I spied you observing from the pot-wash.
Your searching eyes dart from the sweeping gestures of the pasta maker
and the circulations of a hand stirring the Sugo to settle momentarily on a boiling pot of salted water.
‘Le system’ is already obvious to you, yet so hard to teach many.
An angry burn catches your attention on the hand sweeping excess flour from a bench and cause’s you to blink-away the imagined sting as the flour wafts down to settle like a grey shadow on the floor.
The broom in your hands stirs, you know what to do but you don’t wait for instruction.
This gesture sets you apart and makes me grin; I remember my younger self, similarly disposed.
Not yet ground down, jaundiced or fatigued.
Back when turning the page meant another exciting revelation, not the closure of another venerable institution or the melancholic lament of a jubilant time long since passed.
Perhaps one’s life does flash before our eyes when we face the finality of the future, our baton change heralding a time to let it all go, like a full-time match klaxon.
I read Tony Billson’s words yesterday and they have been knocking around in my head ever since.
‘I’m leaving restaurants behind’ he said conclusively. I only read the words but they detonated with a despondency that made me shiver.
A lifetime of cooking and of culture: all for what exactly?
To walk away from this intricate and delicate web which had linked so many people through the years and generations, through the shared experience of being nurtured at the table shook my foundations. Is it just vanity to suggest that a legacy of sorts remains, that one has added a shiny veneer to the fibres of our culture by dedicating ones career to restaurants?
All those ideas, meals, service, craft and time that had transpired are immeasurable really. All, except in this case, for an inevitable truth: it all ended up in the toilet, metaphorically and literally.
For such a swashbuckling voyage to end so forlornly, going out with a whimper as it were and leaving the question whether it was all worth while unanswered, compels me to consider the bright-eyed person in front of me, my hand trembling over the authority that will ensnare or liberate them, depending if history will be charitable or not.
Years from now, when I’ve become garden-mulch, will this person drag their gaze up from their bloated belly and aching limbs, calloused fingers and liver damage to declare: ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the stoves’.