Tuesday, October 10, 2017


I look back on my life and see failure after failure.
When I was three I failed at eating Brussels sprouts. When I was four I failed my ballet and tap dancing lessons. At the age of five I showed a lack of talent at not setting things on fire. Then came First Grade and things got real. Of the many things that I failed at my first two years of school, perhaps standing quietly in line and keeping my hands to myself was the most challenging. Its been a life long problem. In the third grade I single handedly turned the class mural into a vulgar piece of graffiti.
A year later I hit the wall at memorizing poetry.
When we moved back to Texas my baseball dreams died when I could not hit a 40 MPH David Hutts screwball. My football career ended on a high note when I finally made a tackle on my very last play and the coach asked me “Where the hell have you been all year, Renfro?”

In the ninth grade it was Algebra fail.
In the tenth grade it was Geometry fail.
In the eleventh grade I blew Chemistry, Typing, General Business, and History. But for Dan Washmon spotting me a point in Journalism I might never have graduated.
So I decided I would be a chef, and I failed at that too.

I sat there at the State Fair yesterday and watched a woman demonstrate how to make Gumbo. She talked about roux, and explained how long it took to make it. She had a long list of ingredients, about half of which I would not have thought to put in there. She had a little nylon bag full of spices she threw in, probably made by Zatarains, and cautioned against leaving in too long because it would eventually burst and there would be bits of sassafras bark, peppercorns, bay leaves and God know what else floating in the Gumbo, and it would take hours to pick it all out. Somehow I knew this is what would happen to me if I used one of those bags.

I wanted to stand up and display my years of knowledge by asking her if she had ever heard of using cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni (which classically is what her little store bought bag is called), but hey, she’s the one still in the business, doing the glamorous work of demonstrating proper culinary technique, explaining we get the word “Gumbo” from the Bantu word for “Okra” in front of hundreds of fascinated State Fair attendees. Would I earn any points to point out that a nice roux can be made in minutes? No, I would just end up looking like a washed up, bitter old chef that thinks he used to be hell on wheels.

The fact is I’m just a lowly shipping clerk in my twilight years. I remember little about Teapot Dome and the Dawes Act. I couldn’t math my way out of a wet paper bag. In ballet, my allegro is mostly adagio, I tend to confuse avant with arriere, and that’s just the “A’s”. I also discovered my jete’ grande’ ain’t as grand as I imagined. and not because someone had tied my chausson de danse together.
But at least I no longer wake up smelling like shrimp and onions.

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