I am going to make an assumption here. I am going to assume that most people who read my self indulgent natterings are familiar with the term SOUS CHEF. If not, perhaps it's time to move on. Literally it means UNDER CHEF. Although with all the culinary hanky panky you hear about in restaurants these days, it could also mean UNDER THE CHEF. But I digress.
During the preparations for Thanksgiving, SOUS CHEF is the nom de spoon given to anyone who can be coerced into helping out in the kitchen -- among my friends and relatives at least. At its best, it is boring. At its worst, it may require first aid. Mostly it's doing the icky part of making all the side dishes. The CHEF [or the person in charge of cooking the turkey] finds the recipes he or she wants to serve as accompaniments to the bird. And takes credit for making them and how good they taste. The SOUS CHEF does everything else, toiling in anonymity.
Yesterday I was one of two designated sous chefs preparing for today's pigfest. I know we're feasting on a turkey, not a pig, but calling it a turkey fest doesn't do caloric justice to what is about to transpire in a few hours.
Meanwhile, back to ME. As an invited guest for the holiday, I was easily seduced into driving 25 miles each way in holiday traffic for the thrill of sitting in a kitchen for hours doing the prepwork for various recipes I did not chose. Occasionally I would ask, "What's this for?" as I labored, but mostly I just sat working in a mindless stupor. That's because prepwork is to cuisine as cleaning toilets is to interior design. Necessary, but rarely celebrated.
I was doing some truly thankless tasks -- repetitively slicing, dicing, and chopping various ingredients usually outsourced to third world countries and returned in cans to be purchased at your local grocery store.
Except that yesterday was all about FRESH ingredients. The CHEF don't do no f**king canned anything or use dried herbs. No. That would be TOO CONVENIENT. Only FRESH. So I chopped and sliced and performed other manipulations on umpteen cloves of garlic, 400 onions, a zillion celery stalks, eleventy-two million morel mushrooms, hundreds of bread cubes, a bushel of apples, a ton of walnuts, and pansful of pancetta [BACON to the rest of us]. Someone else was peeling potatoes, carrots, etc., etc.
At one point, I was handed what looked like the branches of a very very tiny fur tree. Each one of the little fur balls was a thing of thyme. My job was to strip the thyme off each of the teeny weeny branches of the tiny whiny tree. You take your thumb and forefinger and just slide it in the wrong direction and the little tiny thymes just fall off. It took an hour to get a tablespoon of the things. We couldn't just reach up into the herb shelf and use the seven year old jar of thyme?
Apparently not. Did I mention FRESH? The slavedrivers finally let me go home when it got dark. Then I had to stand in line to pick up the pies I ordered. My life is hell.
Today I will finally get to see what's for dinner. Perhaps I'll even point out some of the walnuts and apples and mushroom pieces I was responsible for. That's a surefire way to get invited back again.
Happy Turkey Day.