Being home has been a strange feeling. It feels like there’s somewhere I’m supposed to be and something to be done, but there’s no chef in sight to answer to, besides my mom, of course. I’m finding myself compulsively cleaning dishes, wiping down surfaces, and wanting to label all the contents of our fridge because I miss the everyday tasks in the restaurant. Only when I left Norman’s did I feel such a strong pull to return to my work days, and I know that’s the feeling when you’ve found an excellent job. It starts to feel less like a job and more like doing your part in a team you are proud of. My last days at work were difficult, the sadness of knowing its ending lingered in the corners of the rooms, and it was like we were all trying to stand in the middle to keep busy near each other and somehow avoid it. On that very last morning, we cried in the prep kitchen, and the head pastry chef gave us freshly made macarons to shove in our mouths and stop the tears. Even scrubbing the tables on my last dinner shift made me emotional because I couldn’t and still can’t believe I won’t be in that space again.
But, on the drive home, it felt like all four months of non-stop restaurant and farm work came crashing down on me, and I could feel all the aches from my toes to my knees and my neck settling in. As my mom drove home listening to true crime podcasts, I slept through the entire ride. I continued to sleep almost consistently until Wednesday, when I came right back up north to visit my father in Ontario. Driving a couple of hours up from Toronto to the countryside immediately brought back a peaceful farm life reminder. The first two days here, my heart and mind were confused as if I was still with my crew in Vermont. Since being here, though, it has been the perfect remedy for a summer that went by too quickly. We’ve been cooking all our dinners over the fire, making hot dogs and quesadillas. We even cooked our family favorite over the fire, spaghetti aglio e olio con pomodorini (spicy cherry tomato, olive oil, and garlic spaghetti). My dad picked tubs of cherry tomatoes from his garden and marinated them in wine and red pepper flakes. The pecorino cheese got crispy in the heavy dark wok we cooked it in, and the fire gave it a slight yet mouthwatering smokiness to our classic summer favorite. We’re obsessed with the first round of fresh local corn that’s now at the country stores near my dad’s house, rolling it in salted butter and lots of ground black pepper and chomping like little kids. All these small joys make me want to keep choosing this path over and over again, as my relationships are now intertwined with the beauty of food and, more importantly, the time I spend with people around food.