When I first returned to the workforce, we hired a personal chef; his name was Trader Joe. Yes, he prepared quick and tasty meals, but he was a little heavy-handed with the salt shaker and skimpy on the veg. Over time, he began to strain our budget so we decided to let him go. Guess who took his place?
I’ve become the family’s short order cook by default. My husband, “J” typically doesn’t even get off the train until 7:30 and our son, “A,” believes that microwaving a bowl of instant oatmeal is “cooking.”
Unless I want nuked oatmeal at 8pm, it’s up to me to get something on the table.
I’m also the family member who is on a mission to eliminate most of the processed foods in our diet and get the produce rainbow, or at least a few of its colors, on everyone’s plate at dinner time. Of course, this culinary miracle has to take place around our schedule which leaves about 30 minutes from fridge to fork.
It occurred to me the other night that I’ve developed a set of skills that are transferable to yet another career – short order cook.
According to the good folks over at wiseGEEK, a short order cook is “a cook who specializes in preparing simple dishes that can be made very quickly.” Check…I specialize in family friendly cuisine that requires few ingredients and fast preparation.
The job description continues, “Typically, short order cooks can prepare the items listed on the menu, along with a few variations.” I can check that box too – “J” has gone low-carb and dairy free for health reasons, and “A” does not like spicy foods. I’m like Burger King, “Have it your way.”
In addition to the blue-plate special, short order cooks have a few tricks up their sleeves. “Some create special dishes that are not formally listed or disclosed to diners, but can be made for those ‘in the know’ who are familiar with the cook’s repertoire.” Got that one covered too – English muffin pizzas are one of “A’s” favorite after school snacks – not on the menu, but I can whip one up if asked (nicely).
“These cooks work primarily at the grill, although they also use a stove in the preparation of some dishes, and they may prepare baked goods such as biscuits as well.” I love my grill! There’s nothing faster or better than the grill for bringing out the flavors in vegetables – although I’ll admit to one or two charred zucchini (oops!). And I make a pretty tasty fruit crumble (blueberry peach – yum!).
“Short order cooks are usually found in small kitchens.” I can reach the refrigerator and the sink while standing in front of the stove…I think that qualifies.
“Sometimes works in the kitchen alone or with a dishwasher.” Does a Kenmore count?
“The hours can be variable, as many diners are open early in the morning and well into the evening, with shifts usually lasting around eight hours.” HA! I’ll take your eight-hour shift and raise you another eight.
“Cooks may also need to manage the ordering of food and supplies, which can become very complex, even in a small establishment.” No freaking kidding! Thank you Stop and Shop for PeaPod delivery service.
And finally, “They need to have a great deal of manual dexterity, and they must also be good at juggling multiple tasks at once.” Dude…I’m a MOM! While I’m cooking I’m also going through the papers in “A’s” school folder, emptying the dishwasher, making notes for work, and setting up social activities via text message. Juggling multiple tasks is called LIFE!
While I can’t always say that my meals are perfect, they are edible, somewhat healthy and made with love (my secret ingredient). It’s good to know that at a time when jobs are in short supply, I’m qualified to do something else if my usual gigs don’t work out. Sorry Trader Joe.