I have a good job at a place I rarely, if ever, dread going. Every weekday morning, before 7am, I make my trek in from our building’s covered parking—happy, upbeat and feeling blessed. I work with some wonderful people, perform my job on a beloved iMac and feel fortunate to have health benefits, a pension and relative stability. We’re allowed to wear jeans any day we like, and our ice machines have pellet ice. I repeat … our ice machines have awesome, Sonic-like, pellet ice. I’ve got it pretty good.
So why, for the love of all that is Holy, can’t I shake the fact that I’d like to be a short-order cook?
The idea makes me swoon—the big, industrial-sized cooktop and griddle that’s become perfectly seasoned through the years; the even heat and its eagerness to cook things at my pace; its willingness to accommodate slower-cooking things off to the side, without being demanding.
Combining this type of cooking with the sheer joy of preparing amazing food for appreciative people is a one-two punch I can get down with.
I imagine myself at a place similar to this small, greasy spoon we used to frequent up in the Pacific Northwest, where the only seating was around the half-moon bar. The cook was right out in the open, sort of like a bartender, but with his back to us. It was fascinating to watch him cook and coordinate the meals of a couple dozen people.
My establishment would be similar, and I’d have lots of regulars. They’d be flattered at how quickly I’d remember their preferences, and their undying loyalty would soon follow. Henry likes his potatoes well-done. Jane doesn’t like her food touching. Paul prefers me to break his over-easy eggs. And Kenny? Well, Kenny’s a writer and likes his 3-egg omelet folded like an envelope. He’s a little finicky, but he means well and tips well, so—no harm, no foul.
At Westside (the name of my diner), we’d be known for our breakfasts, but people would also come in weekly for burgers and my famous fries and homemade dipping sauces.
I’m an early bird, so I’d open for breakfast at 6am and stay open through lunch—that’s it. Westside would be such a popular place that I’d always have inquisitive, well-intentioned people wondering why on Earth I wasn’t open for dinner … didn’t I know how much more money I could make? But I’d prefer it exactly how it was—busy, people eagerly waiting for an open spot, everyone happy, regulars coming back again and again. And I’d still have a life outside of the diner.
But I think I can do better than this dream, because I have another secret desire.
No, not just living on a farm, but actually farming. It appeals to me in nearly every way (I say this while acknowledging I know very little about farming life, but of course, I used to say the same thing about thug life and we all know how that turned out). Here are the few things I know—besides just loving farms and farm houses—that lead me to harbor this now not-so-secret desire. (Oh, and please note, while the diner would be called Westside, the farm would be called Westward. Sshh, just let me dream.)
In every sense of the word, I’m a morning person. I’m happy to wake up to a new day; I’m at my best in the morning; I thoroughly relish using early morning hours to accomplish things and I simply find mornings beautiful, while noticing and feeling blessings twice as much in these early hours, before the day gets busy.
I also love the idea of being on a tractor all day. When I’m driving and I see a tractor out in the fields, I get all dreamy and wishy and jealous. I thoroughly enjoy activities and chores where I can just think or pray or make myself laugh with a hilarious stand-up routine in my head (you wouldn’t believe how entertaining I think I am.) I also love listening to music and audiobooks—two things I could do all day while tilling the fields. I was made to drive a tractor—it’s now so clear to me.
Side Note: I really hope “tilling the fields” is legit farm talk, but I have this nagging feeling it’s not.
Also, my favorite chores are the ones where you can see actual progress and change—mowing, edging, dusting, trimming trees. My entire being gets genuine pleasure from cleaning and clearing away. Sometimes when we walk in the early evening, we’ll pass trees that have branches in need of a trim and I can barely keep myself from scheming ways to come back and do a little snip-snip after dark. I know in my heart it would make everyone happier, but I’ve been told that it’s called trespassing.
As I’ve touched on before, I’m not a tried and true dog person (just in that my love for them isn’t so unconditional that I’ll ever want to snuggle after they’ve lapped up toilet water and I’ll never feel as if my life isn’t complete without a dog), BUT, I am an animal person, so tending to chickens and cows (and maybe a donkey and some goats) appeals to me.
Actually, as I sit here and think about it, I bet living on a farm would bring my dog side out; because, while a domesticated, shedding, house dog—who likes licking himself—doesn’t move me, a work dog does. If he’s my work buddy—sign me up and I’ll name him Barley or maybe Dutch. I love the idea of throwing open the truck gate and whistling for him to jump in. He’s not my kitchen buddy, but he’s my field buddy and I love him already.
And I know I usually say my favorite kind of cat is the kind that’s actually an owl, but I think on the farm, I could probably enjoy a couple of outdoor cats. I sure don’t want one slinking around under my bed or sitting in the window judging me, but I wouldn’t mind one that nabs mice and snakes for us.
Some people watch an executive give a presentation—and dream of being her … dream of the corner office, the attention and pressure being on them, the accolades, being the keynote speaker; but, I see a farmer on a tractor and dream of getting up at dawn, wearing flannel, naming my animals, driving a John Deere and eating three squares a day.
I also dream of canning.
Side Note: My affinity for farm clothes is two-fold. The obvious appeal is that they’re practical and comfortable. But there is also something quite thrilling about hearing, “Well you sure clean up nice!” when I change to go out.
Ideally, life on the farm would include a huge vegetable and herb garden … and living off the land as much as possible. Being able to combine growing our own veggies with comprehensive, monthly Costco trips is the best of both worlds. Sure, we’d never get to pop in Costco for block of Gouda—because we don’t get into town that often—but when we did go, we could use the flatbed cart to haul our bounty of bulk.
So this brings me to why I can do better than being a short-order cook at Westside … and why it’s a beautiful thing when dreams collide.
In our amazing farm house (it might even be magazine worthy), I’d have a huge, restaurant-quality, gas cooktop and griddle. I’d get to cook for us and for any workers or visitors we had. Cooking AND farming. So. Much. Yes.
If my days could play out something like this:
Wake up early to start the coffee and feed Nelly, Delilah, Bishop and the gang
Wield spatulas as I make a big breakfast on the griddle—eggs, potatoes, pancakes, bacon
Do chores, tend to the garden, fix things
Make a good lunch
Do more farm things
Make an awesome dinner
Enjoy a beer on the beautiful, expansive porch while visiting and watching the sunset
Write another chapter of my manuscript
Go to bed at a decent hour
… then I can’t imagine not getting a “Life Is Good” tattoo on my back, or an “Oh Happy Day” one on the inside of my wrist—or both.
I know, I know—stop wishing and go for it, right? Not now. For the time being, I’ll keep being happy with my pellet ice and steady paycheck. Also, I now have an outdoor Blackstone Griddle I can get my cooking fix on—and we have a new, huge garden bed we’ll get into in the spring.
Baby steps. Besides, wielding those spatulas takes a lot of practice. I was making chicken fajitas on the Blackstone this summer and I went to scoop up and turn over a big pile of sliced Serrano peppers and accidentally tossed the whole pile right over my shoulder. Every one of them landed on the patio in one smooth, synchronized move. I think we all know that the diner and the farm deserve better than that.