I’ve had two very strange dreams in the past week, and because I don’t keep a dream journal I will use my blog as a way to try to interpret them, or at least record them for posterity. I should have done this the day after I had the dreams, because already I am getting a less vivid picture of them in my mind. Hearing about someone’s dreams can sometimes be tedious, (I once new a girl who would recite the previous nights dreams to me in complicated detail lasting, what seemed to be, longer than the time she was asleep) so I will get to the point of the dream as quickly as possible. Both of them occurred while I was finishing up the book about Chef Gordon Ramsay, and they are both food related, which is interesting because I believe that reading the book awoke something from my subconscious which manifested itself into these dreams.
In the first dream I was cooking with my mother. (I feel red flags going up from the Freudians already.) This is not so unusual a scenario because I cook with my mother quite often, especially during the holidays. The location was odd however, we were neither at my house or hers but at the house of some old friends my parents have known since my sisters and I were very young. This isn’t surprising either because I had recently visited this house. But what happened next has me baffled. We were both very involved in the dish we were cooking, and while we were examining the recipe we realized that it called for cat. At that time there was a cat purring at our feet. I found myself picking the cat up and putting it on the cutting board. (read on, it doesn’t end like you think).
This was a dilemma, to make this dish properly I would have to do away with this cat. Now I know there are enough cat haters out there who would be fine with this prospect but I happen to like cats, I have two, and I’m the kind of flake who would rather put a cricket outside in the yard than squish it. But I’m a chef, or I was one, and if this recipe called for cat I would have to do this. This is the part that kind of freaks me out; I actually started thinking about, how, after the cat had met its fate, I would go about quartering the carcass to use in the recipe. This must have been a fricassee, or maybe a cat au vin.
My compassion won out and I put the cat back on the floor, but for that instant, when I was considering the other option, I realized that I had become a complete technician, putting aside my regard for life because of my duty to my skill. If I had actually killed the cat in the dream, I would have thrown myself on the nearest psychotherapy couch and stayed there until the right prescription was administered.
Just now, while I was writing this, I realized that there was another factor that may have influenced this dream. Two weeks ago I watched the Ang Lee film Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. This is the story of a Taiwanese master chef, and much of the film is of the main character cooking unprecedented dishes. In some cases he has to kill his ingredients on the spot, going out to catch and kill a chicken or having a carp meet its end with the help of some chopsticks. Some of this movie must have filtered into my mental file-cabinet appearing later in the form of the dream about the cat. I think at a deeper level the dream is about my leaving the cooking profession for other pursuits, something about the sacrifice being too high for me to remain. Killing the cat was just too much for me, and if it meant abandoning the recipe, it was worth it to keep my peace of mind.
In the second dream I didn’t have to play so much the role of Solomon. It was just one of your run of the mill “school’s started and I haven’t done my homework” type of dream. But this wasn’t at school; it was in Chef Ramsay’s kitchen! And it wasn’t really a kitchen; it was this market on the upper west-side of Manhattan where my sister and brother-in-law took me a couple of years ago. I had just shown up for work right when service was beginning.
The Chef was nowhere to be seen but I felt that he would inevitably come out of nowhere and start barking at me like a rottweiler. In the meantime my immediate supervisor was Charlie Trotter, the brilliant a-hole chef from Chicago. He had neglected to tell me what I was supposed to prep and yelled at me for not knowing, and I remember thinking to myself, “oh lord here we go again.” Luckily this dream ended shortly after this incident and I had that great rush of relief when you wake to find yourself in your own bed and four more hours until the alarm goes off.
I believe that this second dream is again an indication of how glad I am to be out of that world. But what’s strange is that the further I get away from living in that world, the more voyeuristic I get about keeping up with it from the outside. I watched a marathon of a chef competition reality show called Top Chef on Sunday, and, try as I might, I couldn’t stop watching. I disliked these shows when I was actually in that world, and even now I wouldn’t want to watch them with anyone present because I am very vocal throughout. I’m like that obnoxious fan who sits behind you at the football game who second guesses the coach, the referee, and the quarterback loudly in your ear for three hours. “Why the hell would you make a watermelon gratin you bozo?” or, “You are the most vapid, grasping, falsely-confident woman I’ve ever seen, it’s obvious that the producers picked you only because you look good on camera.” This last remark was about a judge on the show.
I might need to take a step back from these shows. My cable went out on Monday night, the night that Hell’s Kitchen airs, and I was despondent. But I took Booker out on the porch and listened to some music instead, and forgot about the fact that somewhere someone was probable throwing something at someone else while screaming insults at another. The porch, at that moment, seemed like a very peaceful place.