He’s ‘going to let me?’ Uh-oh.

Published 1:57 am Saturday, December 24, 2011

Most people know that we were once in the restaurant business. Rather, my husband was.

I always had a full time job somewhere else. The business about the restaurant went something like this: If Honey needed help, it was “our” restaurant. If I wanted to spend money the restaurant was “his!”

Like many small business owners, our lives revolved around the seasons, and never more than at this time of the year. In addition to serving hungry patrons, we’d book at least two Christmas parties a day right up until a couple of days before, and on Christmas Eve, we’d fill large orders for gumbo, chicken salad, or special desserts for folks entertaining a group.

And so it still feels strange to me not to be putting desserts in the oven in the morning before work and running a couple of batches through when I come home at night. Hubby was famous for calling me at work to say, “Honey. I’m going to let you make cheesecakes for that party tomorrow night. It’s for 60 people.”

One cheesecake requires a minimum of four hours. “I’m going to let you” came to be my clue that a task I didn’t want was about to be assigned. When we started that venture, cheesecake was among my favorite desserts. Countless springform pans later, you couldn’t pay me to eat a slice!

Most days, we loved it. Our regular customers were like members of our extended families, and our co-workers were like family to us.

“You are really missing that restaurant,” my friend Mary Helen, who also loves to cook and entertain, opined when I sent a photograph of some cheesecakes I’d made for a party.

Some days, she is right. I love to sit quietly in a good restaurant, feel the energy, and just listen. Layers of multiple conversations make a quiet roar, and if the cook bangs a pan in the kitchen, I feel right at home. It sounds like beautiful music to me – the sound of artists at work and happy people having a good time.

But it is grueling work that takes its toll on people in both the hours required and physical wear and tear on the body. When the customers leave and the kitchen is closed, there’s still back-breaking cleaning to be done.

‘Tis the season for cooking, so I’ve thought a lot about the “old days” this week as I baked and stirred, working around Honey’s own food projects. Parts of those days we do miss, and suppose we always shall.

But there seems always to be just enough cooking and serving to be done to remind us of the hard parts and keep us from missing it too much.

Like my brother’s going to let me bring a cheesecake for Christmas dinner. Bless his heart.