\ 09:05 “Cooking 101”

09:05 “Cooking 101”

Friday, 09:30

La Española Bar & Cantina


“Cadee, you should be taking professional classes, attend a Culinary School. I could get you a recommendation.” Imanol García said with his marked Spanish accent, watching his pupil, as she easily cleaned a squid for a ‘calamares en su tinta’ dish.

Imanol was the owner and cheff of 'La Española', a cozy restaurant in Greenwich Village. He was from Galicia, and his restaurant served the best Spanish recipes.  When he had just got from Spain, with big dreams and little else, Pedro had dated Cadee’s mother, but, while the relationship with Susan hadn’t prospered, he had recognized in her daughter a fellow cooking lover.  In fact, he had kept seeing the mother just for the pleasure of teaching the daughter to cook, until he had felt too Nobokov for his ease of mind and finally ended the relationship with Susan. 

Then, 4 years ago, just by chance, they had met again and he had taken her to his recently opened restaurant. Somehow, cooking lessons had naturally followed. Cadee was as eager to learn as she had been as a teen, and she was good, but it killed him to see her skill wasted in a waitress job.

“No matter how good of a cook you happen to be, no five star establishment will consider you without the right education. You know that!”

Cadee pulled the squid’s head away, all with entails attached, and gently extracted the ink sack from them. It was unbroken, smiling at her small victory, she proceeded to squeeze the dark ink into a small bowl with water.  When she was satisfied that the sack was empty, it followed the entails to another bowl, only then she turned to the man besides her. 

“Are you implying that you’re not a good teacher, Manny,” she asked, feigning worry. “’Cause I don’t think I could have extracted squid’s ink last week.”

“I’m an excellent teacher, el mejor! But a teacher is as good as his students are. And you’re too good to be serving tables!”  

Cadee sighed, they had the same conversation almost every other week. She looked around. There were plenty of people in the kitchen, ‘La Española’ was a medium sized restaurant and  at least half a dozen line cookers were working at any time, not mentioning Joan, Manny’s sous-cheff. It was early still, so everybody was doing prep-work.

There were several work stations, each dedicated to its own purpose.  A woman worked at the salads’ station, cutting romaine lettuce from a huge case under the table. She had already arranged  all of the dressings and big bowls of avocados, tomatoes and onions along the table, all within arm's reach. In another section of the kitchen, a latino man was working on the appetizers’ station – or tapas, as they were called in Spanish cuisine. He was toasting large quantities of sliced bread with olive oil and garlic. These would get prepared with different toppings – ham, bacon, olives, mushrooms – which already waited in neat bowls.

Likewise, the cooks in charge of the grill, the sautéing pans and the deep fryer were also getting ready for the working day. There were boiling pans and sizzling oil, smoked pork and ham; sausages, chorizos and morcillas hanging happily from the ceiling. The smells, and sounds were tempting, challenging, exciting…

She had already done her training in all of those stations. Imanol, Manny, had been her teacher, but also the rest of the cooks, who liked her and didn’t see her as a threat. She had gone from the easiest station, the salads one, step by step to what Manny considered the hardest: the seafood. She'd had four years of continuous –if not formal–  training in most areas of a restaurant kitchen; and contrary to what she had told Anne earlier, she wouldn’t bother to be tucked up in one at all.

However, she could relate to Manny’s frustration, sometimes she felt it too. But there was no way she could make him understand, in fact she wasn’t sure she could understand it herself. What the hell was she doing serving tables? She could be cooking and probably making more money than she did at the Slàinte, even without a degree from any fancy cooking school. She knew she had the skill. Or she could be working as a receptionist in Wall Street, like Sandoval mentioned, or as a secretary, even a cop. She would be a great cop!  If she could ever get over her distrust of them, of course.  But no, she was a waitress, serving another cooker's creations instead of her own. *Hey, don’t complain, it leaves you plenty of time to play slayer!* She nodded, it was as simple as that: it left her plenty of time to play slayer.

“Actually, Manny, I hunt vampires and demons during the night. The Sláinte is perfect for that. Plenty of cops, you know, sometimes I hear things. So I get into my ass kicking boots and go kill monsters.”

She looked at him seriously for a few seconds, enjoying his puzzled expression. She could almost hear his mind working, trying to decide whether she had gone suddenly crazy or was just pulling his leg. Then she laughed, a laughter so heartfelt that startled everybody in the kitchen, and Manny relaxed, grinning as well.

Niña loca. You almost got me there.” He said, and walked away to supervise some other thing, shaking his head as he went.

Feeling a little ashamed because of her joke, Cadee turned to the dismembered squid on her working table. She quickly sliced all the edible parts and placed them in yet another bowl, then she took the innards' one before somebody decided to clean up and throw its contents to the garbage. She knew of some who would enjoy the treat.

As she had thought, the usual collection of cats was waiting near the kitchen’s back alley’s door.  It wasn’t unusual to find cats near a restaurant, they were clean animals and helped keep the place clean. Cadee loved cats, in fact, Flora and Freddo, her own, had come from a litter she had found in that precise alley.

“I have something for you, sweets,” she told the animals as she descended the couple of steps. The cats meowed and rubbed themselves against her legs, making her laugh. She poured half the content of the squid’s waste on the floor and watched them eat for a few seconds. Then she scanned the alley, looking for a particular cat; she smiled when she spotted him.

“There you are. You knew I’d save something for you, didn’t you?” She said, walking towards the big dumpsters close to the door. A big silver stripped tomcat sat there, watching her as well. She patted his head, and poured the rest of the squid in front of him. As usual, the cat simply looked at her, his expression priceless, not one glance at the food whatsoever. “Oh, come on, Tom, I know you like squid, who wouldn’t?”

The cat just cocked his head.

Cadee chuckled, she knew the game, and didn’t mind playing it. “You’re a bad boy, aren’t you?” she said, finally giving up. She opened her arms and the cat jumped to her, immediately nuzzling her neck. Cadee laughed, delighted by the thick, soft feeling of his fur against her skin, and rubbed his head. He smelled clean and wild, and she could feel his heart going very quickly against his ribs. The cat purred and burrowed into her hair, as if smelling her too, his bushy tail extended in pleasure. After a couple of minutes of mutual cuddling, Cadee put him onto the dumpster once more. “Sorry Tom, duty calls,” she said, and with a final pat to the feline’s head, she walked towards the restaurant again.

It wasn’t until she closed the door behind her, that the cat started to eat.


Guest starring Imanol Arias as Imanol 'Manny' García



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