AFter a lovely couple of weeks off from work I went back today. At first it seemed a shame with the weather so lovely, but it wasnt long before I got back into the swing of it. I manage a school kitchen and although sometimes its heavy work, I really enjoy it. I love cooking, and being responsible for making sure the children eat good, nutritious and tasty food is really satisfying. I have about 200 children on average who eat school dinners in my school. There is something really fundamental and earthy about feeding nourishing food to others that seems to satisfy some basic instinct deep down. Since I started work there I have had some nice compliments from the children and some of the parents too which is rewarding in itself.
I cook fresh bread every day and most of the dishes are cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients rather than the awful 'turkey twizzler' stuff that was on offer in many schools a few years back.
I do a main meat course and a vegetarian option. A carbohydrate - maybe potatoes, rice or pasta. There is usually an interesting salad and several vegetables on offer. A fruit dish of some kind - and I do love offering a variety of fruit maybe in a platter. The bread is sometimes plain, sometimes with other interesting additions. Cinnamon and dried fruit is one of my favouritss to do. And there is a cooked pudding of some kind. Nothing beats a freshly made rice pudding with a fruit sauce.
My staff come in later than I do, which gives me a lovely period of time to cook alone. This time early in the morning is special to me. I have wonderful views of the countryside from the windows.
I like to visualize the life force and energy of the earth in the vegetables and food as I prepare them. Making the bread is very meditative although I use a bread mixer for the heavy kneading, I still do a little manual kneading and create the loaf shapes. Maybe a plait or a cob loaf.
Its interesting how people react to what I do for my job. I have had a variety of different reactions. Some people see me as doing something quite 'menial'. Its not the most glamorous job and certainly not paid very well its true, but its a very important job I think. I have had contempt and condescension too - from some who dont know me or my background, life experiences etc and make assumptions! Assume I cant be particularly bright or intelligent doing such a laborious type of job. I dont suppose they've ever considered I do it from choice!!
Some people see it in a similar way to me. Its important - our children need good food for healthy growth and development etc. Its as important I feel, as teaching. A child given a good meal at lunchtime is more likely to continue into the afternoon with more energy and the ability to concentrate. For me personally it fits around my family too. There arent many jobs where I can be at home with my children in the school holidays. My youngest daughter attends this school too, and I get to see her at lunchtime which is lovely. Some people I have met understand the importance of what we do. Others dont! They dont see the value or what we do in the kitchen. I have learned to let go of my reactions to the ignorance I sometimes come accross. Its not my problem - so I wont pick up their baggage.
Its the same with other less sought after jobs.
Bus drivers, or cleaners and dustman for example. Where would we be without them? As a society they are all important parts of the whole.
It reminds me of the story about president kennedy when he was visiting the moon landing project and asked a cleaner 'and what do you do?' the cleaner replied - 'I'm putting a man on the moon'.