“If all of the world’s leaders sat down at the end of each day and had a nice long wonderful dinner together, we could fix all of our problems in a very short time.” That is what my teacher, Chef Anderson, said as he was showing me how to make soap out of the leftover french-fryer grease.
I love unabashed idealism. I don’t care if it’s from the political left or the political right or from people who cook or people who believe that composting is the solution to all problems. I love it because it’s passionate and contagious and there’s always a great deal of truth in it. Idealism in the young is a little too easy to come by and manipulate so it’s always a bit suspect to me. I like it best when it comes from people who have lived a while. Their world view has gone through the fire of life and has come out stronger and even more passionate.
In the spring of our junior year in high school they told us all to schedule a meeting with a college/career counselor. After looking at my grades and aptitude tests, my counselor told me it would be best if I focused on occupation skills training my senior year because, “You might not blossom in college.” So off to cooking school I went.
Chef Anderson called me, “Big.” He wasn’t good with names and always a bit distracted and somebody started calling me Big early on because I am and he just picked it up. It always made me smile especially when he introduced me to the guest chefs he brought in. “It’s nice to meet you, Big.” I liked being around Chef Anderson and always volunteered for special projects and after-hours assignments because that is when he would start talking about life and love and food. I was cleaning out the deep fryer when he said, “Hey, we should make soap tomorrow! Save that fat, Big. I’ll get the lye. You get some fresh rosemary and a dozen roses.”
He didn’t say anything at the time but earlier in the year, during the class on wine selection, I let it be known that my religion was not wild about alcohol and I think it dashed his hopes for me. Or maybe he just did some research because now, while making our soap, he returned to the topic.
“Big, do you know what Christ’s first miracle on earth was?”
I didn’t know.
“He turned water into wine.”
I just keep chopping up the roses.
“And this is the important part,” he continued, getting more excited. “He didn’t make just any wine. The host at the wedding was surprised because of how good it was!” he beamed. “Do you know what that means, Big?”
“Not really,” I said.
“God knows His wines, Big! God knows His wines!” he declared joyfully.
He got me. And he turned me.
He then launched into how the entire known world was only discovered because people wanted better spices for better tasting food. And we made some killer soap.