I don’t believe I mentioned that grandma lived with us. That was a wonderful thing. She doted on me and spoiled me rotten. I admit it – I loved it! Not only did I gain the benefit of hearing about her life experiences – what I call “common sense” – but she was a fabulous cook. Every night mom, dad and I were treated to a wonderful freshly prepared gourmet meal.
As with learning her English, grandma had learned how to cook through on-the-job training. Shortly after beginning her “career” as a cleaning woman, grandma decided that this was not what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. As it happened, an opportunity presented itself several years later when a friend of her aunt’s, who owned a little Czech restaurant, needed someone to wash the dishes and scrub the pots at her establishment. It was essentially the same work that grandma was doing – but there was the prospect of learning how to cook. And the wages were an additional five cents per day! What an opportunity. Grandma jumped at it.
And so she began her “culinary career”. She worked at that restaurant, washing and drying the dirty dishes for two years when she was promoted to be the chef’s assistant. Yet another raise – five cents more a day. Thus began years of chopping vegetables and cracking eggs and occasionally stirring the pot of whatever the specialty of the day was. And years of obvserving what the chef did to make wonderful food for the loyal patrons who dined there.
Grandma came to work one day to find that the chef and the owner had gotten into a heated argument and the chef had quit. This was a crisis as it was Saturday, the busiest night of the week with 80 diners expected – and no chef. The owner was beside herself, trying to decide whether she should close her establishment for the night – meaning a big loss in revenue – or try to muddle through. Grandma spoke up – “I can do it.” She had just turned 15 years old and had never actually done more than clean dishes, chop vegetables and stir pots. The owner was apparently stunned at that statement – but out of pure desperation agreed to let grandma try.
The evening, as grandma told it, came off with only a few minor glitches. Grandma became the new chef and received an increase in salary of three dollars a week. She had hit the big time! (By the way, a week meant seven 12 hour days). Things were a little tougher back then.
You are probably asking yourself – what does this all have to do with solving present day America’s problems. The answer is that I am trying to provide you with some background and create a context from which we may move forward.
Yes, things are bad in America – but contrast our “bad” with what my grandmother went through a hundred years ago. I think that most of us would be unwilling to trade places with her. I know that I wouldn’t.