Friday, June 18, 2010

Papers, Home Fries and Thirty Nine Years

In my fifty five years I have held many jobs. I have spent twenty two years in the print business, started a pub in Cape Breton that lasted for six. Another six years I have spent commercial fishing in the Atlantic to name a few. Odd jobs and day jobs have gotten me by.
When I was sixteen I road the back of a Toronto Telegram newspaper truck dropping bundles of newspapers off at boxes, my first real job. Nic Dyke was in the driver’s seat.

We toured around Toronto sometimes driving fifty miles an hour on the wrong side of the road from box to box. When we saw a cop we would cruise up and hand him a paper and then off we were again. It was a good job.

My memory has me always going back to the times after we finished our run when we went to the Mars Restaurant for breakfast. We sat at the counter and not three feet away was the cook hovering over the grill, eggs, bacon, ham and home fries he lead like a conductor with his spatula into golden brown orchestrated scoffs for our hungry mouths. The way this cook moved a utensil in one hand reaching for a plate with another was such a joy to witness. The huge mound of home fries he worked until they were all perfect in colour and heat, adding garlic and paprika along the way, too. He was a sculptor or a surgeon with that thing. I have remembered this for thirty nine years. This has been so very important to me.

The other day for the very first time I was a conductor with a spatula. I am working now as a cook at a fishing lodge here in Northern Ontario. My first couple of morning shifts I followed the rules. The home fries went into the deep fryer, something I disliked very much. Tuesday morning I cut potatoes into cubes and piled them high on the grill. A huge mound I worked and coloured with utensil and chilies and garlic. One hand on a plate, one hand serving I cooked up fifteen breakfasts, eggs sunny, eggs over, omelets and poached all with a generous amount of home fries. All with the Mars restaurant memories of years gone by. It was beautiful, it just was.


  1. Robert, I can’t tell you how much I value this entry. I feel like we’re in the same room. That rattling you hear is my pleasure-thoughts as I nod.

  2. Robert -

    Save me a helping, sunny side up. Only a few of those fries, I need to eat healthy. But the stories, the stories, heap them up please, I am hungry for the memories.....

  3. Sometimes we witness, we get the gift of paying witness to, value in the every day. Sometimes it fills us and keeps us and seems as though we might never achieve what surely might seem ordinary to someone else. Sometimes. But sometimes, we get to live those moments of value, too. It is as though you heard a secret language all those years ago and you got to speak it with your spatula that morning.

    I hope at least one, just one of those people eating those breakfasts, ruminated a little slowly over the value you filled their plates with. And so it will continue. But whether they did then, or perhaps, another moment of value over lilacs, wild flowers, or tail gates, you impart and invite reflective moments always with people. I believe you very gently impart these moments every day, even without the grill.


  4. A job well done and worth doing is a work of art to be sure. Good luck on your new job. I'm sure it will provide much observable human nature to "feed" your writer's imagination!

  5. William- over easy or sunny side up? thank you
    for being here.

    grete- these memories (stoties) come from time to time. i tell erin stories and she tries to get me to write them. sometimes i am able.
    thank you.

    erin- you you, what can i say to your comment other than my life has changed. i am a better person because of you.

  6. Stickup- there is another kitchen story i have that happened just tonight but i will wait a bit and make humour soup. thank you once again for dropping by.