Monday, April 1, 2013

Guest Blog Post: Corie L. Calcutt

Among the many things I do is teach.

Recently, I started working as a teaching assistant in a specialized vocational school, and one of the classes I teach is very similar to what most people would recognize as Restaurant Management. Twice a week my students serve a lunch item and a dessert for sale to other students and staff in the building.

So why am I telling you this? Seriously, pretty sure you couldn’t care less.

Simple. Not only am I new to the school (and, incidentally, the class) but now I’m playing catch-up by about twenty years.

See, the person who usually runs the class in question has been on leave for a while. An extremely lovely individual who runs the class like a Swiss watch. And because I’m the only one in there not a sub—in and out of the class due to scheduling—a lot of decisions fall on me.

Now, I’ve had restaurant experience during my short working career. Fast food, cafeteria-style, buffet-style, short order—short of five-star service, if you name it, I’ve done it. I know how to cook, how to package, and how to teach others how to do the same.
Seriously, though, I’ve never been that good at management. It’s a skill I’m rapidly learning, to some degree of success. 
What’s the point, you ask?

There are days I really, really miss the person that’s on leave right now. I could use a "Swiss watch." This person knows what the class is making, how they’re making it, and how it’s supposed to turn out.  Hamburgers do not look like hockey pucks. Cakes cannot be used to pry a vault door open with. All of the ledgers are done, class objectives are filled out…really, all I had to do was go in there and teach students how to follow a recipe and make sure that gloves and aprons were remembered to be put on.
But there’s a part of me that is embracing this new role in my life. I once had a small management position in a college cafeteria/kitchen at the age of nineteen. Let's just say that there’s a reason not many places have nineteen year-old managers. At thirty-two, I’ve got just a bit more experience under my belt, and the means to put it to use.
So now my off days are spent thinking about how to balance the books (something I hate doing) and sifting through the recipe ideas my students bring to class—something that was not often done before, the way I understand it. As of this posting, I’m currently trying to figure out how to make chicken wings on the cheap and still make it a balanced lunch that can be done in about two hours. Thankfully, I have a supervising teacher that’s helpful, staff that’s helped to teach this class before (albeit some while ago), and students that are willing to take chances.

Here’s hoping that when my Swiss watch comes back, the classroom isn’t in shambles.  And here’s to my students proving that taking chances isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In the summer of 2011, I began writing what I had hoped was going to be a spine-tingling short story.  Like a lot of my work, this one heavily featured food.  The premise was great—a young man, Landon, sitting to dinner with an older counterpart, Carlyle, that proves to be slightly (and obsessively) deranged.  What’s of note here is how much time I take to describe that dinner.  There’s pot roast, carrots, potatoes, Romaine lettuce salad--the list goes on and on.

However, the short story never developed.  Or, rather, it developed too well.
After letting a few near and dear read what I’d had, they convinced me that I had more than just a taste in this crazy dinner scene…I had the makings of a good novella.  (The exact words were “something longer,” but a novella is what happened.)

In this story, The Price of Obsession, food—especially sitting to dinner—became almost a subplot.  There are countless dinners here.  There’s cookies.  A pizza.  Sandwiches.  Even iced tea.   I’m convinced that reading and food should go together, and in this instance, they do more than that.

Food, as well as perseverance and taking chances, actually end up saving lives.

Now that’s a book I’d consider reading. With a good bowl of pasta and meat sauce, of course.

Corie L. Calcutt is a teacher’s assistant and a writer.  Buy her latest book, The Price of Obsession, now at the following sites:

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