Monday, August 10, 2009
Every year I get together with a former co-worker and we work a festival at St. Joe's Parish in Kentucky. I can finally say "every year" seeing as this was number 3 and we're already confirmed to come back next year.
Erik, or BigE as he is sometimes called, and I always meet up at the University around 9:00am on whatever Sunday we're needed and trek down to Crescent Springs. It's weird, because Erik and I only see each other this one Sunday out of the year (despite the numerous phone calls between us) yet it instinctively all comes together.
Immediately we start on our prep. There will be hundreds of people stretching for what seems like miles waiting for Fried Chicken and Roast Beef in a just a few hours. Erik's first task is to slice 30 pounds of beef and get it rolled, placed in hotel pans and covered with au ju. Right away I start knocking out the green beans and getting the endless stock pots of water up to a boil for potatoes.
We both make pan after pan of gravy, adding bits of fried chicken breading, and do a constant rotation on dishes so they (and WE) don't get behind. Our only goal is to have EVERYTHING ready at all times. I think we congratulated ourselves a few too many times yesterday, but I also realize that we knocked that sumbitch out of the park. Seriously, most of our day was standing at attention waiting for what was needed next. And the second we took out one pan we were refilling a backup.
For some reason, BigE and I share a minor celebrity status when it comes to doing this. People go out of their way to greet us and make it clear how high up on the chain they are and how happy they are that we came back. It's strange to take this all in, but we manage.
The day, admittedly, is a long one. Or at least it feels long. 9:00am till 9:00pm. It's not like a regular job with breaks and all that OSHA bullshit. It's a do-or-die, get IT done, no-fail scenario. Make food, be praised for it, get paid.
By the end of the day, my back and legs are stiff and I'm grimy. I'm covered in a thick film of mashed potatoes and dirty dishwater. I'm way too sober and I'm singing Kung Fu Fighting while I'm scrubbing my work table. And yes, I did the white-guy Karate moves... Everything feels good.
Finally, we say goodbye to Jane and she makes it clear she'll be calling in April for NEXT years festival. We thank her and she thanks us. It becomes a battle of who's more grateful, but we let her win. We WANT to come back. Despite being tired, hot, and dirty, we love this gig. As I drive back home to meet up with Kerrie for dinner at Steak-n-Shake (our yearly tradition) I contemplate how much I love doing this. I crank up the AC and put on some Massive Attack, and while heading up the highway I realize that THIS is why I got into this messed up life-consuming career in the first place. And I loved every minute of it...