Posted by: workforcookies | March 7, 2009

Short-Order Cook

I’m on the train, riding into work and I smell like I’ve already been working—behind the grill at Mel’s Diner!

I planned on making beef stew for dinner tonight. Not just any beef stew, but Dorothy Parkers Beef Stew which calls for one bottle of red wine and two pounds of beef—braised. That’s where the aroma clinging to my wool sweater like grease to a spoon comes in. I was too tired to chop the vegetables—onions, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms—last night, so I decided to do it ALL this morning.

5:48 a.m. I turned my alarm clock off. It had been going off since 5 a.m. Peed, nursed my daughter, showered then dressed.

6:23 I went downstairs, hoping beyond hope that I could dry my hair, put on my make up, braise the meat, chop all the vegetables, assemble the stew AND leave the house by 7:10—in order to catch the shuttle that takes me to the train that takes me to work. I started with the meat, scooping it out of the muddied wine with my slotted spoon, careful to pluck out the bay leaves. Piece by piece, I plopped the chunks into a bowl of flour, then into the hot oil.

5 to 7 minutes, the recipe said. I flew into the bathroom, slathered mousse into my roots and blasted the left side of my head with the hair dryer. One side wet, one side dry, back into the kitchen to turn the meat.

6:48 Back to the dryer. Then back to the stove for the second batch of meat. I’m working up a sweat, so I yank off my wool sweater.

6:54 a.m….crap! I moved the mental thumb tack that had pinned my hopes to 7:10 down. 7:35 a.m. was the next shuttle. Peels of potatoes and carrots go flying—some (I’ll realize later) land in my work bag.

7:11 I chop all the veggies—onions, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms—smash two cloves of garlic and throw it all into the Dutch oven with the wine, some chicken broth, Worchester sauce and sun-dried tomatoes. 

7:28 a.m. Realize suddenly that the two cloves of smashed garlic were supposed to go in the marinade the beef soaked in over night. THREE cloves, MINCED, were supposed to go into the pot. Skip it. Put lid on Dutch oven and slide into oven (preheated somewhere between mascara and eyeliner).

7:32 Sweater back on, boots, coat, grab bag. Hear child cry out from upstairs where my husband is still sleeping. Stand at back door and weigh options…later shuttle…later to work.

7:33 Feel a tug at my heart as I close the back door.

7:34 Neighbors at shuttle stop wave their arms, signaling that the shuttle is heading up the street toward our stop….run! 

7:35 Sit down in shuttle, try to catch my breath. My day has just begun. What’s that smell…



  1. Hey Betsy!
    Your latest entry reminded me of going out to dinner one night with a couple who had no children and we had 2 (and I was likely
    pregnant). I was so looking forward to a night away from the mac and cheese and toddler
    bedtime routines, and had spent considerable time
    grooming myself, which was a luxury in itself. I dug deep into a drawer and found a sample bottle of perfume that had come with a cosmetic bonus buy. When Mike and I got into their car, Jane said, “hmmmm….what’s that I smell? Home-made bread?” My soul was dashed of
    ever having an adult life again. 🙂

    Your stories are precious!

  2. That story was hilarious. It brought to mind several times I was trying to juggle too much. A shortened version of one was seeing the bananas on the counter that were suppose to be in the individual meringue covered banana pudding for guests. I quickly cut up the bananas and carefully slipped them in under the meringue. I vowed I would not do too many things in one day again. I took that vow many times…………..and still do.

  3. You are so funny! I know you that you know you are a great writer, but I have to tell you, you are SUCH a great writer!!


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