day, a monk showed him the burying site of the donkey that had brought him to the monastery. Greg remembered that creature and thanked him on his grave for having saved him. As far as he could remember, he had been riding the donkey for a while through the mountains just when they had been caught by one of those awful storms that sometimes happens deep in the mountains. During that awful weather, he had been knocked out and the animal had done everything by itself. 

 Weeks after being “released” from his room, the Grand Monk ordered him to participate in the various activities that the monks did all around the monastery, as he was one more of them for at least a while. So they decided to try him in various areas. The first one was the garden, a small hydroponic plantation overlooking the chasm. He wasn’t very good with plants so he did not do a great job. Besides, his hand were not at all delicate and he was always distracted, looking over at the view or being apparently immersed in his thoughts about how he would return to civilization.

 The next place they tied him on was the goat pen. It was really simple: he only had to fee them twice a day and let the roam around the main yard for a while. The ideal walk for the goats would be to go beyond the gate but they couldn’t let him go with them there so the monk had to tolerate the goats being all over the place now and Greg being useless when feeding them. He only gave food to a couple of them and then he just got distracted when looking at the snowy mountains and imagining what his loved ones were thinking right then.

 His last opportunity was in the kitchen, where a big Monk called Hitso, taught him about how to make the simple bread they ate and how to do some other dished with the vegetables they grew in their small garden.  They didn’t have any modern appliances, only an oven that used wood but there was no wood nearby that they could use. Beside, Hitso explained to Greg that the monks preferred not to eat things that were cooked, instead eating everything raw.

 In the kitchen, Greg really felt he was a little bit happier. Maybe it was the fact that he was serving the monks and that gave him some kind of purpose or it may have been the fact that he had stopped thinking about how to escape and about his loved ones in the city. He just realized that the monastery was his reality at the moment and that it was best to use it in his advantage instead of always being distracted by other things.

 Greg began to enjoy the company of all the monks and even tried to meditate like they did but he wasn’t that calm yet. In his spare time, he would look at the chasm and wonder what marvels laid down there, beyond the light of the sun. Monk Yato explained to him that the monastery had been built right there because their religion believed an ancient evil slept beneath the darkness of the chasm and that it was necessary to have prepared religious people nearby in order to defend the world once whatever lived down there emerged.

 It was a very nice story and, of course, Greg didn’t believe any part of it but he respected the fact that the monks were dedicated to their beliefs. He began thinking that maybe that was something he was lacking. He didn’t believe in anything except fame and fortune and going on to the next thing. Greg was very impatient and had always been like that. He wasn’t the kind of person to wait patiently to see what happened. No, he was the one “creating” his future. Now he was doing the opposite angle.

 Months after arriving in the temple, the Grand Monk called Greg to his room and told him he was ready to go back to the outside world. The young man nodded but then he knelt and asked the old monk to let him stay with them and become a monk like them. He wanted to learn their ways and be calm and a better person.

 But the Grand Monk said that couldn’t be. He had to go back to the outside because he had unresolved business there. Greg had to attend to that and, if he still wanted, he could comeback afterwards and join them. Greg left that same afternoon. He would never come back to the monastery but would always remember what he had learned and try to pass it on.