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Friday, 1 August 2014

the one with all the gin

The keener-eyed amongst you might notice the glaringly large gap between entries of late; I ought just to skate over this with a flippant 'I've been busy,' but I think perhaps something as indulgent as a food blog allows me enough leg room to fill you in. It has indeed been a busy nine months, within which I finally mustered the guts to abandon waitressing, in spite of its lucrative and flexible nature. The fact is, as any hospitality worker will doubtless tell you, waiting tables is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, if you're good at it you'll be substantially richer than most of your twenty-to-thirty-something compatriots, live unbridled by the monotony of the average 9-5 gig, and you'll spend most of your working life drunk.
There you were thinking a 'Waiter's Friend'
was a bottle opener... No, it's gin. It's
always been gin.
The working environment is (for the most part...) more fun than you can ever imagine, and you'll make friendships that will last a lifetime, forged in sleep-deprived, break-deprived, illicitly obtained gin-fuelled chaos. But the other side?  It's harder work that you can ever imagine, too. Stick the average desk-bound jobsworth in a 200-cover restaurant on a Saturday night when the door have fucked up, the bartender is too drunk to cope and all of the teaspoons have mysteriously disappeared, and I doubt they'd last two minutes. The hours are long, hot and hard. Weekends? Nope. Job security? Reliable rotas? Think again. Hospitality is a line of work where you find yourself completely and utterly at the mercy of general public, and as it turns out, the general public are arseholes.  The lack of structured working routine somehow manages to make the years slip by that little bit quicker than you'd like, and despite any protestations that you're really a writer/actor/ musician/entrepreneur waiting tables part-time, one day you'll wake up and realise that you've been telling politely interested customers that very same thing for six years. Between the 60-hour working weeks, the sore feet, the frazzled brain and an increasing apathy for human beings, your ambitions have somehow fallen by the wayside in a way that no amount of cash, fun or five-finger gin can compensate for.

"So that's a gluten-free,
dairy-free Caesar Salad, no anchovies, dressing
on the side... and 17 tap waters...Why, of
 course you can split the bill...! No, madam,
service isn't mandatory, you're quite right..."
I'd like to point out that this isn't everybody's story. I know plenty of jobbing waiters that have the self-control to use it as a crutch to pay the bills, carving out successful paths in their own industry at the same time. Likewise, I know those who forge pretty lucrative careers within this very line of work, too. But last December, I knew the time was ripe to see out one last Christmas (because I'm a glutton for punishment...) before cutting and running. It had been planned for quite a while; the husband and I had long since ear-marked 2014 as the year to crack on with Important Grown-Up Things, like make a baby and open our own restaurant. Whilst they're not two life goals that might strike you as immediately compatible within such a short time frame, our line of thought seemed quite logical nine months ago: both are notoriously stressful affairs, so why not knock them both out in the same year? Admittedly, we hadn't intended for the two to come to fruition quite in unison (because let's face it- that is silly), but with two weeks to go until we- hopefully- get the all-clear from the meddlesome council folk AND baby's due date, it looks very much as though that's what's going to happen... and I wouldn't have it any other way. We have a network of family and friends so supportive it could choke me up (though that probably has as much to do with hormones as anything else), and a local community that seem pretty on board with the idea of something new appearing that isn't a Tesco Express.

This is Kyrgzstan. For those of
you who weren't entirely sure.
All of this brings me very neatly to the secondary purpose of this post, because I'm not content with just prattling on about myself. August 4th heralds the beginning of The Federation of Small Businesses' Keep Trade Local week- a challenge to, well... I'm sure you get the point. The delights of modern technology have allowed me to establish that despite a great deal of my blog traffic coming from this neck of the woods, a large chunk comes from slightly further afield. Whilst I'm still trying to figure out quite how I've managed to crop up on the radar of so many Kyrgyzstani food enthusiasts, I'll take what I'm given. Anyway, my point is thus:  it doesn't matter where the hell you live- embracing the idea of shopping independently is something that translates to Wycombe, London and Bishkek. In fact, that's possibly the one remaining corner of this earth that Tesco et. al. haven't gotten their grubby little claws into yet. And so, whilst my own little affair isn't up and running yet, as a small, independent business owner I have a vested interest in trying to drum this very message into people's skulls. So- plan your meals. Visit your local fruit and veg man (or woman).Work out your town's market days, get to know those ropey-looking, chain-free side streets of your local area, and identify those tricky-to-procure items (like cat litter, make-up wipes and furniture polish) in advance. Buy them before, if you have genuine concerns about being able to track them down- that way, you can really feel smug at the end of the challenge when you haven't had to cave in to the glowing neon of your local 24 hour supermarket.

That's all I wanted to bother you about this week. I'll end with a shameless plug: this aforementioned little venture of mine- Tin Kitchen- will be up and running as soon as I've mastered the whole baby thing. So keep your eyes peeled for the first couple of weeks in September, if you're local (because who needs maternity leave, eh?) and make sure you're following us on facebook (here), twitter (@tinkitchen) and on this very blog. Because I'll be certain to batter you all across the head with updates when they come (of the cafe variety, not overtly graphic child-birth vein). And for those of you in Kyrgyzstan who can't make it to the grand opening, enjoy this. It's more accurate than you'd like to believe...

Happy local mooching.
mrs hunt.x