Yachta Mache - 7
By this time, we had switched rotations, and Carolyn and I left the Diet Therapy office. But we had heard that records were kept on all of us, and one night when we were the only ones left in the office, I went through Miss Stang's desk and found our reports. So we read ours, which were both very good, so I was pleased about that, and didn't feel in the least bit uncomfortable about my snooping.
My next job was to work in the main kitchen. I remember well my first day there, and how worried I was about it. And my nerves were obviously visible, because Otis, the deputy head cook, said, “You probably have never in your life seen black people, am I right?”
“Not really,” I admitted.
“Well, you know, you are soon to find out that we are just like anybody else.” Otis was always my favourite of all the men in the kitchen. A few of them I got to know more intimately, but he was the one I really liked. He became my confidant, and when I had a relationship which turned out wrong, it was him that I went to tell about it and to look for advice.
We never actually did any cooking while we were there. But we needed to make sure that the food was being cooked, and done on time, and everything was in place for the various meals. The cooks knew so much more than we did, that it was silly that we were the ones in charge. They had to call us “Miss Whatever” and we called them all by their first names.
I got my “Yachta Mache,” each day from Signund,(far left in the picture) and if I asked him how things were going, he would say, “Everything's copacetic, Miss Wyngarden.” I had to taste the diet food, and it was awful, no salt, so sugar, bland. I pitied the poor patients who had to eat it. It might make them better, but certainly not happier.
I had my first introduction to eggplant, which the English call aubergine. We had it deep fried, and it was on the staff menu several days each week.
The worst part of the job was when you were on early duty – 5.30 a.m. - as the key holder, had to be the one to open the gates and let the workers in. There were always mice scurrying around, and the guys knew how scared I was. After awhile, they decided to fool me with a fake mouse, and every time I came near one of the sections, they would make sure it was in view. I quickly realised that it was a fake, but that didn't stop them from having their fun.
I had an admirer in the kitchen. I didn't know who it was, because the man wrote me poems almost ever day, and left them in the office, unsigned. I think probably all the men knew that this was going on, and they were watching me to see how I readted and if I could find out who the author was.
There were many younger men amongst the employees, but two stuck out as likely candidates. One was from Cuba whose name was Miquel but everyone called him Mike. He worked in the refreshment area, and made the milk shakes and other health related drinks. He was about 30 I should think, and was plumpish but very friendly and good fun. His eyes sparkled when I came into the room, and he would always manage to get very close and touch my arm or hand as part of the
The other one was called Hector and he was from Puerto Rico. Hector was one of the mouse-teasers, but he also grinned from ear to ear when I went into his vegetable preparation area. He was younger than Mike and he was slim and good looking. And as luck would have it, the poems were from him.