At 4 am I wake up and start to worry about the peaches. If I cut them too early, they’ll rot. But I know what it’s like to be on the firing line — stripped of resources, panicked for time, feet swelling from the weight of my body. Between slewing plates of pork, tossing fruit and scrambling eggs, there won’t be time to cut the peaches later.
By 7, I’m in the cramped quarters of Mayday’s kitchen. Searing off sausage, whisking batter for French toast.
Part rock n’ roll, part dive bar, part foodie haven — Mayday has taken to serving Sunday brunch every weekend. And in the resident cook’s absence, I’ve been called to craft and cook the menu.
At 11, the tickets start to pump through the window. At first sight, I lunge in their direction. I read their contents aloud:
2 breakfast sandwiches, no eggs. 1 French toast. 3 carnitas, salsa verde on the side. 2 carnitas, eggs over easy. 2 breakfast sandwiches.
But as the words twist their way through my lips, they echo nonsense. The language I’m hearing is Greek. Or Russian. Or Latin. Whatever it is, it makes my body go cold.
Which task to do first? If I cook the eggs, they’ll be cold before the pork is ready. But If I do the pork first, there’ll be no time for the French toast. And then, deep in my belly, I have the gripping fear that if I don’t unclog my thoughts, I’ll have to face one of the most humiliating defeats of my adult life.
Meanwhile, my fellow cooks have stirred to action. The first is my sister. As a favor to me, she’s grunting it out by the window — assembling garnishes in a flurry of activity — one that requires a thorough understanding of the menu. The night before we had rehearsed: serve the fruit with the toast but not the pork. The queso fresco goes with the taco. The cheddar goes with the sandwich.
My second cohort is a friend from culinary school. She first cracks two eggs over heat, but they both break — scorching the pan and sending in our first wave of panic. There’s no time to clean it out and start again. We adapt.
What starts as a 10 by 20-inch plug-in griddle intended only for French toast is transformed into a multi-course breakfast workhorse. Everything that needs heat goes on top. And over the course of the next 5 hours, every hungry mouth is fed with 1,000 watts.
That’s not to say we don’t blow the power. Because we do. Twice during prep, every working machine looses its juice and sends my heart somewhere halfway up my throat.
But we survive. In fact, we find our groove somewhere in the last half of the second hour when we discover how to move around each other — not into each other. When the look in our eyes replace words. And our synchrony becomes the key to how fast each plate travels from our hands to the dining room.
It’s 4 pm. The last diner swings the door behind them. We take a seat at the bar and our friend, the bartender*, slings several shots across the counter. The harshness of the liquor burns our stomachs but something else lights instead.
A cross between relief and exhaustion, we glug it down and make a toast.
* Thanks to Joe for this opportunity.
Mayday serves brunch every Sunday from 11am – 4pm. Find Mayday at 4227 Spring Grove Ave. Cincinnati, OH.