Monday, January 12, 2009

A really long nap...

Non omne quod nitet aurum est.
~Chaucer, 1380

I rally myself from bed before dawn and pull on my chefs jacket, my hair piled in a knot atop my head, I look in the mirror as my fingers work each mother-of-pearl button through its hole, past the blue embroidery spelling out my name in script on the left plaque, up to the blue piped edging of the Mao collar. I fold up the oversized cuffs, smooth the front of the jacket and as I look in the mirror I think about how hard I’ve worked to earn this jacket, to learn my trade, to become a chef. 10 years, I think to myself, 10, long years. A thought scratches at my brain; today, this jacket feels like a nun’s habit. I laugh. Who knew that when I’d signed on to this job I’d inadvertently be committing myself to what often times feels like a life of silence, servitude and celibacy? Who knew? I watch the dawn break over the rugged Mexican terrain and swallow back the lump in my throat as I warm up the ovens and turn on the light above the stove, for what I know will be the last meal that I will cook aboard the yacht.

Perhaps it was the fibrous, bitter, out of season asparagus; the rock hard, orange and green Roma tomatoes; spotty iceberg lettuce; mealy apples and limp, yellowing celery stacked against the walls at the grocery store that pushed me over the edge. Perhaps it was withdrawals from my addiction to artisan cheese, chewy baguettes and spicy baby arugula. Perhaps it was the monastic lifestyle, and living amongst a bunch of married couples and without even any boys to flirt with – and without the direct phone line to God or that guaranteed entry into Heaven that a true nun would’ve had. But whatever, the telltale signs of burnout have been lapping at my ankles for months now. My body’s been screaming that it’s too much. Too much stress, too little sleep. Just too much. And after losing my appetite for a solid month and spending half a day in Mexican hospital feeling as though a forest fire was raging in my belly – I’ve had to make probably one of the most agonizing decision I’ve ever had to make in my entire life – and that is, to leave the yacht. I know. I know. I feel like my heart has been carved out of my chest and served on a platter. I had meditated on a different outcome, prayed for a different outcome in fact, but, my stomach hath spoken and I dutifully must follow its orders. It is not an easy decision by any means.

I am tremendously grateful for all that Mrs. and Mr. X have done for me. I absolutely adore and admire them both. I want to be like them when I grow up. Not because of the big yacht, or the fab lifestyle. But rather, because they embrace life, because they jump in with childlike abandon and, as the people who know them know, they are genuine and they are rebels at heart – and to me, those are always admirable qualities. I also have the utmost respect for the crew and anyone willing to navigate the treacherous seas of crew management. I’m hard pressed to think of 10 people that I truly love and would want to eat, sleep, live, work and spend every waking moment with for months and months on end. No wonder pirates are always made out to be such unsavory characters – you’d be pretty cranky too if you lived aboard a damp, rickety boat with 20 or 30 others with poor bodily hygiene and a penchant for rum. It’s a wonder there hasn’t been more blood shed in the mega yacht industry!

My tenor in the yachting industry has been quite the adventure and has given me a lifetime of stories to tell. But alas, I need my own bed for which to spread the Sunday NY Times across, a home to walk around in my pajamas until noon, some earth to stick my hands in and a long morning run or I get pretty damn cranky. I’ve decided to take a sabbatical from the world of the gainfully employed, and what better timing! I’ll be trading in my chef’s knife for a pen, channeling my inner Hemingway and soothing my aching, overworked bones out in Key West for a while. But not first without a visit home and a chance to sit around and do absolutely nothing…

The blog will continue. This is not the end, but the beginning of a new adventure… And now, hey, I’ll actually have time to write!

11 comments:

prcrstn8 said...

No surprise, really. "Wayward Chef" says it all.

Give a shout when you're in town.

Anonymous said...

Hey You.. I have been checking your blog daily for updates and today when I checked I was somewhat sad but at the same time very happy for you. I'm sure it was a very hared decision to make but like you said you have a ton of wonderful experiences to share with people. I wish you the best of luck and most importantly that you enjoy your time off. I was just in Morada Bay in the Keys on Sunday. You have to check it out. If you are going to be in Key West then you know we will get together!! Have a happy 2009..

Cheers,

Ellyn

Zora said...

Cristina! Was just thinking about you and wondering why you hadn't posted in a while. So sorry to hear you're leaving the yacht--but you helped build that baby and did all the shit you set out to do. Indeed--time to listen to your gut! (And I hear ya on that front...)

Enjoy your time off and recuperating!

tammy said...

happy travels miss cristina and "hey! what a ride!" you will always have a place to stay should you ever want to visit "nuestro casa es su casa" much love, t

Holly said...

I am bummed that I won't get to see you on board next week but I am glad you are taking care of yourself and listening to your body. Please stay in touch! You will be in our prayers...

Diane M. Byrne said...

Sad news, but sounds like the right decision. Best wishes, Cristina!

Anonymous said...

Cristina, we wish you all the best as you begin the next phase of your life. We have so many memories of your luscious food both on and off the boat. We love to read your blog and know that someday we'll be going into Barnes and Noble to buy your book . Have a good rest and visit us if you can. We won't make you cook! Our love, M&K P

H.Peter said...

Not all is gold that shines.

I signed off the Super Yacht world after two years on a single yacht myself, despite tremendous owners, hillarious stories to tell and truly fond memories.

I hope your phase of withdrawal symptoms will be short and not too painful.

Onwards and upwards!

Bakerphyl said...

Hey Christina,

I read your postings and couldn't begin to imagine how much work your life on the boat was. I wondered how you did it - I couldn't imagine it for myself. There's more to life than working and getting drunk - I know that's not what they tell you in kitchens. You are such a talented writer. The universe tapped you on the shoulder to get your attention, that's all. You got to play with all those cool toys and now you get to write about it in a leisurely manner.

It'll be interesting to see what comes down the pike for you. Enjoy your time to yourself!

Phyllis in Seattle

Clever Nomad said...

Wow - what a change! Sorry to hear your yacht adventures will be coming to an end, but sometimes its best to move forward on your own terms. I've recently joined the ranks of the jobless too, but it wasn't my choice. I'd rather be in your shoes.

You commented on my blog a few weeks back in response to my comment, and asked if we've met. No, I came across your blog about a year ago when I was looking for blogs written by people who had moved to the Caribbean. Take care and best of luck.

Hobbit said...

Hi Cookie
Its been a while since I read your blog and as usual its great. I only wish that I had read it more often. Thank you for all your hard work that you put in to the boat and we hope that you stay in contact or at least keep up with the blog so we can follow your travels.
Hobbit

 
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