Resume's and 60-Minute Chicken

by Ann Nichols
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biscuits.jpgIt has recently come to our attention that in 90 days my husband may, or may not have a job. As the House Writer, I began immediately to work on resumés, cover letters, and all manner of beguiling a lifetime of hard and varied work into an irresistible nugget of information. No spinning or glossing is necessary in this case; the man has worked hard from the time he was driving a tractor illegally through the fields of the family farm. The work, the hard, complicated part of the thing is distilling the best of him using “action verbs” (as opposed to those other, non-action verbs) and using terms and jargon expected by the business world.

As I write about his work, and think again about the many things he knows, I think about how very odd, incomplete and schizophrenic my own resumé would appear at this time in my life. As of 7:30 or so last night, I might have said something like “well, I gave up law to be a cook, and I’m not trained professionally but I’m really good at it.” Having come directly from putting 25 pounds of flank steak to bed in sealed bags of fragrant marinade, knowing that I would get up this morning and make 100 impossibly fluffy biscuits for strawberry shortcake, I was feeling pretty cocky.

biscuits.jpgIt has recently come to our attention that in 90 days my husband may, or may not have a job. As the House Writer, I began immediately to work on resumés, cover letters, and all manner of beguiling a lifetime of hard and varied work into an irresistible nugget of information. No spinning or glossing is necessary in this case; the man has worked hard from the time he was driving a tractor illegally through the fields of the family farm. The work, the hard, complicated part of the thing is distilling the best of him using “action verbs” (as opposed to those other, non-action verbs) and using terms and jargon expected by the business world.

As I write about his work, and think again about the many things he knows, I think about how very odd, incomplete and schizophrenic my own resumé would appear at this time in my life. As of 7:30 or so last night, I might have said something like “well, I gave up law to be a cook, and I’m not trained professionally but I’m really good at it.” Having come directly from putting 25 pounds of flank steak to bed in sealed bags of fragrant marinade, knowing that I would get up this morning and make 100 impossibly fluffy biscuits for strawberry shortcake, I was feeling pretty cocky. Plus, although this is somewhat embarrassing, I now own the black and white checked pants that are worn by chefs everywhere; wearing them when I work makes me feel like part of a tribe, a lineage that includes Escoffier and (regrettably) Guy Fieri.

masterchefapples2.jpgBy 8:00 last night I had done my job, worked on the resumé, paid the bills, done the laundry, and flung myself on the couch to watch “Master Chef.” There were two challenges for the contestants, purportedly the 38 best “home cooks” in the country. Nota bene: since this competition was for “home cooks,” I smugly told myself that I couldn’t have competed because I am a PROFESSIONAL. Or something.

At any rate, the first challenge was to establish that one could peel, core and slice an apple into pith-less, peel-less and uniform slices. This task was to be performed using a paring knife only, no swivel peelers or unit-tasking “corer” thingies. I was pretty sure I could have held my own on that one.

The next challenge was to make a chicken dish in 60 minutes. The time limit prevented any thought of braising or stewing, and the imperative of impressing three chef-judges by “respecting the chicken” made it pretty clear that, say, a rubber breast swimming in Campbell’s Cream of ___ with rice would not be a clutch play. I watched them scramble, the “amateurs,” and I became truly concerned about the fact that I would have failed spectacularly.

masterchef-us-logo.jpgI do not know 500 things to do with chicken in 60 minutes that would impress Gordon Ramsay. It would never have occurred to me to make a Chicken Etoufee using gizzards and livers, or to pound the chicken, roll it around Burratta and wrap it in Prosciutto. I might have done a passable curry, or something Italian, pounded thin and served with polenta or risotto, but I would never, ever have been able to do what those people did.

I worried it all night, my imaginary 60-Minute Chicken Failure. I would have been divested of my apron, sent home out the back door by way of the tomato crate props. And if I made a resumé today, what would I say? Unlike my husband’s consistent, linear work history, my path is meandering. My tracks would lead mysteriously off the edges of various cliffs, only to reappear in yet another workplace.

What would I say about what I do now? “Pretty good cook, capable of feeding lots of people at a time, doesn’t burn shit any more except for that uncooked ziti she dropped into the gas flame, totally untrained, no real knife skills, likely to be eliminated during ’60 Minute Chicken’ challenge. Lots of heart. Owns chef pants.”

Perhaps it’s a good thing that it’s my husband who is looking for a new job. I’d hire him, in a minute. He could probably even do something nifty with a chicken in an hour...

 

 

Ann Graham Nichols cooks and writes the Forest Street Kitchen blog in East Lansing, Michigan where she lives in a 1912 house with her husband, her son and an improbable number of animals. 

 

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