A Working Holiday

It’s been quite a few years now since my last Thanksgiving on the line, but I can still feel it in my bones; a physical memory that persists like a scar, emblazoned deep within. The crushing heat of the oven, pumping out roasted vegetables and tofu steaks; the furiously boiling pots of thickening roux, destined to become bases for a dozen different gratins; the reverberations of the knife on the cutting board, mowing down everything from beets to scallions seemingly of its own free will. These sensations return in flashbulb moments, random and unexpected glimpses into the past. Every Thanksgiving wasn’t just Doomsday, but Doomsweek. Manageable lists of orders quickly swelled into a wild mass of demands, nimble hands always turned out in short supply, and yet the shoebox kitchen still couldn’t accommodate the number of bodies toiling away, jockeying for a place at the tiny four-top burner. It was a violent dance, or perhaps a dark comedy, but it was certainly a show for all to see. The utilitarian rubber mats became our stage- No, red carpet- As we all starred in our insular performance. Though anyone outside of the industry could only consider this affair a pre-show for the great event, this was our time to shine.

Time continues to put more distance between this memory and the present, as the cafe has been closed and darkened since the ravages of Hurricane Sandy took their toll. For as long, painful, and exhausting as those long days leading up to Thanksgiving were, I wouldn’t have dreamed of being anywhere else. Fierce loyalty to the business and the team behind it drove me forward; that sense of comradery kept us afloat. No matter how much I dreaded those days, I secretly adored them and looked forward to them just as much, if not more. While it’s a luxury to finally enjoy Thanksgiving like most other people do- with their families, partaking in the festive meal, and cooking only enough for a dozen rather than half the town- I miss the maddening Thanksgiving catering rush dearly. Nothing made me more grateful than completing a successful day-long shift, bidding farewell to my cooking compatriots with hugs and long goodbyes, and quietly departing into the dark, cold autumn night once more.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate, whether you’re working, cooking, or just lucky enough to be amongst family and friends.

9 thoughts on “A Working Holiday

  1. Hi Hannah! This is very well written and I think you captured the hustle, bustle, and the beauty of it all really well. It’s a graceful and hot dance, but it’s well worth it. Hopefully the next time you come out to San Francisco we can eat and take pictures. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thank you so much! I can’t wait to be back on the west coast again… Not too much longer now, happily. I would love to meet up and have some wonderful food/photography adventures with you. Let’s stay in touch!

  2. we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving over here in Belgium but I do wish you & your family a really Happy one with plenty of vegan foods & vegan treats, of course too, working or not. 😀

  3. I still miss H in a H, Sue and her remarkable team, of which you were an important player. It was Sue who introduced me to you, telling me about your books and your great talents when you were only a young teen. I still savor memories from the other side of that teeny counter, too :)

  4. Happy Thanksgiving Hannah! It’s great that you were creating delicious dishes (you should be happy and proud for that successful shift) so that other families can celebrate Thanksgiving! Enjoy your deserved break and holiday!

  5. What a beautiful post Hannah, very touching. I love your poetic way of describing memories and feelings. :-)
    Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.


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