When I Grow Up

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.

pmanningthumbsup

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.

Farming.

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.)

Drool.  photo credit: shutterstock

Drool.
photo credit: shutterstock

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.

Let it be me

Let it be me

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.

photo credit: wikipedia

photo credit: wikipedia

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 a 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.

Look at this crazy goodness. My heart is all aflutter!

Look at this crazy goodness. My heart is all aflutter!

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.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook and Twitter … it’s good for your health.

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38 thoughts on “When I Grow Up

  1. You know, while I don’t think I was ever privy to your secret farming dreams before, I can TOTALLY picture you rockin it out in that kind of setting! But if that doesn’t happen, maybe you could just work on those extra brown diner fries to feed me:))

  2. Just a heads up that I will be a regular at Westside. I’m assuming you make a mean B.L.T. so that might be my usual. A diner needs good chili too, which I know you’ll take seriously. Also, don’t forget your regulars after you get done canning. I like my salsa spicy and my preserves to be raspberry. Your loyal patron, Trix

    • Check, check and check. All DONE, my loyal patron, Trix. Hope it’s ok that you’ll have to hit up the farm or diner down the road for sweets. Well, unless you want a handful of marshmallows … I could probably scrounge those up 😉

  3. Great post … You brought me right there alongside of you as you fulfilled your dreams. I totally get the desire to cook in a HUGE industrial sized kitchen with the freshest of ingredients, and every imaginable stainless steel appliance to use. I think it’s due to the multitude of cooking shows available today and the fact that my television has a difficult time of being on any channel other than the Food Network! Thanks for an extremely enjoyable read …

  4. You completely convinced me that you could be a real farmer when you listed “Do more farm stuff” on your daily schedule. But it is hard to compete with pellet ice. That’s like the diamond level of ice.

    Also, “my favorite kind of cat is the one that’s actually an owl.” I will join that club. Owls can turn their heads like almost 360 degrees. Cats give attitude and make me sneeze and itch. No competition.

  5. I loved reading this. Your passion and enthusiasm for these dreams came shining through. I personally would hate owning a restaurant and never want to be a farmer, but you made it sound very desirable (for you). I hope it all happens someday and I hope you love it.

  6. When a farmer gathers his “hired hands” in the morning and they ask him what they are going to be working on, he just squints his eyes, gathers his thoughts, spits, and then says, “let’s do some farm stuff today”. So, you’ve got that part of it down! I know you can spit because I remember the “shrimp water” incident!
    My dear, you make me laugh. Thank you for being so dag-blasted (farmer language) funny.
    You make your ole daddy proud.

  7. The diner sounds wonderful and I love the name, too! And should you go into farming, just call me. I grew up on a farm and those years were among the best of my life.

    P.S. As usual, your post is terrific!

    • Oh man, I’d love to hear stories about your years on the farm. We can sit on Mamie’s porch and talk all about it 🙂 Swoon! Thank you, Beth. I was actually sitting in this cool speakeasy in Austin last night when I saw your comment and thought, “Well this is a pretty charmed life!” 🙂

  8. Oh my! This is some great dreaming! I say yes to all of the above! I’ll go for breakfast at Westside everyday! Heck, I’ll settle for going to your back yard for a delicious griddle meal! 🙂

  9. You can come hang out with me and my brothers in Idaho sometime. Ryan and I have already decided we are sending our kids to farm camp when they’re old enough. That way they’ll learn the ways of the farm from my oldest brother…hard work, great reward. 🙂 you can go to camp with my kids, if you want.

  10. Far be it for me to bring up financing, shit-shovelling and pestilence…yadda, yadda, yadda…

    I used to have a super-size me dream… but, now that the realities have rudely interrupted my pining, I content myself by hugging my coffee mug and nibbling my homemade cookie…reverentially…

  11. You know what they say, ” a bad day on a tractor is better than a good day at the office”. And on a farm you need those cats to catch the mice coming to your house from the field, plus they’re just fun to have around.
    Like others, I am amazed a the funny stuff you think up. I don’t know how you do it, but keep it up!

  12. Pingback: I’m Not That Picky | Anna Lea West

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