La Cuisine Est La Douleur

La Cuisine Est La Douleur

A Story by william

Kitchen work is brutal.


Almost every day of Daniel’s life had now become more or less the same.  Each morning, before he lifted his head from the flat, caseless pillow, he thought out the morning’s prep list based on the numbers from the night before.  Cut eight filet mignon.  French six lamb racks.  De-vein five pounds of tiger shrimp.  Knock out three cases of russet potatoes.  Mash one, bake one, slice one.  Au gratin.  Dice the damn tomatoes " all nine six-pans.  The slippery, juicy-red fruits dirtied his station with their watery, pinkish slime and tormented his hands with their refusal to remain still under the knife.  Each time his blade slipped on the leathery skins, another notch was added to his off-hand.  He excavated himself from the warmth of the thin, greying sheets that covered his cheap futon and labored his bare feet all the way across the cold, dirty floor of his dark apartment.  As his burned and scarred hands found their way to the coffee maker, he would notice the fresh wounds inflicted from the previous service and remember his training - la cuisine est la douleur.  The kitchen is pain.  More importantly, food is pain.  He sipped his coffee slowly, savoring the delicate bitterness in each heated, sensual encounter it made with his tongue.  The one indulgence he afforded himself was great coffee, taken black - Irish on Sunday.  Daniel had no trouble dressing anymore and slid checkered chef’s pants over his shriveled leg, pulled a clean, white t-shirt over his head, gathered his knife roll, keys, and leather coat, locked both deadbolts behind him, and teetered down the steps of his apartment building.

            His breakfast usually consisted of leftover S.O.D. " soupe du jour, from the white foam cup he would use for the remainder of his double shift, and stale bread, which he stored in the top pocket of his chef’s whites.  He ate and drank while standing, limping between stations, groaning as he peered into the short, silver lowboy refrigerators to ensure his stock was filled " plenty of crisp greens, blanched asparagus, freshly sliced lemons: thank you, server station.  Pounds of pasta boiled on the range, the monthly special of leg roast baked in the oven, and Daniel was there to taste, to test, and best of all " clean up the scraps.  By mid-morning, his belly would swell with day-old rolls, rich buttery hollandaise, boiled eggs dipped in Dijon, and his new favorite " the thick, crisp cubes of fat cut from the roasts and used daily to season the flat top grill.  His teeth ground the chunks of lardon into a salty, greasy mess that slid freely down his throat.

He had no time to eat during service.  Tickets spewed from the printers like water thrown into the fryers.  Plates flew across the window to the expo and servers ran, ducked, and backed into each other in a strange, impromptu ballet that is learned from years of elbowed ribs, trampled feet, and the occasional black eye " not to mention lousy tips. 

            While other cooks took smoke breaks out back on broken patio furniture to rest their legs, Daniel took snack breaks in the walk-in, chewing on chipotle chicken salad, cold twice-baked potatoes, slices of tangy, ripe pineapple, fresh, green avocado, and juicy, herbal cucumber.  None of the other cooks made fun of him for eating so much, nor did they say anything to the owners.  They all had experienced the hunger themselves, and each limped wordlessly by as the young man plunged silently into the food bins.  Daniel was still new, barely a month old, and the other cooks felt guilty for surprising him so rudely on his first day.  It wasn’t anything personal, just poor timing.  The roast was on special.  They had to have the leg - and who else was around to provide?  As he shuffled back to the incessant, broiling heat of the Line, Daniel would feel the emptiness returning to his stomach and already begin to plot his next binge. 

            The kitchen as a career had proved inconvenient since beginning work at this particular restaurant: his leg was hurt, he slept poorly, made less money, and what seemed to be even worse " he didn’t get dinner proper until after service, during clean-up.  By the end of service, his hunger had compounded itself, leaving Daniel with a painful, gnawing, ravenous hunger - despite his numerous, food-shoveling breaks in the cold storage.  He had never felt such a powerful urge to chew and swallow food since first tasting the restaurant’s signature leg roast.  While breaking down their stations, putting away the S.O.D. and taking care of the fryers, the cooks would share leftovers of the special, using paper hand towels as plates and their fingers as utensils.  The leg roast was always a favorite with the customers and the cooks alike, dressed in pepper crust, cooked bloody rare and dripping down the chins of Daniel and his brothers.  They ate quickly, devouring the thick slices in seconds.  Their shoulders hunched over the freshly butchered meat, it was as though they could taste blood still running through the flesh.  As they looked around defensively, wildly, at one another, they shared the unspoken secret each of them had given to the others, one by one.  The leg was God, and only in these moments did they feel truly satisfied with their food. 

© 2014 william

Author's Note

Written for class as an exercise in significant detail. Too much or too little?

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Added on January 23, 2014
Last Updated on January 23, 2014
Tags: Chef, cook, kitchen, restaurant, morbid




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