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Daily Gullet Staff

Blood at LaMotta's

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<img align="left" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1126156051/gallery_29805_1195_5320.jpg">The Daily Gullet is pleased to present the first of three excerpts from the forthcoming book The Seasoning of a Chef: My Journey from Diner to Ducasse and Beyond (Broadway, 13 September 2005).

by Doug Psaltis with Michael Psaltis<br>

LaMotta’s, a seafood restaurant in a wealthy town on the north shore of Long Island, had both inside and outside dining areas. The deck dining area looked out to the marina and wrapped around the building. The last table on the deck was only a few feet away from the kitchen’s back door. During my first few weeks working there, I spent a lot of time staring out that back door watching people enjoy themselves. I couldn’t help but wish I was out there, too, eating steamers and drinking beer. But I’d pay a price for this daydreaming, on a busy Thursday afternoon during my third week on the job.<br>

We were in the middle of lunch service and I was shucking oysters by the dozen, crushing ice to serve with them, and then back to shucking more oysters. I grabbed the first of a new dozen and laid it on the counter. The palm of my left hand pressed the oyster to the counter as the oyster knife in my right hand pushed and jerked its way into the shell’s opening. It takes a lot of force to open an oyster shell and I’d gotten a lot of little cuts when I paid too much attention to a boat passing by or another rich girl sitting down for a mid-week lunch.<br>

As I’m opening the next oyster, I watch Ronbo (which is what we called Chef Ron Labo) at the grill. Darrin is helping him -- and working the deep fryer -- but they’re buried in orders. It’s an unusually busy Thursday afternoon, and true to form LaMotta’s owner, Guy LaMotta (or GLM, as he called himself), is on the scene. Whenever we are really slammed with orders, he comes into the kitchen to ask us to make him something special. This day he’s coming in and out of the kitchen in his aviator sunglasses making sure his table gets whatever they want. <br>

From what I can see, the outside deck is filling up with what looks like a college graduation party. There are several cute girls out there. Then I look down to see blood flowing around my hand. I don’t feel much pain, but I can see a tear in the side of my left hand. It’s a deep cut and I almost get sick looking at it. I rush over to the sink with a towel pressed to my hand. There’s still no pain, but there’s lots of blood. Chris, another cook, comes over to help me. Chris is almost always sweating and nervous during service. He gives me more towels and then yells to the chef that I cut myself. Ronbo looks over his shoulder quickly, but he barely has the time to make a grimace before turning back to the grill.<br>

“It looks bad,” Chris says. “You should probably get to the hospital.”<br>

I remove the towel and look at the cut. It’s at least an inch long and deep, but the bleeding is starting to slow down. GLM comes up behind me and Chris disappears. “Let me see,” GLM says and I show it to him. I don’t know if he even looks at my hand before leading me out of the kitchen and toward the kitchen office. He starts searching around the office, looking, I assume, for the first aid kit while I stand in the entrance waiting for him to tell me how to get to the hospital. Then he turns to me and takes my hand in his. He removes the towel and starts wrapping duct tape around my hand. He’s taping my hand up tight. Around and around, he wraps the tape. I look at him to see if he’s serious -- his weathered face is expressionless. He keeps wrapping the tape around my hand. Then he stops and grabs my hand firmly. “How does that feel?” he asks.<br>

I look at my hand, and twist my wrist back and forth. Besides the tape being a bit tight, it feels: “Fine,” I say.<br>

“Good, let’s get back in there,” he says, patting my shoulder and leading the way out of the office and into the kitchen. And I’m back to shucking the oysters, except now I have to catch up with the orders I’m behind on, and putting any force on my left hand hurts. I know there’s no way to stop doing my job without walking out the door for good, but that’s not even an option -- actually that thought has never entered my mind. I made a mistake, but I definitely wasn’t going to quit because of it. The cut -- and any pain that goes with it -- is just incidental: a small complication to getting my work done.<br>

<img align="right" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1126207539/gallery_29805_1195_7908.jpg">After the lunch service died down, Ron surprised me by being mostly upset with GLM. While he warned me about being careful and told me to use a towel wrapped around my left hand instead of just using a bare hand when shucking, he didn’t think duct tape was the best way to take care of the problem -- even if I didn’t need stitches and my hand would end up being fine. As I leaned against the deck outside of the kitchen, Ron smoked a cigarette and told me about the many times he’d gotten cut or burned. With the cigarette dangling from his mouth, he stuck his hands out to me. They were thick and rough -- battle scarred. “You’ve got to remember,” he said, “you’re here to help the restaurant, but the restaurant isn’t always here to help you. You have to take care of yourself, because sometimes no one else will.” <br>

I didn’t just stop daydreaming after that; I changed my whole reason for being there. I had taken the job at LaMotta’s because it seemed to be as good a job as any other, but I quickly realized that it would take more than just being at LaMotta’s to ever really cook in that kitchen. The clearest of all separations in most kitchens is between the cooks who are there to learn and to be a part of something and the cooks who are there just to work. I wasn’t satisfied doing prep work all day, but I was sure that GLM would have been content if I had just clocked in, done that work, and left. That’s mostly what I’d done at the other restaurants I’d worked in, but I wanted more. I wasn’t there just to work. <br>

I realized that if I wanted to cook there, I’d have to do more than check in and stare out the kitchen door. I was determined that when something was being done in the kitchen that I had never seen before, I’d be among the first in the kitchen to volunteer to help out. And, if I got hurt because I wasn’t paying attention, my distraction would be something in the kitchen -- not a passing boat or beauty. <br><br>

<i>Doug Psaltis is the Executive Chef of Country Restaurant, which will open soon in New York City. He has cooked in some of the world’s finest restaurants and with some of the most acclaimed chefs.

Michael Psaltis is a literary agent in New York City. He works with both fiction and nonfiction authors through his own literary agency, and also heads up a division of Regal Literary that is dedicated solely to food writers and cookbook authors.

Copyright © 2005 by Doug Psaltis and Michael Psaltis. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.</i>

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While he warned me about being careful and told me to use a towel wrapped around my left hand instead of just using a bare hand when shucking,

:blink::wacko:

So I just have to ask why this was not done. Even I, at twenty one, perpetually hungover and essentially clueless, knew enough to use kitchen rags for a hand-guard when opening the many bushels of oysters that summer long ago.


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Yup, it's <i>literature</i> alright:

Sooooooo, as is traditional,

let's have some <i>literary criticism:</i>

<br><br>

Right at the

beginning we meet the protagonist

in their interesting situation

with money, boats,

beautiful young women,

the North Shore of Long Island

likely not far from the location of one of

F. Scott's stories.

We've already got <i>passion.</i>

Soon we

can imagine that we are there

and that it's happening to us;

we

have <i>character identification.</i>

<br><br>

True to form, the protagonist gets

a problem -- a cut hand.

Then we get

<i>pathos:</i>

The boss gives him no sympathy

or trip to the hospital

and, instead,

wraps his cut hand in

duct tape, possibly

putting duct tape

adhesive in the wound.

Then we learn that

this is the surprising and sad

plight of

someone admirably

trying to <i>make it</i>

in a restaurant kitchen --

we've got <i>poignancy.</i>

<br><br>

So, it's an example of the

usual definition of <i>art</i>

as <i>communication, interpretation of

human experience, emotion</i> with

a protagonist and

passion, pathos, and poignancy.

All that's missing is the poetry.

<br><br>

Semi-, pseudo-, quasi-hurray:

Never do we really learn even

the first thing about

how to

look for oysters,

harvest oysters,

sell oysters,

buy oysters,

select oysters,

shuck oysters,

make sauce for oysters,

serve oysters,

make oyster stew,

bread oysters,

fry oysters,

eat oysters,

etc.

We get nothing to help

us get food on the table or

in our belly.

<br><br>

We get nothing to help us make money,

pay the check at such a restaurant,

buy a yacht to travel to such a restaurant,

etc.

<br><br>

It is a curious fact that people can be

nearly as interested in a vicarious

experience as a real one.

So, with such a <i>story</i>

we get

a 19th Century literary

romantic

vicarious escapist

fantasy experience (VEFE).

<br><br>

Well, there is a large culture of

people who really like VEFE:

They are deep into

education and force

people to study VEFE for years

in high school and college.

Some of these people who so like VEFE

have careers in

VEFE <i>writing</i> VEFE

for people who read VEFE.

They constitute one of

C. Snow's <i>Two Cultures.</i>

<br><br>

In Hollywood, not pork fat but

VEFE rules:

From there,

when tired,

with

two beers,

and a pizza or maybe a dozen oysters,

can watch a movie where

a protagonist

has a problem, solves the problem,

and gets the girl.

Might even watch it with the girl.

<br><br>

Otherwise we can notice, this far into the

21st Century, in the 20th Century,

the other one of

<i>Two Cultures,</i>

with mathematics,

physical science,

engineering,

technology,

and medical science,

showed us some grand

new standards of intellectual

safety and efficacy.

In comparison, VEFE,

for any direct

practical purpose

(I omit indirect purposes such as

VEFE people

creating make-work jobs for VEFE people

by forcing students to sit in classes

studying VEFE)

has been relegated to

the junk heap of history

along with superstition,

witchcraft, and

reading of the entrails of

dead chickens.

<br><br>

With VEFE,

according to 19th Century standards of

<i>belle lettre,</i>

we get <i>insight</i> into people

and personality,

but according to 20th Century

standards of intellectual safety and

efficacy we get nothing better than

some dog baying at the moon and

really, actually, do not learn

anything solid about anything important.

<br><br>

Food and cooking are important subjects.

So is restaurant operations.

Pursued as technology,

we can get some information that is useful.

Pursued as <i>literature,</i>

we get nothing we can actually use.

<br><br>

About the only hope is, in the

second installment, the

protagonist meets the challenges

of a restaurant kitchen and, in the third,

gets one of the girls he has been watching.

Then, there should be a movie.

Let us know when there's a movie.

<br><br>

Hopefully the movie will achieve the

highest accomplishment possible

with VEFE -- falling off the

chair laughter.

<br><br>

In the meanwhile,

let the word go forth from

this time and place

for all the world to

hear loud and clear that

this is a new millennium,

and some people

are eager to leave VEFE

in the 19th Century and

to move ahead.

In particular, some people were

forced to take a few too many years of

VEFE in school when what they really

wanted to have studied was

mathematical physics.

Food chemistry and restaurant

operations would have been a good second.

Some people deeply profoundly

bitterly hate and despise VEFE --

except for an occasional

good movie!

VEFE is nearly always

junk information, and not

everyone likes it.

<br><br>

I do have a special sore spot about the

role of VEFE in cooking:

Have long been eager to

raise own level of knowledge and skills

about cooking and, to this end,

have shelves of cookbooks and come to eG.

Each cookbook

has been published by

a book publisher.

The book publishers, however,

are run by people with backgrounds in VEFE,

who really like VEFE,

who notice that books are

<i>writing</i> and, thus,

conclude that they should be

written as in VEFE.

So, I have lots of VEFE about

romantic experiences in the south of

France but nothing in solid

information about how to

cook anything good from the

south of France.

Actually, according to 20th Century

standards of intellectual safety and efficacy,

the books, all of them,

are sources of mostly just

grotesquely low quality information.

The situation is much the same

for TV cooking shows --

not instructional information on cooking

to really actually teach people

how to cook, actually, really,

but just VEFE so that the

viewers can then order

pizza or Chinese carry-out.

Bummer.

Gigantically wasteful bummer.

<br><br>

We need to be clear:

VEFE can nearly never be good

documentation of

information and instruction

about cooking.

Thus, time

to get the VEFE out of

the documentation of

information and instruction

about important subjects such as

cooking.


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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project. . .to my mind, it was a story.

A simple story, which I have the right to enjoy just as a story, without the angry intellectual hyperbole that might be wished upon it. I also have the right to not enjoy it, as you obviously did not.

But it might be a bit unfair to take a piece of work that someone created for another persons pleasure, as well as possibly for a paycheck, and trash it because it does not do for you whatever it is that you seek from it. . .which is apparently teach you how to cook.

Perhaps you should have tried the route I did. Drop out of school in the beginning of the ninth grade, somehow find the right books to read to self-educate, do so, and end up as an Executive Chef who not only figured out how to cook but also how not to be angry at the world.

Best of luck. There are lots of libraries, lots of bookstores. Perhaps it would be a better use of your time to go find a book you might like than to trash those that don't appeal to your intellectual vigor.

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Carrot Top:

<br><br>

Now we are into a case of criticism of criticism and, thus,

well into the highest form of

literary accomplishment! :smile:


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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Carrot Top:

<br><br>

Now we are into a case of criticism of criticism and, thus,

well into the highest form of

literary accomplishment!  :smile:

Sigh. Please go have a nice glass of wine, project. :wink:

( :smile: back to you.)

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I am sorry if I sounded brusque or dismissive last night.

This morning, let me put my thoughts in better order:

The person who wrote that real-life little vignette in "Seasoning of a Chef" has probably been asked a thousand times by people "not in the business" for stories of "what it is like in the business".

People are hungry for these little stories. Personally I do not think that means that they have crossed the line to insipid over-sentimentality and dreadful heavy romanticism of the life of a chef, the life of One Who Cooks. It just means they are hungry for stories.

Stories serve a need in the human mind and heart just as science serves a need in human existence.

Indeed, I am sure that stories serve the greatest need, in this thing that we call the human heart or "soul" or spirit or whatever other words one wants to apply to it.

Not everything in life is a symphony, either. Most of it, is not. It is silly little tunes, some of which make no great sense and that are of no great importance.

That's okay by me. I would not demand a symphony of life daily for then it might demand a symphony from me right back.

project, you sound like a very well-educated person and one who cares deeply about learning the ways of cookery. If I were someone wanting to learn to cook, personally I would start by reading an older version of Larousse Gastronomique from cover to cover without missing an entry. The next book I would head to would be one of the older Julia Child ones wherein she gives step-by-step instructions. This worked for me. Of course, there are many more books and ways (this would likely be a good thread for eGullet. . .the best books to learn to cook from! everyone has their favorites) but of course the thing is a process. It doesn't get learned with one book, one semester, one course. But if you do it each day, not thinking about it too much but just letting your hands do most of the work, it will happen. And again, I am sorry if I was rude.

Karen


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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project, you sound like a very well-educated person and one who cares deeply about learning the ways of cookery. If I were someone wanting to learn to cook, personally I would start by reading an older version of Larousse Gastronomique from cover to cover without missing an entry. The next book I would head to would be one of the older Julia Child ones wherein she gives step-by-step instructions. This worked for me. Of course, there are many more books and ways (this would likely be a good thread for eGullet. . .the best books to learn to cook from! everyone has their favorites) but of course the thing is a process. It doesn't get learned with one book, one semester, one course. But if you do it each day, not thinking about it too much but just  letting your hands do most of the work, it will happen. And again, I am sorry if I was rude.

Karen

Yes - those who can do, do. Those who want to do, try. Those who can't do, criticize.


V

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Yes - those who can do, do.  Those who want to do, try.  Those who can't do, criticize.

Why, yes, crinoidgirl. I must admit to having an almost unbearably strong urge to change my "signature" to the line "Nobody ever erected a statue to a critic" last night. But that happens to me every once in a while. I took myself by the ear and gasping for air through a haze of enthusiam to make my point known while attempting to be subtle about it, posted instead the one below, which is a rather obtuse attempt to show a Zen-like appreciation of the subtleties of the situation.

But do let's click a glass together on your thought above. :biggrin:

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I don't think the point of the story is to teach you how to cook, but to me, it illustrates really well how one person started to learn to cook.

I read this as a description of an epiphany: the moment in this cook's life when it struck him just how much dedication it would take to turn his casual summer job into a career. More important, he realized that he wanted to take that step.

Such moments can seem pretty minor (a cut hand) from the outside, but they're earth-shaking from the inside, because they really do change your life. I've never cooked professionally, but I remember a similar moment in graduate school when I realized the difference between me and a few of my fellow grad students. We were having an ordinary conversation; one minute I felt like one of the gang, and the next minute someone said something that made me realize that the others were dedicated to the subject in a way that I would never be. I guess it was a negative epiphany for me, but it was no less earth-shaking for that. So I completely understand that moment in the author's life, even though I've never worked as a cook, and, in fact, have never even shucked an oyster.

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I enjoyed the piece. Actually, I am looking forward to the other excerpts and may consider buying the book sometime.

Alex

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I recently reviewed this book for a British publication and I would recommend it to anyone either in the business or with a keen interest in it. That would be the eGullet membership then I guess.

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"I realized that if I wanted to cook there, I’d have to do more than check in and stare out the kitchen door. I was determined that when something was being done in the kitchen that I had never seen before, I’d be among the first in the kitchen to volunteer to help out."

This is exactly the opposite of my work ethic. I prefer to check in and stare, and to do the bare minimum whenever possible. I'm the last person to volunteer for anything. This qualifies me to be a restaurant reviewer.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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For those who plan to read the book (or have already read it) and want some clues about the identities of the anonymous or name-changed persons in the text, see here:

www.snack.blogs.com

The September 13 post teases the information, ultimately letting the reader match the proper nouns to the obscured names.


<b>Laurie Woolever</b>

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I thought leaving some of the names out in the book was a little bit odd. It's a matter of record that Chodorow was a partner in the restaurant so why not name him? (Can the lawers on staff help with this one?)

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A good piece of writing... did Ruhlman have anything to do with the book, or are the Psalti just riffing on his meme?

As to the criticism of escapist literature above, well... this seems more like a map than technical manual... how to get from where you are to running the French Laundry. It may be a idiosyncratic map, but it is one nonetheless. So, project, it doesn't tell you any equations that might help you calibrate your hotplate to perfectly produce your beef stroganoff... but it does demonstrate how a real person made the real trip from Long Island to Yountville behind a stove. Belittle it as unrepeatable if you like, and certainly unmathematical, but it is anything but fantasy.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I thought leaving some of the names out in the book was a little bit odd. It's a matter of record that Chodorow was a partner in the restaurant so why not name him? (Can the lawers on staff help with this one?)

It's unnecessary and irrational. But having been in the position of being an author (and a lawyer) having his manuscript reviewed by a publisher's legal department, I can tell you that your choice is to do it their way or not have the book published -- there is very little room for negotiation, even if you're a literary agent like Michael Psaltis is (he is my literary agent). So some lawyer at Random House mistakenly thought it would make some sort of difference not to name Chodorow, Blue Hill, etc., and the Psaltises surely had no choice but to comply. Since it's pretty easy to figure out what's what, I guess it doesn't really matter.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Carrot Top-I love you.

You are an oasis in a vast desert of over analyzation :wacko:

VEFE, damned VEFE. Get some on your chef's coat and it'll never come out.


-------------------------

Water Boils Roughly

Cold Eggs Coagulating

Egg Salad On Rye

-------------------------

Gregg Robinson

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VEFE is soon to be added to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Gregg.

It is a paralyzing disease that happens to the over-Ph.D.'d.

.................................................

Your love is taken kindly, chef-to-chef. Love is a good thing. And love from a poet that can cook is even better! :biggrin::wink:

Karen

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Belittle it as unrepeatable if you like, and certainly

unmathematical, but it is anything but fantasy.

In vicarious escapist fantasy experience (VEFE), the location

of, the person with, the fantasy is the reader, not

necessarily the writer.

<br><br>

So, maybe the <i>story</i> really is an accurate

communication, interpretation of a real case of human

experience, emotion, but what, then, would a reader get?

E.g., does the reader really learn information about cooking

or restaurant operations? E.g., does the reader learn how to

shuck an oyster safely? Clearly, no.

<br><br>

So, the attraction, result, for a reader is to participate

<i>vicariously,</i> and "escapist" and "fantasy" are fairly

clear.

<br><br>

If someone really wants to go from the back door of a

restaurant kitchen to head of The French Laundry or such a

place, then they should concentrate on solid documentation of

high quality information on cooking. Learning to shuck

oysters safely would be one early lesson.


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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You may be right, project, but what about the possibility that someone might like reading about someone's experience just to learn what things were like for them? You don't have to be experiencing the story in an escapist manner to learn something about the way human beings live -- in this case, a cook, but a person could read a biographical story about an athlete, a scientist, a musician, a bank-robber, a priest, or a basket-weaver. Whether the reader learns anything about the human condition from a biographical story is more a function of how good the writing is than whether there's some practical bit of knowledge for them to apply to their own quest to be an athlete, a scientist, etc. Not everything has to be a method book or teach-yourself article.

Furthermore, I think that oyster-shucking would be best dealt with elsewhere on the site, such as in a course on the safe preparation of shellfish or merely a step-by-step demonstration on the Cooking forum.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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I'm with whoever (FG?) said it was the epiphanic moment. Well they said "epiphany" but I think I have enough pocket change to pay "epiphanic" just once. And since it didn't mention testicles descending, it's a winner in my book. (if you don't know, you'll have to go search, or ask Carrot Top) :biggrin::raz:

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You may be right, project, but what about the possibility that

someone might like reading about someone's experience just to

learn what things were like for them? You don't have to be

experiencing the story in an escapist manner to learn

something about the way human beings live -- in this case, a

cook, but a person could read a biographical story about an

athlete, a scientist, a musician, a bank-robber, a priest, or

a basket-weaver. Whether the reader learns anything about the

human condition from a biographical story is more a function

of how good the writing is than whether there's some practical

bit of knowledge for them to apply to their own quest to be an

athlete, a scientist, etc. Not everything has to be a method

book or teach-yourself article.

<br><br>

Furthermore, I think that oyster-shucking would be best dealt

with elsewhere on the site, such as in a course on the safe

preparation of shellfish or merely a step-by-step

demonstration on the Cooking forum.

Yes, your "... what about the possibility that someone might

like reading about someone's experience just to learn what

things were like for them?" is essentially the case for

"communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion"

which is a common definition of art.

<br><br>

Commonly people do like this.

Heck, I like this.

The most common <i>plot</i> in fiction is a good guy, who

encounters a problem, solves the problem, and gets the girl.

To get the "communication, interpretation of human experience,

emotion" of this plot, can just listen to R. Strauss's <i>Ein

Heldenleben!</i>

<br><br>

One of the brightest people I have ever known was my wife.

She was Valedictorian, Phi Beta Kappa, Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D.,

etc.

She was plenty good enough at music -- for six years in grade

school provided piano accompaniment for operettas.

She sang in the choir, played clarinet in the band, etc.

Her final view of music, shortly before she died, was "It

doesn't mean anything."

I believe that she was correct.

I'm absolutely in love with some of the best of classical

music, and even worked my way through much of the Bach

<i>Chaconne</i> on violin, but I still have to agree that it

doesn't mean anything.

<i>Fiction</i> is, to borrow from what J. Heifetz once said

about music critics, "the words without the music". For me,

one problem with the words of fiction is that they mostly

cannot mean very much and appear to mean more -- are often

claimed to mean much more -- than that.

<br><br>

I'm eager to make progress in understanding things.

For eG, mostly my goal is to understand cooking better.

Also would like to understand restaurant operations.

Heck, I could even be interested in understanding some about

what restaurant workers go through, if only to help with the

management part of restaurant operations or other cases of

management.

<br><br>

More generally, there is a common claim that the literature of

fiction actually does tell us a lot about people, but

eventually I concluded that literature rarely tells us

anything very solid about people.

My guess is that the authors mostly have not formulated any

very solid lessons about people; besides, documentation of

such lessons is not what publishers of fiction have looked

for.

<br><br>

Heck, I got dragged from Chaucer through Milton, Shakespeare,

Wordsworth, Dickens, etc. read some literature in German, read

lots of 20th Century short stories, etc., all the while being

told that I was learning big things about people.

Eventually I concluded that I was not, that the density of big

lessons was low, and the number of fallacious lessons was

about the same as the rest.

<br><br>

Solid lessons about people really are possible, but they are

not easy to identify, formulate, establish, or document.

Easy they ain't.

I had to conclude that the traditions of literature were too

lacking in discipline and methodology to be a good source of

solid lessons.

<br><br>

So, I had to conclude that, even if we want to know about

people and their experiences and emotions, <i>fiction</i> is a

poor source of such information.

Net, fiction is good for light entertainment only.

E.g., Hollywood can use it to make movies.

<br><br>

Given my claim "Solid lessons about people really are possible

...", I am at risk of rivers of accusations of writing absurd

nonsense unless I can give at least one example!

For an example, no, I won't use literary fiction, in light of

your remark, not even if the stories were true!

Instead, there is D. Tannen, a professor at Georgetown

University in DC.

She was a student of I. Goffman, generally considered really

difficult to read.

Ah, my wife went through Goffman at speed reading rates,

finding it all obvious!

Given that she also read Henry James's <i>The Golden Bowl</i>

easily quickly for fun, no wonder she could read Goffman!

<br><br>

Well, Tannen explains that men and women typically approach

problems differently:

Seeing a problem, a man rushes to implement a solution.

A woman, instead, rushes to find someone to communicate the

human experience, emotion of the sad situation.

Women find the men's approach to be crude, insensitive, and

lacking in sympathy and empathy.

Men find the women's approach to be feeling the pains but

doing nothing to remove them and, thus, tragically

incompetent.

Thus, from Tannen we can see that literature and art are

closer to what women do with problems than what men do.

<br><br>

That someone eager to make it in the restaurant business cut

his hand shucking oysters I believe cries out for some

documentation of some solid lessons on how to shuck oysters

safely and efficiently; the more one is concerned about the

cut hand, the more one should want some documentation to get a

solution; just communicating the experience, emotion of the

passion, pathos, poignancy, and pain of the cut hand doesn't

directly make any progress at all on solving the very real

problem of an injured hand; and that one is interested in the

restaurant business should mean that they should be especially

interested in documentation of solid lessons of how to solve

the problems of the restaurant business!

Ah, but those are just the reactions of D. Tannen's "typical"

men and me; I'm likely an anomaly; and Tannen may have been

wrong about men!

<br><br>

Yes, there is the explanation that

[A] someone has struggles;

they wonder if these are inevitable for nearly everyone or

just peculiar to their own circumstances or inadequacies;

[C] learn about others that have some such struggles and,

thus, conclude "inevitable" instead of the alternatives;

[D] conclude that so far the evidence is that they are 'okay';

[E] feel better about themselves.

That's usually not very good evidence, but, okay, and a way to

feel better that is cheaper and less harmful than some

prescription drugs!

<br><br>

If people enjoy <i>stories,</i> then, fine.

But I concluded at least for myself that that soup is at least

99% just water, and about 50% of the rest is rotten, i.e.,

fills much needed gaps in our understanding of people!

<br><br>

In contrast, the Bach <i>Chaconne</i> and <i>Ein

Heldenleben,</i> since they do not mean anything at all,

cannot be accused of having fallacious meaning!

<br><br>

For documentation of how to shuck oysters safely and

efficiently, yes, with some irony, we should be able to agree

that that would not be <i>literary</i> and, hence, should be

on, say, eGCI!

<br><br>

For working ones way from the first back door of a restaurant

to a leadership position in the industry, actually how to do

that would be valuable to some people and at least interesting

to me.

Possibly important topics might be

[A] what skills need to be learned,

best means of learning skills,

[C] what special talents are useful,

[D] role of food science and food chemistry,

[E] means of career recognition and <i>certification</i>

[F] role of formal training,

[G] the basics of the business models of restaurant operations

and how much money is involved,

[H] how career <i>networking</i> works in the industry,

how the industry is changing,

[J] where it appears the opportunities are and are not,

[K] how to get experience and promotions,

[L] how to make ends meet until the <i>big bucks</i> arrive,

[M] issues of <i>occupational health and safety</i> (more

irony!),

[N] legal and regulatory issues,

[O] efficiency, productivity, and automation,

[P] equipment, supplies, vendors, and purchasing, etc.

<br><br>

For how it feels to get a badly cut hand while trying to shuck

an oyster, just listen to the death of Siegfried from the end

of <i>The Ring!</i> (well, maybe just one cut hand isn't quite

that bad!).

For how it feels to shuck a dozen oysters 100 times in one

shift without any problems at all, just listen to the

overture to <i>The Flying Dutchman!</i>

More generally, for the roller coaster emotions of a common

man going through common life, listen to the Heifetz

performance of Bruch's <i>Scottish Fantasy.</i>

For the roller coaster emotions of a grandly noble effort

confronting the most profound aspects of life, listen to the

Bach <i>Chaconne.</i>

Gee, how come the composers get such greater variety and depth

than the fiction people, all while music doesn't mean anything

at all and <i>literature</i> is supposed to have great lessons

about what it means to be human?

<br><br>

Or, if one just wants to get a sense of what some human

struggle feels like, then listen to some appropriate music.

If one wants actually to make some real progress on such a

struggle, then get some documentation of some solid

information, e.g., on how to shuck oysters!

<br><br>

There is some evidence the shucking oysters should not be

extremely difficult:

There have been claims that mostly humans now do not have

nearly the highest standard of living in history and that,

instead, after the last ice age, humans that spread to the

newly warmed land did much better.

One of the examples is just food and, in particular, oysters:

Supposedly a human family could find a nice cave beside a nice

body of water and basically live on oysters.

Clothes?

Just some animal skins or just f'get about it!

Shelter?

That cave.

Food?

Those oysters; just walk down to the body of water and pick up

dinner!

Net, do all the work needed in under two hours a day!

These days, a worker can spend more time than that just

commuting to work!

Of course, after a few years, a family eating this way would

accumulate one heck of a big pile of oyster shells, and such

piles have been mentioned as evidence of such a life style.

<br><br>

Well, then, those piles of shells show that humans had found

some safe ways to <i>shuck</i> oysters!

<br><br>

If I have indicated some qualified admiration for <i>belle

lettre,</i> then I've had my say and delivered some

retribution for the transgression of my being dragged through

all those years of literature and won't wait for literature to

obtain any redemption!

The literature people have long controlled nearly all the ink

and paper, and only with the Internet can objections be

presented!

Just in case all those English literature teachers thought

that everyone agreed that they were teaching really good stuff

and that everyone liked it, I've now put my counterexample

forward!

<br><br>

Still, I concede, some people really <b>do</b> like it, for

whatever reasons, a <b>lot</b> and that, further, it is likely

not the worst thing some people like!

<br><br>

But, is there a connection between [A] such a critique of art

and literature and food?

Likely, yes:

After going to enough high end restaurants, eventually I

concluded that they had more to do with theater than

nutrition!

<br><br>

So, would-be chefs listen up:

The real goal in the front of the house is to give the

customer an escapist fantasy experience so that they can leave

feeling <b>terrific!</b>

E.g., in a high end French restaurant serving classic French

food, make the customers feel like European royalty of 100

years ago!

Today, say, in Manhattan, make them feel like a titan of

industry, ready to go out tomorrow and close some big deals,

e.g., sell half of Chicago and buy half of Boston!

Expensive?

<b>Sure</b> it's expensive; European royalty, US titans of

industry, they have lots of money and know how to use it!

<br><br>

All your skills in cooking, talents in flavors, creativity in

presentation, etc., really, are to contribute to that escapist

fantasy experience much more than to nutrition!

Sure, for some fairly solid reasons from food chemistry,

sauces based on various reductions and butter can taste

terrific; still, the main goal is that <i>experience!</i>

Uh, clearly, some wines can help!

Even some music can help!

<br><br>

Still, even if the customer gets an escapist experience,

actually <b>providing</b> that experience takes lots of hard

work, skill, etc.; for the oysters, what is needed is

documentation of how to shuck them, not a fantasy experience

in not knowing how!


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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project, you might enjoy searching the bookstore or library (or Amazon under "Professional Books") for books specifically detailing restaurant operations and management. They do cover the subjects you seek knowledge about.

As far as words used in fiction being a lesser carrier of emotion or the grand meaning of things, that is up to each individual to decide. As science has discovered, we all learn differently and what words can do for one person they may not do for another. Chacun sa gout.

There is no "one way".

If you are angry about what you were taught in school, or feel that you were forced to learn things that were just plain wrong, that is one thing. If it is very important to you that this not be so for other people then it would seem to me that the way to help others see the light would be to write (?) something that they would take to in response.

Would music have people understanding your point?

Would art, to the general public, have them understanding your point? Or would it take the years of formal education in the subject for one to capture your meaning?

Would science have people understanding your point?

It might, but it would need be put into words, for most of us speak in words, in language. Perhaps you would have us all speaking mathematics so all would be clear and concise.

But as we have been speaking language for thousands of years, you would need the words to teach the mathematics, to do the translation.

If you would have people understand your point, it must be done in language, and it must be done well, and it must be done so that it is appealing. It must appeal to the human spirit for most human beings to be interested in reading the words that would lead to any truth of any sort.

You sound so very angry with fiction.

.................................................................................

I will tell you one thing. You want to know how to become a chef. How to walk that path. A path must be walked and even sometimes chopped through based on one's own personal narrative. Fiction provides narratives. Personally, I never could have become anything at all in life but probably a victim of sorts given the circumstances of my own young life if it were not for fiction. For books. For stories. Believing as a child that I *was* in a sense Pippi Longstocking carried me to being a chef. Much more than any knife skills or oyster-opening skills did. They were only the way. Not, the path. Both are required. A way and a path.

.....................................................................................

Edited to add that I am truly sorry to hear of the loss of your wife. She sounds like a most marvellous person, a true and good friend and love. My sincerest condolences and thoughts to you.


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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