munching on “Short-Order Cook” by Jim Daniels

“Man who invented the hamburger was smart; man who invented the cheeseburger was a genius.” ~ Matthew McConaughey

 

“Cheeseburger” by Tjalf Sparnaay (oil on linen, 2012)

 

SHORT-ORDER COOK
by Jim Daniels

An average joe comes in
and orders thirty cheeseburgers and thirty fries.

I wait for him to pay before I start cooking.
He pays.
He ain’t no average joe.

The grill is just big enough for ten rows of three.
I slap the burgers down
throw two buckets of fries in the deep frier
and they pop pop, spit spit  . . .
pssss . . .
The counter girls laugh.
I concentrate.
It is the crucial point —
they are ready for the cheese:
my fingers shake as I tear off slices
toss them on the burgers/fries done/dump/
refill buckets/burgers ready/flip into buns/
beat that melting cheese/wrap burgers in plastic/
into paper bags/fried done/dump/fill thirty bags/
bring them to the counter/wipe sweat on sleeve
and smile at the counter girls.
I puff my chest out and bellow:
Thirty cheeseburgers! Thirty fries!
I grab a handful of ice, toss it in my mouth
do a little dance and walk back to the grill.
Pressure, responsibility, success.
Thirty cheeseburgers, thirty fries.

~ from Places/Everyone (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1985)

“Bakje Patat” by Tjalf Spaarnay (oil on linen, 1999)

 

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Nothing beats the good feeling of a job well done. As Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield once said, “Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”

Flipping burgers, a minimum wage job — nothing out of the ordinary. Yet it’s not every day one is asked to fill a thirty cheeseburger/thirty fries order, and I like how this particular short-order cook pulled if off with such aplomb.

Not letting the counter girls distract him, keeping his nerves in check, orchestrating every move as he jockeys burgers, cheese, buns, fries, wrapping and bagging — quite a feat. He had a system and it worked. Yes, he should be proud, munch on that ice and do a little dance!

There is no job too small to warrant our full attention. We make our own rewards. Chances are, none of the counter girls could have done what the short-order cook did, or as well. Sure, he had probably cooked dozens of cheeseburgers before, just not thirty all at once. But when the need arose, everything he had done up until then prepared him to meet that challenge.

The masterful cheeseburger and fries paintings in this post were created by Dutch megarealistic artist Tjalf Spaarnay. Yes, they look like photos, and give us the chance to re-examine ordinary foods we take for granted. I love how he has elevated fast food, showing it off in beautiful, meticulous, mouthwatering detail (french fries just happen to be Spaarnay’s favorite).

In his poem, Jim Daniels gave the often overlooked or undervalued fast food worker a moment in the spotlight, a good reminder to relish small victories because they keep us going and growing.

Okay, now I really want a cheeseburger with fries . . . and a little dessert, of course. 🙂

“De moorkop,” by Tjalf Spaarnay (2009)

 

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 🎉 BOOK GIVEAWAY WINNERS! 🎈

We are pleased to announce the following giveaway winners:

For a copy of DREAMING OF YOU by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Aaron DeWitt, the winner is:

 🎨 DIANE MAYR!! 🌺

And for a signed copy of DUMPLING SOUP by Jama Kim Rattigan and Lillian Hsu-Flanders + a $50 Amazon gift card, the winner is:

  🥢 KELLY D! 🍲

WooHoo! Congratulations to Diane and Kelly!!!

Thanks to everyone for all the great comments. Especially appreciate all the nice Happy Anniversary wishes. 🙂

More giveaways coming soon, so stay tuned!

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Erin is hosting the Roundup at The Water’s Edge. Twinkle toe on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Happy Reading!

 


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