Saturday, September 18, 2010

the other side


i'm currently noshing on a very simple yet delicious tomato tartine (i.e., open faced sandwich). it is moments like this where i end up sighing after every third bite or so thinking about how much i love food. the ingredients for this simple sandwich are acme upstairs bread, a nice organic mayo, black pepper, tomatoes from dirty girl, and maldon sea salt...


as i am noshing on this snack, i am also reflecting on the last 24 hours. it was about 24 hours ago when i arrived at hapa ramen at off the grid to help out in the stand.

if you had asked me, i don't know, yesterday at 9am....after i had been through a few hours of meetings....what my thoughts would be about receiving a text message from hapa ramen asking if i'd be up for helping out at off the grid later that night.... i would have thought that was a rather crazy idea.

yet, sure enough, at about 9:30am i received the message on my phone.

there were many things running through my head when i saw that text but the most prominent one was that they must be unexpectedly down a person and are likely having difficulty finding someone. then i did some mental rescheduling of the next few days....as the project i am working on has a sunday midnight (monday 8am uk time) deadline....and realized that i could make it work so i let hapa ramen know that i'd be there.

so i was.

i remember as i got off muni and walked to fort mason,


my stomach started doing little turns as it has been a very long time since i was in a "kitchen" oriented environment. my food service experience is limited to a pizza joint/bar when i was a teenager while i was in school. basically, when i walked away from that job, i learned how to carry a 25 pound bag of flour, smoke, pour a pint, cock block, work a mixer, and just how long hours could be in the food industry. it wasn't exactly a high end pizza + cocktail kind of place. i also didn't think those very-faded-from-my-memory-skills would really help out for off the grid.

also, i am old enough to have worked on a lot of different teams in various industries. so i also understood that unexpectedly walking into an established team in a potentially high pressure situation where folks have to deliver RIGHT NOW would provide an interesting dynamic. i definitely didn't want to be the one, as the newbie/unknown, to drag the team productivity down.

funny how this sort of thing translates across industries doesn't it?

the turns in the stomach subsided a bit after i found where hapa ramen had begun to set up and various hellos and hugs were exchanged with folks. i sure as hell wouldn't have been there if i didn't like them and respect what they are working to achieve.

as the setting up continued, i saw a gal with a camera take some pictures. i thought that was funny....as that is usually me..... i'm the gal with the camera on the other side of the counter. yet, for friday night, i'd be on this side...looking out...


and these would be the things i would see....




these pictures are the only ones i took on friday night as i was very focused on the tasks at hand.

from the beginning of the shift, i took in the overall directions i received from hapa ramen mama as well as observed the flow of the team, how they interacted, and where i could insert myself to help out without disturbing the established flow. i bet a couple of them thought it was kind of weird that i wouldn't eat or drink anything for the first couple of hours...but i was too busy focused on watching, absorbing, and doing certain tasks (i.e., practice practice practice). i wanted the tasks to become second nature before i got distracted with things like eating. i fully realized that if i was going to do fuck ups it had better be before the anticipated rush hit.

yet, despite all of my quiet seriousness and focus throughout the evening, i could also appreciate the strong connections they have with each other. there is the laughter, the moments of silliness to blow off steam, the support they provide for each other, the nudges, check-ins, the care, and the very distinct awareness they have for each other. this distinct awareness especially comes through during those "buckle down" intense moments when a slew of tickets arrived all at once and their work is a flurry of graceful choreography within a small space.

all of this activity is just within the team itself.
there was so much going on in that small hapa ramen stand. what i've written about doesn't even include all of the folks that come by to visit, talk shop, or even the clients ordering, picking up, and enjoying the ramen.

notice that i haven't said anything about the ramen?

it is because i didn't eat any. it wasn't because it didn't look and smell lovely (because it did). it also wasn't about not being tempted to dip my fingers into the various pots or containers to eat the pork belly, green/yellow beans, kale, or take/crack one of the sous vide eggs with the beautiful yolks over some freshly cooked handmade noodles.....because i was definitely tempted. oh, yes i was. you betcha. yet, for me, i knew that i would be paying a visit to their bar tartine pop up on the 27th....and wanted to save the experience for then....where i could slow down and appreciate the ramen as an eater.

while my friday evening experience "on the other side" was extremely unexpected, i had a great time and have a further appreciation for folks that decide to put themselves out there, night after night, to share their passion for food.

well, dear hearts....time to get back to the my day job.

until later....


hapa ramen, http://haparamensf.com/ , tuesdays and thursdays farmers' market 10-2pm, ferry plaza farmers market, one ferry building, san francisco, ca 94114, http://www.cuesa.org/markets/; off the grid street food event at fort mason on fridays at 5pm

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