Thursday, April 23, 2015

I Can Bead a Rainbow

Top: Material Girl, Macy's
Skirt: Modcloth
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Gifted
Sunglasses: Cloud Nine, Ocean City boardwalk

Tee: Marshalls
Skirt: Marshalls
Shoes: Betseyville, Macy's
Bag: Marshalls
Sunglasses: Cloud Nine, Ocean City boardwalk

Tee: Target
Skirt: H & M
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Target
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Top: J. C. Penney's
Jeans: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: DSW
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Puns get enough of a bad rap without having to bear the indignity of being explained.  So, I wish I could say that "I can bead a rainbow" comes from "I can read a rainbow" from the well-known and much-loved children's program "Reading Rainbow" instead of from "I can sing a rainbow," which is a song I learned in preschool.  A preschool, incidentally, that was called READ.  But things are seldom that simple.  Nevertheless, my love for jewelry making and staging is so strong that no pun or wordplay is too precious.  Not unlike Lauren Shockey's love of cooking as relayed in her memoir Four Kitchens.  Although maybe minus the precious, professional kitchens being mostly macho.

It's a tale as old as time, really.  Office worker on the fast track to carpal tunnel syndrome (her words, not mine) chucks it all to cook her way around the world as an indentured servant.  But not before horrifying her parents and making a $40,000 pit stop at Soho's French Culinary Institute.  As this is a true story and not a sitcom or rom com, one can't help but wonder: Why?  For the same reason all those made-up heroines do it: to follow her heart (insert retching at the sound of my own schmaltziness.)  Just listen as she waxes poetic about a carrot:

"I wanted to cook because of the calmness that washes over me when I peel the ruddy outer layer of a carrot.  As the blade emits soft grating sounds and then strips of nearly translucent flesh fall into the garbage can, I contemplate the range of possibilities at hand.  I can shred the carrot and transform it into a salad; I can chop it in chunks and boil it in salted water; I can leave it whole, rubbed in Moroccan spices, and grill it until carmelized; I can cut it in pieces, dip it and saute it in a wok with sesame oil; or I can eat it plain and simple.  I can follow any number of carrot recipes, or I can invent my own recipe on the spot.  With cooking, the opportunities for creativity are boundless." (2-3)

Although I'm far from a foodie, I instantly understood what Shockey (so formal, this use of the last name -- we're all friends here, so let's stick with Lauren) meant.  Because it's the same way I feel about fashion.  She's talking about the energy, excitement, and rush that come from infinitely mixing a bunch of cool stuff -- regardless of the medium -- to come up with something even cooler.  So, it was in this spirit that I joined her on her journey.  She became an apprentice (or, to be more accurate, and indeed, more French, "stagiare") at some of the finest restaurants in her native New York City, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris.  Her experiences in each city are different but universally grueling.  She works fourteen-hour days deshelling crates of crabs and cross-hatching endive and washing floors, all for no pay and often under the watchful and critical eye of a snarky superior.  Although it's something I'd never do, her grit and enthusiasm are infectious, making me (vicariously) care about perfectly plating trout threads and crispy cream cheese (a dish that sounds, if not tasty, then exotically beautiful).  It's one of those stories about (at the risk of more retching) self exploration and discovery.  So, definitely not a romantic comedy.  Although there are a couple of contenders for the role of boyfriend, none ever flourish like her foie gras, a sure marker of nonfiction if ever there was one.  That is, Four Kitchens manipulates no plot lines into contriving a conventional two-by-two happy ending.  No, this time the only love affair is with the food.  Lauren sacrifices more for it than many women would for a lover -- financial security, familiarity, free time, and, to an extent, personal safety.  But, like most affairs, it's destined to come to an end.  


Although I don't flatter myself that this blurb is so good that you simply must order your copy of Four Kitchens from Amazon this very minute, manners are manners.  For those of you soldiering on, Lauren decides not to work in a restaurant after all.  Not because she's soured out on cooking, but because she's lukewarm about preparing food for a living.  She cares about cooking too much to allow it to become compromised by the baser motive of turning a profit.  She wants to savor the culinary experience, not rush through it; she wants to watch people enjoying her meals instead of being tucked away in an anonymous kitchen:  

"Although restaurant cooking is great for learning how to perfect dishes and to maximize speed and efficiency, the repetition of professional cooking can be, well, repetitive.  What I loved about cooking was discovering new ingredients and combining flavors.  Home cooking brings spontaneity and whimsy and the freedom to cook according to your own desires . . . So what if it took going around the world to realize I wanted to end up at home, in my own kitchen?  I discovered what I loved; cooking for my friends and family and sharing the bounty of the table together.  And the friends I made along the way taught me that home can be anywhere, and so can your home kitchen.  It's those you share it with who really matter." (328-331)

Aw.  Now, that does sound like the look-what-I-learned voice-over narrating the final scene of an indie flick.  Which tastes just about right to me.  What can I say?  Pass the popcorn.   

1 comment:

Jewel Divas Style said...

Nice and bright as always Tote!