Thursday, April 02, 2009

Free Meals

When I was a 15 year old kid a friend got me a job at a Catholic Seminary as a switchboard operator. The photo above is of the building I worked in. It was a cool job for a kid. It was indoors and there wasn’t much to do but transfer calls, sort mail, read magazines and watch TV. The switchboard had four outside lines so I could call three of my friends and we could all talk at once. When no one was there I even used the fourth line. Five people on the line at once; I was a star of me peers.

The building I worked in housed six priest, the Seminary library, two classrooms and the dining facility for the priests. One of the perks of the job was that meals were included. The priests were well fed and they ate in a traditional formal Jacobean dining room. I, on the other hand ate in the office. I’d get a phone call from Regina, a round Polish cook with a New York accent. Every night I answer the phone and on the other end I’d hear Regina say, “Come git-cha supper.”

Before I could hang up the phone I could hear Regina closing the hatch on the dumb-waiter. By the time I made it to the kitchen a steaming plate of whatever with lots of potatoes was waiting for me on the first floor. I’d grab a beverage from the fridge and I’d make my way back to the office.

The funny thing is I can’t remember what sort of food she served. All I remembers is there were always lots of potatoes. There was another cook that worked on Regina’s days off. Her name was Lorna, and her meals were lighter, fresher and less dependent on starch as filler. No matter who was cooking the meals were always welcome and something to look forward to.

Eventually I started working nights there when I went to college. There were no late night staff besides myself, but I had run of the kitchen and was allowed to cook anything I wanted. The cooks for the students would arrive at 4:00 am to start breakfast. I’d get a full breakfast before heading off to school. I was even allowed to eat there on my days off. Think of my budget, getting three meals a day for free while I was in college. I know college kids that would kill for that arrangement.

Tonight I sit here writing, wondering what I’ll have to make myself for dinner after I finish this post. I would love for the phone to ring and hear Regina’s voice on the other end saying, “Come git-cha supper.”


Blogger Beth said...

That was a dream of a job.
And I’d be thrilled to have anyone call me with the words, “Come git-cha supper.”
(Beautiful building.)

6:12 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

You lucked out, for sure. It's rare to find such an arrangement, these days. I get free meals at the prison but rarely take advantage of them. I'm not a big fan of beans and most of the other stuff they serve is just nasty. I get a home cooked meal maybe once a week if we're not too busy. Most days I eat a sandwich out of my lunchbox. The downside of being on the evening shift, I guess.

6:24 AM  
Blogger loopymamain06 said...

I really like to see my guys faces when I've timed dinner perfect for when they walk in the door, and there is a nice hot meal waiting for them, last night stir fry. Heads hanging low as they walk in the door, only to perk right up to find hot food all ready.

7:10 AM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

You know that I cooked in a resteraunt to put myself through UCLA?
(University of Chemeketa Lancaster Avenue) :-;
Same deal.
Show up at 4:00pm and do some homework and the manager would bring me out a big salad.
Shift starts, nibbling starts.
Lunch half way through shift.
Then after everyone left my job was to clean the kitchen and vaccume the rest.
Well there was always a casterole or something I was supposed to throw away.
In looking back, there was no replacement for that job. Guys that age typically eat rather poorly; I ate like a king.
Did I take more that I was entitled to?
Yes. However, I treated that place Like I owned it.
They came out WAY ahead for sure.
And I'm still alive.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had a job as a short order cook once. The place was a drive in with curb service and had the hottest girls in town. The owner was a rich kid who ended up marrying a Yankee from New England. Prim and proper she was and we welcomed her first visit to the place with a carrot aimed at the door with a couple of meat balls for support. Phallic sculpture so to speak. I can't take credit for the inspiration cause it was based on a guy who used to show up for a burger who always liked to have his weennny hanging out by the time the girls got to the car window. Big hit he was...anyway...I digress. You work your way up the ladder in these places so the first job is being the french fry guy. It was kinda cool cause there used to be this machine that shot out a puff of something and any flies flying through the mist ended up nose diving into the fryer. I never eat the little crunchy pieces that usually come with the fries any more.

Anyway...having mastered the fryer, I soon got promoted to being the coleslaw guy. Making big batches of coleslaw is kinda cool - you pour the dressing into the cabbage and carrots and get right into it with your hands to mix it up good. One night...I made a really good batch. By the end of my shift, I realized that a band aid on my thumb was not there any more. Always wondered who got the really tough piece of cabbage. I always tentatively chew coleslaw now.

Having mastered the was time to be the grill guy. You don't wanna hear about the grill guy...


8:59 AM  
Blogger Jaggy said...

I worked in a retirement facility through college, so each weekend day shift earned me money for living and at least two meals. If they were going to throw anything out, I sometimes took food home. The coffeecake never went to waste. I don't think that facility allows staff that much grace now, but it was a godsend on my tight budget.

I also learned that living at home produces similar results. ;)

Alas, now I am "Regina" to my fiancé. How I long for the day when I walk in the door to such amazing meals as he often does... but cooking for him is one of my ways of loving him. Ack, we're so cheesy and young.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Mike S said...

I learned very early on to have company meals added to contracts in certain countries. Mostly those countries (at that time) that gov't owned all industries & they had access to the best food around in their cafeterias.

When doing military contracts in most countries, eat with the senior NCOs as theirs is best. Officers worst, perhaps due to cooks being civilian or enlisted & not fond of officer types.

12:30 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Beth, it was a Jacobean mansion built I believe in 1903 by a copper baron, then sold to an inventor that invented the device for coupling rail road cars and then the Church bought it. The interior was beyond belief.

Darev, I guess it isn't a good idea for the COs to eat Confinement Loaf.

Loopy, you are a good mom.

Gearhead, in my home town the college was sub-titled, Stag Hill Institute of Technology (S.H.I.T.)

Moose, you opened the door, I think we do need to hear about the grill guy.

Jaggy, you need to teach the boy to cook other wise you'll take on that job for life. It may sound good now, but think of all the meals you will have prepared twenty years down the road.

Mike, most have to join the service to get that sort of treatment. It's much better having it by contract. By the way, have you ever stopped to think about how many people the US government feeds every day?

5:08 AM  

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