“Chicken salad on a roll with chips!”
“Come-n right up!”
My custom shop’s lunchroom was a tiny bit of country charm tucked in the midst of a busy metropolitan area. Customers flocked to relax beneath rustic hanging baskets hovering over blue-checkered tablecloths. Here, they enjoyed fresh soups, salads, and sandwiches on homemade bread - plus an endless variety of sweets made from scratch. No wonder I didn’t need to advertise; the place sold itself to weary business people and shoppers looking for a lunch-hour retreat.
But just a few feet away from the lunchroom, tucked behind the glass bakery case full of cookies, pies, cakes and breads, it was a different story. My employees and I scrambled to keep pace with our customers’ needs. Every day, they kept us hopping like jackrabbits running from a pack of hounds. My daily prayer became, “How can I quiet myself internally, Lord, while being surrounded by this insanity?”
“Hey, the poppy seed cake, the one with the airplane, goes out at 12:30 and I’m about out of frosting. It’s gonna take me forever to pipe this thing… Can you mix some when you get a chance?”
“Um, maybe in a minute…”
“Called the refrigeration repair guys this morning to fix the big cooler – it’s about five degrees too hot in there. Better move the meat salads to the other cooler.”
“Okay, as soon as I make this sandwich.”
“We need more pennies in the cash register!!”
“I’m getting ‘em, just hang on…’
“Can you get the phone?”
“Hello, Baker’s Peak, may I help you? Yes, we make custom cakes…yes, we make carrot cake…yes, cream cheese frosting would be fine…decoration…yes, whatever you’d like…a Harley Davidson?…yeah…we can do that…just bring in a picture…pick it up Saturday, 10:00…fine.”
“We’re almost out of the Salad of the Day, are you making more?”
“Yeah, I’m making something up – call it “Imperial Broccoli Salad” – write it on the blackboard.”
“Those ladies out there, they want cream of potato soup.”
“Tell them they’ll die for cream of spinach, they just don’t know it yet.”
“Can you take an order to go for me, please? I’ve got to finish decorating these cookies.”
“What would you like, ma’am, something to go? Sure, a ham sandwich with cheddar…actually, we only have Havarti cheese…no cheddar…you don’t want Havarti? You don’t want the sandwich at all? Can you wait just a minute please, the phone’s ringing…”
“Hello, Baker’s Peak, may I help you? You’d like to order a wedding cake? Certainly. When would you like to come in? Oh…I’m so sorry, we can’t take wedding cake orders over the phone…no, there are no exceptions…I need to sit down with you to discuss the details so we’re on the same page…actually I don’t have time to talk about this right now…can I call you back?”
“Would you believe those ladies want to know how the broccoli salad got the name ‘Imperial’…”
“Tell them you don’t know, it showed up in a cookbook or something…”
“Thanks for waiting, ma’am. What would you like instead of the ham sandwich? Broccoli salad? Yes, it is fresh…it was made within the hour…sure, we’d be happy to give you a roll with that. I apologize about the cheddar…”
“Can you check the cookies in the oven? I can smell ‘em…”
“The battery in the timer finally gave out! All ten dozen, look, they’re crispy…”
“We might use them for crumb toppings or bar cookie crusts. Just dump ‘em in the big pan over here….”
“Better mix up more cookie dough – no wait, I need that frosting, first.”
“Has anyone seen the big chopping knife?”
“Yeah, it’s hiding in the dishwater in the sink.”
By mid-afternoon I was more than ready to leave. Some days leaving became possible; other days I stayed until midnight or later decorating cakes and putting together trays of deli meats and hors d’oeuvres.
In the midst of this, I could mentally picture my mother happily baking and preparing meals in our lake cottage kitchen. The image would grow until I could envision that childhood spot…a summer day, shaded road, tall hill…musty, wet smells, Queen Anne’s lace…bare feet, wind off the lake, a melted five-cent candy bar. The ability to find such inner retreat was a gift from God, a gift that kept me balanced. My God-guided imagination kept me smiling.
“Sure! I’d be happy to make a five-layer chocolate torte for you…with amaretto filling… fondant frosting…white chocolate curls…plus frosting roses on top!”
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