Where to start

Where to start?

“To make a start
out of particulars …”

If I could go back in time, I might be able to tell you the day my taste for cooking began. I had a great job when I was a kid. All through high school, I worked in the kitchen at Holy Spirit Hospital. My friend Tom Scheffey and I washed dishes, helped the ladies at garde manger and worked the service line.

The service line, that was intense. Especially at breakfast.

The head dietician was a nun, Sister Georgia, and her morning service line was a conveyor belt about 15 yards long. Every tray on it had a checklist of salad, soup and main plate and those plates were put on by the salad ladies and our chef, Mr. Paulie, as the tray moved toward Sister Georgia at the end of the line. There, just before the tray entered the dumbwaiter, she would snatch up the checklist and snap out, “coffee … cream … sugar … butter … jelly … salt and pepper …” and I would just get the coffee poured into the small stainless carafe and be grabbing for the creamers when she started on the next checklist, “tea … extra cream … salt substitute …”

At that age, I’d never seen Lucille Ball’s conveyor belt skit.

Unless someone knocked a tray askew and it crashed to the floor, the belt did not stop. The food was hot. It had to get to the aides on the floors upstairs and they had to get it to the patients. Absent a crisis, the belt didn’t stop. If you weren’t working fast enough, you worked faster and better – or you got replaced on the line.

It’s more fun as a memory than it was as an experience, but it gave me a taste for decent food presented professionally … even in an institution.

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