She always had a choice whether or not to become a chef. In fact, her mother said she’d prefer it if she didn’t. Long hours, low pay, etc. But as her mother said “don’t”, her every action said “do”
She was much too young to recall this, but had heard her mother tell the story so often she had what felt like real memories; a bar in spain, and her mother lifting her onto the bar. She had only two teeth but that didn’t stop the leathery barman from bringing her a transparently thin slice of ham. “Bonita!” he cried; the same thing her mother called her. “and well,” her mother would continue, “a baby who teethed on iberico ham, acorn raised pigs, in spain, whachya gonna do?”
Her mother would lift her onto the kitchen counter too. Mama’d wrap her big hand over Bonita’s tiny fist on the fine sharp Wusthof knife.
“Curl your fingers back, baby,” her mother said “so you don’t cut off those pretty fingers. Your father’d be very annoyed if he picked you up missing a finger.”
“You need to choke up on the knife like this,” she’d say “it gives your more control of your cuts. You need to cut everything the same size so it cooks evenly, and then “do you think you can stir the sauce and not catch your shirt on fire?” And Bonita knew she could, that her mother would be there and she’d never see her hovering until her mothers hand flew forward and turned the burner down. So Bonita found herself cutting vegetables and cooking with fire at and age when other children didn’t get to use scissors.
And Bonita’d taste the sauce and if she said basil, there would be basil handed to her. And if she said more salt, her mother might hand the salt over or instead “Think again love. Think of Aunt Erin. Perhaps salt can happen at the table?” And Bonita thought about how other people tasted food but also how to trust herself.
And one day she said “I have an idea” She was six. “Mama, what if we make little steak. just a little one. and make it pink. and underneath we can put peas, but smooshed up with ricotta, and around it tiny potatoes” and her mother said “Let’s go to the store.”
She always had a choice whether or not to become a chef. But it wasn’t a hard one.