Friday, July 27, 2012

For Coloured Chefs Who Have Considered Suicide When the Italians Were Away

Just the other day, I was having a conversation with a young man from Nigeria who has worked as an engineer with a firm in the United States for half a decade. He liked his job, he said, but mentioned how that the setbacks had outweighed the perks he enjoyed, with the biggest issue of all being that he was black. Several times he had interviewed for positions in companies where he knew without a doubt that he was clearly qualified but for the same unspoken reason, his application was denied. Well, I did not have facts to argue about on this matter but did not hide my surprise/doubts either. "You are new to the system," he told me, "You'll see."

Over the last two weeks, I have been privileged to enjoy the culinary expertise of Italian chefs who come up with varied ideas for breakfast menus. Here, no two days are the same, well not if you choose to stick to the status quo, which would be toast, omelets, cereal, grits, muffins, potato wedges etc.


The menu of the week:

Monday: Breakfast Burrito - 6" tortilla filled with eggs, peppers, onions, cheese, ham served with sour cream and salsa.
Tuesday: Eggs Benedict or Florentine - deliciously poached eggs atop a muffin with your choice of ham or spinach, then smothered in a rich house made hollandaise sauce.
Wednesday: Breakfast Croissant - filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, ham served with sour cream and salsa.
Thursday: Breakfast Quesadilla - 12" tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, ham
Friday: French Toast with strawberry sauce - battered fresh made bread slices pan fried and topped with a delectably sweet strawberry sauce.
Saturday: Back on the Ranch Quiche - chef's signature quiche filled with eggs, peppers, onions, ham and cheese.

Sunday came and I was looking forward to trying the Santa Fe Egg Bake special and being greeted by the Italians whose faces would brighten up, as they would make recommendations and I would leave commendations in return. I stepped into the buffet area that day and noticed some obvious changes. The chefs were nowhere in sight and neither were the display trays. The dishes set on the table were clearly short of the regular options. A hungry crowd walked in, waited to get their orders taken by a chef and when none showed up, they served themselves from the covered dishes. I waited for the crowd to disperse and when it did, a head peeked from the back of the kitchen. It wasn't any of the two Italian guys, it was a black guy. Realising I had seen him, he came out of hiding and approached me, trying to act unaware of the situation. I decided against ordering the Santa Fe special and simply asked for him to me a waffle with scrambled eggs. 

The wait was a long one and by the time my order finally showed up, it was obvious he had no idea what to do with the batter. The waffle was soft, messy dark and clearly not properly 'done' on the inside and splitting around the edges. In a bid to either garnish or disguise the sins, frosting was thrown carelessly all over the plate. Some of the people who were present in the dining area spotted a waffle being sent to my table and asked for the same. Indeed, the same they got. Disappointed, I simply made for the bread tray and picked a ready-made croissant.

See where I am going with this? There was one black man who had a job with an opportunity to work the best way he could, but he came up short. Come on, he's just a chef, you might say, but it starts from the little things. While I'm not disputing the existence of racism in the workplace, my plight to black people everywhere - at home or in diaspora would be this: stamp out mediocrity in any form of thought, attitude, habit, character or lifestyle. Enough of coming up short whenever you have an opportunity to excel. Train yourself to be disciplined in little things: imbibe virtues, be punctual, be accountable, keep your word and do without making excuses ... it goes on. Seize opportunities and make your own. The road less traveled is neither familiar nor easy, but people don't die of hard work. Put in 100, and the go the extra mile which is rarely found in shortcut routes. Educate yourself and when the spotlight hits you, you better be acting right.

"Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men." - Proverbs 22:29. Synonyms for 'mean' in this context would be 'average', 'ordinary' in other versions.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Letter to my 25 Year-old self


Are we there yet? Who knows what I’m talking about? The inner restlessness that comes with turning 25, looking every bit like a woman, feeling like a girl, looking back, looking ahead and questioning this ‘balance’ thing.

Finding deeper respect for real success and real, strong passionate and powerful women that carry a certain aura and aroma of real success. Looking up to people and getting impatient with the girl within, with your new found identity, searching for validation and inspiration, Jane Fonda, Oprah Winfrey, Ibukun Awosika, Olajumoke Adenowo, and attending pro-female gatherings and owning women's issues.

Sliding down the 90 ft tray ride at Six Flags' White Water. New found confidence and daredevil-ism. Having my first and last beer with that cute lipped boy I have a massive crush on but my head won’t listen to my heart on this one.

My first real job is far from my ideal job. It’s the toughest of battles for me - battling with giving up control and just seeing where life wants to take me. Grappling with the unfamiliar and running for sanctuary in the familiar. Learning to truly appreciate the moment and not keep yearning for the next big thing. Stop worrying already. It’s about time you took a little of what you offer others to yourself.

Praying today - not at my best spirituality, just hoping, looking for something. The girl who set big goals and accomplished them, but 25 came with a hurdle so high. And i’m learning to deal with losing. Lose the attitude already.

My convenient male friends are on the verge getting engaged.

Discovering Voltaire.

Thinking of wedding dresses and discarding the thought before I could even catch a glimpse of the shoes.  Fed up of living under my parents' roof. Being hit on by teenage boys and married men, dealing with how the other guys in between are just not that into you and then you not being into the ones that just might be into you. Series of job interviews and no serious relationship, and wondering if I’m going to end up a cougar with this zero bullshit tolerance mindset.

You’ve done a commendable job in building loyalty to old friends and experimenting with your hair cuts and dyes.  The best gift you can ever give yourself is permission to change – to change your mind views, opinions and goals. Learn now to play, to live, to learn and finally you need to learn to love and to hurt, and to cry. Explore those occasional impulses and your genuine interest in making new friends of all ages and countries ranging from 12 year old Ronnie to 61 year old Sarah “Queen Mum” Mackenzie.

Keep your love for writing and books and music and coffee alive.  You will write and people will appreciate what you churn out.

The next time a guy tells you he likes you, you don’t have to start thinking up short episodes for a How I met Your Father sitcom. Maintain your no stanky breath principle but you have my permission to flirt.

Travel more for work and for pleasure, discover cities and other loves and discover yourself every time. How dare you speed through Paris? Visit the city of Crepes and Lights again, and this time, take your time.

Celebrate the glory that is your breasts before pregnancy, and work that body. Sort the Brazilian/bikini waxes every now and then, and you're good to go. Maximise all the idle time that comes with the shift job. Dolce far niente, Wine red, Wine white, provocative dance moves and running from the cops with white potheaded friends. Of course you know what I mean ;)

In the words of Baz Luhrmann, enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. The job sucks but you will find your planet. Quit worrying about owning a car, we all get what we need. 

Build a 30-things-to-do-before-I-turn-30 list and enjoy the journey to your next milestone.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tangled thoughts and travel

Restrooms have always been cradles or incubators of inspiration and creativity since the days and discovery of Feng Shui. So yes, here I am, blogging from convenient sections of a hotel room in remote Cary, North Carolina. Cary - dry, deserted, can't find no black people, got me being starred down and feeling awkward in restaurants, can't even find a WalMart, got me searching for African food and finding counterfeit Jamaican restaurants all the way in Raleigh. But yea, I whined about my not so great experience with Caribbean food to a friend who by happenstance has his mum working in this same town where my friend and I were. I'm in Cary for one more week and my taste buds are missing out on ethnicity.

Anyway, apart from speaking of uncomfortable physical places, I'm wallowing in murky waters. I'm in a place or timeline of events that has placed me between quitting a job and grad school and the level of uncertainty I must say is high. I lambaste myself, asking what I have done with all the ideas I have had in the past. Noone gets recognised from stowing vibrant ideas away in tens and scores of notepads. I should be on plan X by now, but then since I did not try out A, I adjusted to B, made a comfort zone out of C and that changed to D. E was the next seemingly logical thing to do ... and it keeps going on. Dreams and goals to achieve at landmark periods have gone unnoticed. No risks, no jolts, knowing what to do and not doing it and yet life's time still won't stop.

I am not going to continue like this. I am not going to be held back by fear of failure or embarrassment. I have decided.