Friday, 2 November 2007

Kim, Aggie, Calves Liver

In days of yore, some bearded dude once said that cleanliness is next to Godliness. As a post-yore atheist, that's about as much incentive to lead a tidy life as the promise of a 2 weeks all inclusive holiday to Basra. In any case tidiness just doesn't come naturally to me so it's doubtful that I would ever make it within 50 miles of Godliness, let alone ride pillion with it to the pearly gates of heaven.

I am, by nature, a meticulous planner. Every eventuality must be accounted for, every permutation calculated. I think it comes from being a born worrier. It seems strange then that such a person could lead a life of chronic untidiness.

When I had a desk job, the desk itself was rarely visible to the naked eye. It was typically piled high with reams of paper, cds, pens, diaries, and magazines. Over time the pile would build up to mountainous proportions, swaying as the breeze of the air conditioning passed over its peak like an icy wind swirling through the Himalayas, the sheets of white A4 clinging precariously to each other, an avalanche waiting to happen. Extracting a document was like a game of Jenga, with a tentative pull here and a cautious push there. But the point is that I would always know where the document I needed was. Admittedly it was chaos, but it was organised chaos and I like that a lot.

Around my house it would not require a Native American tracker to tell where I've been. My path is easily identifiable by small piles of ephemera dotted around on sideboards, mantlepieces, and tables. Receipts, train tickets, golf tees, the odd stick of chewing gum, they all regularly congregate idly for short periods of time, like teenagers sitting on low walls in suburban shopping precincts. Occasionally they would be joined by higher status items like housekeys or a mobile phone, or more often than not, an Oyster card. But just like my desk at work, I would know which pile to go to for what I needed. They are like beacons, drawing me to them in times of hurried panic, as I run around shouting, "where are my keys, I need my keys!!!"

My kitchen is no less of a cluttered landscape and no matter how much I try to restore order to the unruly condiments, it always ends up looking like somebody has advertised a party on Facebook and crowds of local undesirables have turned up to trash the place. This is partly due to not having enough cupboard space for all the gadgetry I end up buying in Pages, but also down to a lack of discipline on my part.

A few weeks ago I came across a fantastic blog by a young chef called Aidan Brooks. He's currently working at Commerc 24 in Barcelona and writes some hugely insightful posts on all aspects of food and life in a professional kitchen. I can't quite believe he's only 19. Anyway, of the kitchen at Commerc 24 he writes ,

"The secret of this successful team is focus, precision and speed. There's literally no time to talk. The only time we speak is when we're giving or receiving instructions. The only other words you're likely to hear from Jordi are "rapido rapido rapido!". Every task is completed at breakneck speed, with astounding accuracy and preciseness. You finish one job, it's inspected to ensure perfection, and you're given another task instantly. Every single object - from the immaculately folded cloths to the container of black sesame seeds - sits perfect at its designated spot and at its designated angle of orientation on the section, without question."

Having read this I realised that my lesson for last week would not be learning new technique, it would be learning the art of tidiness. I bought little containers from Muji, usually used for make-up, and filled them with oils and vinegars. I bought a little acrylic shelf to put them on. I removed the majority of clutter from my worktops and reorganised my cupboards. I vowed to keep my work area clean while I prepped my mise, and keep stray bits from falling onto the floor as I chopped.

The first product of this new regime was a classic dish of calves liver, bacon and mash, deglazed with a splash of fig balsamic to cut through the richness of the liver. Hardly any prep involved so fairly easy to keep things tidy for this one. Still it was good to see the floor remain clean and I know the chief taster who also doubles as chief plongeur welcomes that. Unfortunately she may have to suffer the little piles of clutter around the house for a while longer. I need to retain an element of chaos somewhere.


Trig said...

Believe me, I'm not that tidy when home cooking, Pete. But in a professional kitchen you have to be. Especially when the service kitchen is on open view to the restaurant! Even more so now we've been awarded a Michelin star and, like everyone else in that privileged position, have to worry about not losing it. Thanks for the kind words.

X. said...

I actually didn't google for food, I actually googled for 'chronic untidiness' :P. You sound exactly like me! No matter how I try to solve the problem, clearing my desks, floors etc, it just all comes back. I can stuff things into a desk, but then its hard to find the things I want (but still better than having it all out). I know you bought some stuff from Muji, but it's more like how do we solve this? Maybe we have some psychological problems, like short attention span, and then just leave things on the floor? Write me back if you can think of a solution :o! It's like chaos in here.