Like most reasonable people, you’ve just read the title of this post and may be wondering a number of things. Or one thing. Or possibly nothing at all, if you’ve just stumbled upon this blog by accident. Or you’re not even actually here because I haven’t posted on and barely visited this site for more than three months and you are now beyond caring.
Let me reassure you that the heading in no way means that I’m shuttering Food for the Thoughtless, or that I’m planning to bump myself off, or that I’ve come to believe that I’m a dolphin and making a hasty escape from planet Earth. It signifies something else entirely.
It means that I quit my job. The restaurant one. The one where, over a span of seventeen years, I have sold (and possibly eaten) several tons of sea life. Bream, huachinango, sardines, anchovies, smelt, rock cod, idiot fish, porgy, and bass. Then there’s the octopus, squid, cuttlefish, sea urchin, and that one calamitous special of sautéed calamari strips in pesto over matchstick potatoes I described to my guests as “caterpillars found dead on a tiny haystack” and was ordered in spite of my dire warning.
I’d only meant to take a six month leave of absence because I told myself I wanted that time to start writing my book. Some of my regular guests who knew me better than I know myself said, “You won’t be back.” I thought they were crazy.
I’ve worked in the preparation and service of food from the time I was fifteen, when a strange man wearing pink golf pants decorated with bunnies hungrily eyeing carrots offered me a job fondling oranges across the road from the Jungle Cruise, until last June. And with the exception of a few, excruciating school boy jobs in retail, I have done nothing else to earn my living. I’ve enjoyed every juice squeezing, celebrity scrutinizing, table serving, food styling, recipe testing, cooking show slaving, pastry making, ice cream churning, cater waitering, napkin folding moment. At least, I enjoyed most of them.
Then, at one point over the summer, high on a hill in a converted Alsatian convent, surrounded by Riesling grapes and mirabelle plums and chickens which may or may not become dinner, I understood I wasn’t going back. I realized that, in the amount of time I’d spent at the restaurant, a human being could be born, potty trained, endure puberty, finish high school, get accepted to college, and lose their virginity in celebration. I figured it was time for me to do something similar. It was time to graduate, move out, and move on. Finally losing my virginity is another topic for another time.
But I was also truly burnt out, crispy-fried, beyond exhausted. I’ve been blogging, in one place or another, for twelve years. I’ve kept Food for the Thoughtless going for ten, for g-d’s sake. Most people who were blogging back in 2008 have long since given up. And that wasn’t what I wanted. Not at all. But the Faerie Spring of Good Ideas was clogged with cat hair and running dry. And the thought of digging around in the emotional minefield that is memoir writing was especially horrifying. So I walked away from absolutely everything for a while. No “Sorry for not posting”, no explanations. Just a good soaking for the houseplants and a quick shuffle out the door. All the blood from this human turnip had been let.
And I have to tell you– even if it means betraying my Orange County roots– that it was awesome. Zero regrets. I slept a lot, went for long walks, read books, made myself salads. I more or less kept my own company. Never in my adult life had I had the entire Holiday Season free from the stress of working and being cheerful for other people’s Christmas parties. This year, I chose to ignore the Yuletide altogether. It was wonderful.
But now I am back. The little brook of inspiration is again flowing at full babble. I plan to have more fun on this here blog than I have in a while. My navel-gazing will now be reserved for the book that I now feel ready to attack, although I still find the prospect of doing it terrifying. But not in a bad way. I mean in a challenging sort of way, which is good.
I do thank you for your patience. You’ll be hearing from me on a regular, monthly basis again. With an extra lagniappe or two thrown in for good measure.
And a special shout out to Kokkari Estiatorio— my wonderful home away from home for seventeen years. It was hard to quit you, but I’m glad I did.
I am no longer a waiter who writes. I’m now a writer writing full-time, Monday through Friday.
So for now, all I want to say is, “So long, and thanks for all the fish”. And, of course, “Hello again, and thanks for reading.”