When this blog was only a few entries long, a friend at work took me aside, lowered her voice, and asked, “I don’t mean to offend you, but shouldn’t your father have taught you all this stuff?”
My dad could have assisted me on many of these challenges, but I would have missed out on the bigger picture. Not only am I trying to fill in gaps of manly knowledge, I’m trying to figure out what masculinity means today. I didn’t think a sample size of one person is going to give me an accurate picture. But even though I had already enlisted my dad’s assistance once before, it’s true that I hadn’t fully utilized his potential in this journey. So I decided to accompany him to a place where he is a leader among men – the kitchen of our church festival.
My dad has worked the St. Katherine’s Greek Festival for almost fifteen years now, but he’s been in a restaurant kitchen practically all his life, often joining his father, who was a Certified Executive Chef, in his workplace. It was the only way he was able to get close to a man who practically worked seven days a week. From hearing my dad’s horror stories of his time in restaurants, I never even gave the service industry a chance, but a little part of me thinks I may have missed a calling. I tease that the cooking skills in the family skipped a generation with me, and that’s not an exaggeration, but I wonder if there’s an alternate universe Peter who goes to work wearing a white poof on his head. Or you know, whatever that hat thingy is called.
We arrive at the festival at 8:30 a.m. This is my third time working the festival, but the first time I’ll spend an entire day in the kitchen with my dad. Usually I skip out early or chat with relatives or hide in the pantry, but this time I’ve committed myself to working the full day sans excuses.
It’s not as though my duties are that complicated. Most of the prep work has been completed; entrees are in the walk-in refrigerator, ready to bake, and the side dishes only require a handful of ingredients. In the past, I’ve mainly bussed dirty trays on the serving line and replaced them, but now under the guise of a man challenge, I’m hoping to be a little more involved today. If the food suffers, so be it – it’s all in the name of man science.
9:20 a.m.: Other volunteers from the church arrive and the ones who have known me for years immediately greet me. “Are you on a break from school?” Oh no, I say, I graduated years ago. “What are you studying?” Nothing right now, you know, I’ve graduated and joined the ol’ workforce, haha. “Did you pass your driver’s test?” Fine, no one said that last one, but I did begin to think about taping my driver’s license to my chest. See? I’m this many.
I can’t blame them for thinking I’m still in college. I still have the physique of a high school benchwarmer and some of these people actually saw me get baptized – it’s probably hard for them to imagine I ever grew up. But after taking on some major responsibility in the kitchen today, I know I won’t get confused for a college kid again, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll just parade Q around and yell, “THIS IS MY WIFE! WE LIVE TOGETHER AND PAY BILLS AND STUFF!” That should take care of any lingering doubts.
Want to read more? You’ve reached the end of the preview, but the full text of this entry and many more can be found in my book, BE A MAN: How I Spent One Year Drinking, Shaving, Farming, and Fathering My Way Toward Masculinity.
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