Three years into this experiment in hospitality — a word I struggle with and to be perfectly honest ultimately reject (I once nearly screamed at someone who insisted I was in the hospitality business and could I just take her credit card number and just book the book and come on, giddyup and go.) No, no no — and I still am counting the ways I like this gig more than my former life as a strap-hanging/time card-punching/boss-fearing/department head-trembling employee. OK, sometimes I miss the beat of the subway wheels or the morning rif with my deli man or the pseudo-complaining with my workplace peers but that’s rare.
The feeling I get, and this comes as much from the guest as it does from me, is, if anything, I am not in the hospitality business but we are. Guest and proprietor, in it together, being hospitable to each other.
I know. You’re gonna cry.
I will spare you the details (those are going in my alt-blog which isn’t on any public servers…yet) but let’s just say I have a bnb, I book rooms, people stay, we are hospitable to each other, and sometimes that hospitable-ness blooms into a bigger ball of wax. Into fun, or learning, or friendship.
I draw the line, true. But I erase some lines as well.
Kevin and Cassy booked a repeat visit recently. Remember Kevin? The chef I burnt the eggs for, who ultimately taught me how to scramble like a pro.
Here’s how we rolled.
First. We talk about the dish. A little history and how, say, the Basque interpretation differs from the French; a little technique, which might be about finely chopping parsley by packing it into tight ball and chopping first in one direction and then in the other (or when we’d opt for a chiffonade instead); some honorifics directed at one Jacques Pepin or maybe one Gordon Ramsey. Then of course there are the admonitions and anecdotes from the chef himself (or more accurately the admonitions and anecdotes of past chefs channeled through the present chef. Are all cooks story tellers? Look at all the damn books written by chefs…I’m thinking it must be so).
I wondered why I’d bought my own 25 dollar copy of Sous Chef when I had Kevin in the house calling me names and hurling all manner of insults. Mon dieu…mon dieu.
In the end we cooked, among other dishes, a killer Poulet Basquaise (a braised chicken along the lines of those feasting Basques). Cayenne, white wine, garlic, onions, peppers, stock, olive oil. …oo-la-la. It was as if I’d died and booked a table at the Ritz-Carlton.
There was a Salmon Livornese and a Shrimp Creole on the menu as well (over the course of three nights of cooking). There was also an air of hospitality but it was indistinct. Actually, I’m pretty sure that word is not welcome around here anymore. We don’t need it. Our tastes have evolved.