Dessert plate art: I can’t stop myself from drawing weird things

10:30 PM 12/14/2014

A long time ago I used to draw a lot of pictures. It was back before the internet. I drew them when I was a toddler. I was hyperactive, but Mom says that if she handed me a pen and paper, I would quietly occupy myself, and stop running around.

I copied the cartoons I saw on television. I drew Wile E. Coyote, the roadrunner, various mice based on cartoon mice, cats based on cartoon cats, Tom and Jerry, Mighty Mouse, those two crows – Heckle and Jekyll?, Scooby Doo, and many others. I picked up the norms of how to draw them. What I mean is, if they drew a white area surrounding the coyote’s muzzle, or something, I drew that too. Or a big white spot down their front. Those are based on some real animal colorations, loosely, but were made into cartoon norms during that time period. Mickey Mouse wore gloves, for some unknown reason, and some other characters did too. Things like that.

I also noticed that there was a show that was drawn differently, called ‘Speed Racer.’ It turns out it was Japanese animation. From that show, I learned to draw very big eyes with a glistening light on the pupil.

When I got older I drew shaded cartoons with pencils. I also learned to love something called Aquarelle. I bought these aquarelle crayons, where you draw first with the crayon, then paint over the strokes with water, leaving something that was a combination of pastel and waterpaint in its texture. I drew many beautiful pictures that way in my late teens and early twenties.

I stopped drawing when I started working at a job, when I had no free time anymore to do anything but work, when I was using so much caffeine that my brain never rested anymore. I also started getting attacked more by the psychotronic weapons over time, which made me unable to use my brain as well as I wanted to.

But I do have that artistic drawing ability in my background. My hands still know how to make skillful wavy motions automatically, without my really having to think about it. My muscles can feel how to do it.

I’ve been doing something at work that I don’t really believe in. I am plating desserts. They showed me that you put this piece of cake onto the plate, and then you draw some kind of little lines around it with this brightly colored sauce, and if you put one dot on top of another and then drag a toothpick through it, it makes sort of a heart shaped thing.

I don’t believe in it because, in reality, I don’t approve of artificial colors and flavors, and the colors look horribly garish and clashing and unnatural to me. The cakes themselves are store bought cakes that we have delivered to us, although the new head cook is a pastry chef and he says we are going to transition over to making our own desserts, along with our own ice cream, and he remembered my complaints about how I don’t like gum in the ice cream, artificial flavors, MSG, etc (I’m a former hyperactive Feingold Diet kid).

But I would need some kind of sauces that were natural, if I were going to keep on doing these dessert plates and really enjoy it (assuming I even stay here, since I don’t know where I will go with Jesse). I looked for natural food colors on the internet, and 1. they’re lame, and 2. some of them are toxic – who on earth uses bentonite clay to make the color tan, for the love of God! Bentonite clay is the reason why there is so much controversy over clumping kitty litter! Cats lick the bentonite clay off their feet when they get out of the litter box, and it clumps inside their digestive systems, causing a blockage – but the natural colors website described bentonite clay as an ‘edible clay.’

3. And also, I just don’t really like the idea of coloring something, anything at all, for no reason that has anything to do with reality, anything to do with the source. If you have white icing, then it should just be white. People add colors to white icing because it’s a paint-like substance and they’ve discovered that it’s capable of being colored and being used like a paint medium, but the icing has no real reason to have a color. However, if you have a sauce that’s really made out of red cherries, then that sauce will be a bright red color from the cherries themselves, because cherries are red (and you haven’t added any artificial red color to it either, and it’s still quite bright). Fruit jellies are going to have bright red colors. Ground up fruit, ground up leaves (like pesto), and other foods are going to be whatever color they are.

This is kind of a silly principle, and if you analyzed it really carefully then you could find logical holes in it. I’m tolerating other things that are unnatural – where do I draw the line?

But the pale, pathetic, pastel colors of the ‘natural food colors’ that I saw were just so undesirable that they seemed pointless. I wouldn’t mind painting with fruit jelly, in some liquid form that was able to be squirted out of a nozzle and drawn into narrow lines. I wouldn’t mind painting with a green pesto of ground-up edible leaves. I wouldn’t mind putting edible flowers onto the food, although I’m cautious about them because some of them are going to be ‘medicinal.’ Edible flowers on cakes are absolutely beautiful. I wouldn’t mind adding weird little exotic fruits, nuts, or seeds, and there is an ENTIRE PLANET full of exotic fruits from other countries. Why just blackberries and blueberries? Why the same old thing, forever and ever, when we have all the other fruits from all around the world, adding interest, color, variety, and adventure?

We have blenders nowadays that can puree something into a pulp without any visible pieces, or dried powders made of herbs and spices, which could be mixed in a medium and used as paint. (I can tolerate the use of a blender, for this purpose! even though it’s unnatural too.)

Well, anyway, so I’m learning to plate the desserts. I was terrified at first, because I kept getting irresistible urges to draw something weird instead of sticking with the simple, basic things they showed me. They showed me how to make a few little dots here and there, or how to make a swirly looking pool of contrasting colors, and so on. But I could not resist *drawing*. I tried, very hard, not to draw anything recognizable – no coyotes or mice – but it happened once, but not on a plate that I served to a customer. I had been begging them, ‘Don’t let me make anything weird!’ and they were chuckling, because apparently I was feeling anxious all by myself, but it didn’t look too horrible to everybody else. It wasn’t that weird. So the one guy came over and showed me that we could also use a butter brush and make a paint stroke on the plate. I’ve seen it in photos online too. It’s just a single brush stroke that he did. I said, ‘You shouldn’t be showing me how to do even MORE things that are going to be weird! I’m trying to keep it simple!’ Again, everyone was just amused by this.

So I started painting with the butter brush, and ended up making a little scene from his original single brush stroke of red color. I made a bunch of strokes emanating out from a central point, and after making that, I noticed it looked sort of like a palm tree, so I made it into a palm tree beside the ocean. I accidentally added a yellow round sun, too, when I squirted yellow paint on there to make it start flowing. So I had this little palm tree with a sun, and everybody noticed that’s what it was. Word is getting around that I am showing artistic tendencies with these dessert plates. I’m making curvy lines, s-shaped thingies, and once, I even tried to do some kind of weird ass shit with some kind of a tree with green leaves, which was hideous. It was just a failure to aesthetically balance the branches of the tree, which was rigid and unnatural. I’m still not familiar with how these paints flow. They have different thicknesses, and some of them are sticky, which causes them to make a string after you leave a drop, so you have to control that and use it. You also have to put the right nozzle on the bottle, because it has to be the right thickness to get the right kind of line.

I googled ‘dessert plating,’ as the chef suggested, and I saw that people do all this crazy stuff with pastries. He told me that the sculptures were made out of something called ‘tallow,’ but I haven’t researched it yet, and he said it isn’t beef fat, it’s something else. There are these competitions to make dessert sculptures.

Some of the waitresses are telling me that people say the dessert plate is pretty; the one waitress/manager lady asked me about whether I had an artistic background, and I said yes, kind of – I had taken a class in cake decorating briefly a few years ago, and I also used to draw when I was a kid.

It was just physically impossible to surrender, to submit, to obey, and to make something simple and ordinary that followed the rules and didn’t do anything weird. I was terrified of being weird, absolutely terrified, but just could not resist the impulse to start drawing weird things. They told me, ‘You can do whatever you want,’ and I was like, ‘No! You have to tell me NOT to do whatever I want!’ Because if I do whatever I want, I am going to spend half an hour making an elaborate painting on their plate, while being paid by the hour. They want their food sooner or later. I have to learn when to quit. On the first day, I was taking too long, but I physically could not force myself to stop taking so long and stop making such elaborate thingies on the plates. I was terrified but helpless to stop. On the second day that I did the desserts, I was a little faster and was able to keep them a little bit simpler, yet still pretty. And I could not keep doing the same image or shape over and over, either – I would instead try to do a new thing every time, randomly. But because I didn’t understand the texture of these sauces, I couldn’t really draw as easily as I imagined I could, so some of them failed. And it was hard to do things in a hurry. I ended up making lots of s-shaped swirlies with dots on them, as a routine. I’m getting good at making s’s that don’t take too long or get too complicated or too risky.

I can’t explain how it is for me to be physically unable to just do what I’ve been shown and nothing but that. I HAVE TO do something weird, just like I have to breathe. It is physically impossible, physically painful, for me to hold a bottle in my hand that can draw lines, and not use it to make something weird. And they told me explicitly, ‘Do whatever you want!’ That is the worst possible thing you can tell me! Because if you tell me to do whatever I want, I will! And then everyone will regret it!

I’m going to be working a ridiculous number of hours, because I told the head chef I wanted overtime. All my free time has been
sacrificed. I’m not going to be eating, sleeping, or doing anything else but getting up and going to work every day. We’re busy because it’s graduation and it’s also holiday season. He said he will hire some more dishwashers.

And I am thinking consciously about ways that I can go with Jesse wherever he goes. What do I need to accomplish that goal – do I need a rental car, a driver’s license renewal, auto insurance? I can get those things.

I’ve had one day off. I’m going in tomorrow. This job is both a good thing, and a horrible thing. I hate working too much, I hate working at all, and now, I’m probably going to get hired permanently, only to quit my job or take a leave of absence immediately afterwards because I’m going with Jesse. I don’t know where Jesse goes after boot camp is done – does he come home and sit for a while, or does he get stationed right away? I know nothing about the military process.

I am aware that I can get another job at a hotel restaurant elsewhere, an expensive fancy hotel. I just don’t want to screw the Carnegie people by getting hired and then immediately quitting and moving away right after they hire me.

Again… I do not know my future. My short term future is an impossibly insane work schedule this week, where I will have severe burnout, but I will actually be paid real overtime, time and a half. I don’t usually get paid overtime because I’m always working two jobs, since nobody ever gave me overtime before. (I could have worked overtime at TB, but I really didn’t want to spend more time there.) I will do this, but I am barely surviving as it is.

There will be a hair in the food inevitably, because all my clothes are covered with cat hair and my own hair – I have no time or energy to clean or do the laundry, due to chronic fatigue, and I can’t get cat beds, so the cats sleep on my piles of clothes – my house is filthy and disgusting in every way imaginable, and I’m wearing those clothes to work and using a lint roller.

I swore that I would never again buy a Libman brand lint roller, but I did, because it was the only one Weis had – there’s another kind at the pet brushes section, but it was all gone, and I needed one NOW. The Libman lint rollers have tape that pulls off diagonally, and you can’t find the place to start ripping it because all the tape is printed with the word ‘Libman,’ so you can’t see anything. If you do manage to find it, you are likely to peel off two or three layers at a time instead of just one, or rip off only part of the layer and leave the rest of it still covered in lint. And it doesn’t stick very strongly. I only got it because I absolutely had to – both my lint rollers are almost empty.

I’m frantically lint rolling myself every day, but I am so, so, so careful, and I know there will be a hair. I try SO HARD to watch what I’m doing and not let any hairs fall off my clothing. Even after using the lint rollers, I will STILL discover that a piece of hair is attached to my clothing later on, and I will be horrified knowing that it’s been there for hours and could have fallen into anything.

I can’t clean anything or set up a better way to store my laundry and a better bed for the cats to sleep on, because they HAVE to sleep on something, or the cold hard floor, and they can’t always be on my bed when I’m tossing and turning. They sleep in the cardboard boxes, but those aren’t always enough, and that’s cruel. I wanted to make beds for them, but couldn’t, due to all the disasters of the past few months and my lack of money. I just don’t have the time and energy, when I still have severe chronic fatigue and can’t do a decon. And I don’t have the money yet, although after this insane work week, I’ll have the money, but not the time.

I can’t even go shopping to buy new clothes, so I’m wearing just the same couple of t-shirts to work. Again: severe chronic fatigue! I can’t do the simplest things that other people take for granted! And I don’t have a car. I have to go to goodwill, which is fine, but even that requires an errand, even though I’m right next to it and could just walk across my backyard to it if I wanted to go through the little wooded area and down the little cliff. It’s just a really steep little dropoff, covered in stickers and weeds that put burrs all over me.

Tomorrow, for example, I have to be at work at noon. Do you know how hard it is for me to even get up to go to a job at noon? It’s very hard, and I have to catch a bus, which means I have to get up even earlier to be on time for the bus, and I don’t know what time yet that I’ll have to go. I won’t get breakfast, unless I somehow miraculously go shopping for food RIGHT NOW, but I lost this entire day due to resting and recovering from work, and also, due to starting my period and being sick and cramping for several hours because of it. There won’t be any breakfast tomorrow at this rate, and I’ll go to work starving, and drink cups of coffee one after another. I’ll work frantically all day long doing whatever they tell me, and I don’t know exactly what that will be, because I’m also doing prep work, not just dishwashing.

They surprised me and had me bake chocolate chip cookies. They got the recipe off the net. I haven’t made cookies in decades. I might have helped a little bit to make some when I visited Mom recently, but I didn’t do much. I just remembered that usually, you make a ball and put it on the tray and it flattens all by itself. That was what I remembered. I could be wrong. But I made this recipe, after much struggle, after finding the ingredients and the tools, and I made balls and put them on the tray.

They did not flatten. They remained ball-shaped, just flat enough on the bottom to not roll. The chefs jokingly called them macaroons. I figured out that I had to flatten them manually before cooking them, because they did not just melt down by themselves, but by then, it was too late and I had all these weird looking cookie-like objects.

Eventually I salvaged them and put them into a container at the waitress’s area. They started taking them out to customers, and soon, the cookies were all gone. Even though they were weird, people were eating them and people liked them. Everything I do is weird, but apparently not everyone can see it.

I don’t know the future. I can only try to make it through this week, without washing anything or eating anything. It will be one long week of filthy clothing and starvation, with cups of coffee, and with me not even able to take a shower before work because I can’t get up early enough.

I’m grateful for the money, I’m grateful for the overtime, I’m grateful that they’re allowing me to do prep cooking instead of just dishwashing, I’m grateful that people are looking at my slightly artsy dessert plates and my weird macaroon cookies and liking them. This is extremely stressful, but I can tell that it leads someplace better, I just need more control. I need control.

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