Since I’m rigorously working on filling out my memoir, all I have to blog about is writing. And all this retrospect stuff that pops into my head as a result of these trips down memory lane.
In my pre-chef, late teen days, I worked in some crazy kitchens. It was the Seventies and Julia Child was the only celebrity chef and restaurant kitchens were unseen, unadvertised and unkempt. Last year when I went home to Maui, my husband insisted I pose in front of the place I worked the summer after my first year of college. Since I have this picture (below) I figure this excerpt to be blogable:
And what a summer it was, 1978, working as a baker at Longhi’s on Front Street, a hip restaurant recently opened by Bob Longhi from San Francisco. He was some kind of a known man back on the mainland (Haight-Asbury, rumor had it) because he had rock star friends who visited. Jesse Colin Young, Jackson Brown and the entire band of Fleetwood Mac hung out in the restaurant regularly. The food was all healthy fresh made; the term “organic” wasn’t the rage yet but that’s the best way to describe the bulging mango-honey pies I made, the fresh pastas cranked out by Marina Beebe the boat-dwelling, aged hippy pasta lady, and the signature dish, Shrimp Longhi with its splash of licorice-tasting Pernod. The huge kitchen was a Darwin experiment of hippies, musicians, beach bums, serious-surfer cooks and me. Most of us wore next to nothing—beach wear with an apron so we didn’t stain our bikinis or burn our bellies. All of us were tan and salty from the beach and into music, getting high and food. The sound system in the back, where I worked in the prep-kitchen, blasted Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and some of Bob Longhi’s resident faves through speakers which hung over our heads like huge, black musical clouds. Every day at sunset all us prep cooks would snake out the back door to the stone seawall across the street, pass around a doobie and watch the sun sink orange over the blue horizon. Then we’d return to our respective prep stations and crank the music up louder to enhance our moods.
Longhi’s was the place where I baked a birthday cake (carrot) for Stevie Nicks. It’s where I snorted coke on the bar after work with the waiters. Where I smoked hash through an apple left for me in the bathroom in the kitchen (which was conveniently located right off the bakery nook where I worked). Where I took Quaaludes with a prep cook and had sex on Lahaina beach. It’s where I, with Bob Longhi’s son, raided the liquor cabinet in their fancy house further down Front Street and got so drunk on our shifts that the cops came. It’s where the homeless musician Dennis, who called himself Mango, peeled mangos for me in my small station and in return for his efforts, I’d give him limes. The juice of which he used as deodorant or to mix with small bits of paper to fill his cavities. I didn’t need to give Mango mangoes because he climbed the trees in Lahaina and gathered his own. When not helping me, Mango walked the sidewalks of Front Street, holding with both hands a tree-picked soft ripe fruit to his mouth, sucking the flesh through a small hole he’d bit in one end. “Mother Nature’s tit,” he explained to stunned tourists as they considered the skinny, mango-sucking haole.