I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either – Jack BennyYesterday afternoon, I was winding down after work and getting ready for a “date night” of Pho with my wife. A flag popped up on Facebook telling me that there was a message in the local Chef’s group. A message from Dustin Murphy one of the best young cooks in town, now at the helm of one of the areas better restaurants. You don’t get a perfect 10 from The News if you aren't putting out good product.
His message was simple:
who amazingly seems to have had some free time on her schedule as Executive Chef of a downtown boutique hotel. So she volunteered. How cool is that.
I’ve often written about how small and incestuous the local food community is. Though there are occasional disgruntled ripples as there are in any family, we do go out of our way to help each other out. So Jen’s response didn’t surprise me in the least.
I didn’t volunteer, though I did chime in: “You really don't want an old arthritic cook in your kitchen, unless you need a cheering section”. Dustin and Jen seemed to appreciate that sentiment.
It’s not easy for your mind to work like that, but it does tend to put one in a reflective mood. A half-dozen years ago I might’ve volunteered. For a long time after semi retiring, I not only catered with my friend Fred but filled in at his restaurant Fredi at which I had been opening Chef. (Is it really been a year since he has been gone?).
I don’t have an overinflated ego, and have made no secret of my limitations as a cook, but I could hold my own on the line in any kitchen. As recently as a few years ago I could’ve just played prep cook. I’m not sure I could do that with the big boys and girls these days.
During my hiatus from work I discovered that the aching in my hands was rheumatoid arthritis. I’d come home from a shift at Fredi or a catering gig and have to soak my hands in ice water for an hour or two. Other than being a factor in needing a hip replacement at 54, the arthritis has been constant but no worse since its discovery.
The pain has always been manageable. Tougher to deal with is the seeming disconnect between brain and hands. My knife skills were never anything to commit to film. Heck, it all may have been joint problems to begin with. Or just lack of talent. Now there seems to be a seven second delay between when my brain sends out commands and when the fingers start moving. You learn to slow things way down, lest you lose body parts.
And so it goes.
This isn’t a cry for pity. It’s a severe kick in my own backside. Over the last couple of months, my hands have taken a turn for the worse. Watch my face while opening a gallon jar. Or shredding chicken. There are days when the last two fingers on the left hand are down to about 20 percent mobility.The joints in the pinky are starting to look like my grandmother’s arthritic hands.
Time to deal with that.
It’s why I like teaching so much. It’s all still working in my head. So, thank you Dustin and Jen for making a bunch of us smile last night. I was cheering you on in spirit. As for me, I am reminded of a Dirty Harry quote I once used as an answer on the Ohio Bar Exam:
A man’s got to know his limitations.