You’d be thinking, with a title like that, we are going to get another kale smoothie or a healthy drink for guilty January… Not a chance! “The Juice”, is the French slang word for “busy”. It can be used in two different ways: “I am in the juice”, meaning that you are very busy, loads of work, bang-bang, can’t talk too much but you can manage, you are in control… On the other hand when you say ( and this could be very Breton) “ I have taken a juice”, means that tunnel vision has taken over, you have lost that control and start focusing on the one thing, while the situation around you gets more and more critical. Right now, I can only think of three professions where “Juice intake” can have various consequences. If you “take a juice” while at the helm of a plane, you and your passengers better hope that your co-pilot spots the symptoms early, or it could have a dramatic outcome. Same with air traffic controllers I guess. If you work in a call centre and start to feel overwhelmed by the volume of people treating you like a human carpet, you might want to take five, before you tell someone to go eat a lemon, which could get you an early P45 ( the end of employment form in Ireland). Then they are the cooks and the chefs; “Taking a juice” is just not an option, even if you might hear stories, it’s not ok… The phrase “it happened to all of us” is not ok… That sentence of fake empathy echoing “it’s not your fault… It’s not your fault” … You don’t know what it feels like, but I know… It happened to me once, eighteen years ago; time to face your demons Franckie Boy, time to share it with the world…
1998 was coming to a close on Galway Bay, the weekend was about to start in the Western Irish city, Babylon here I come! What a year! France won the World Cup, Galway the All Ireland Gaelic Football Final… Business as usual in the City of Tribes, always ready to party. I got a job in a cool wine bar/ restaurant, hanging precariously above the Corrib river. I was fairly new to the business, only three years, but I loved it. The Finnish owner took me under her wing, in this incredible stone building named after the local street “The Long Walk”. I worked with two guys from Brittany, Lolo and Eddy, and Gégène from Lorraine. Behind the bar, there was Daria, the extravagant Aussie waitress with pointy glasses and a chiffon headscarf, pouting outrageously at the regulars with her crimson red lipstick, between two loud bursts of laughter.
It was the Port of Call of all the Fringe, Artists, Judges, Doctors, Poets and Musicians, all those who didn’t care too much about fuss. The tone was honest, “if you don’t like it no one is forcing you to stay” kind of policy; the music was good and we often drunk with the customers, behind the bar and there was always a bottle of red open in the kitchen. The system was simple; you’d come in in the morning, check your fridges, and start writing a shopping list while leaving the Spanish Arch. Nearly everything was on blackboards, only a couple of classics would remain, like the Fish soup, Country platters or the Warm Port salad. We could go nuts with the rest, which allowed us to have a better control of the stocks and also have a bit of fun. The fishmonger had some Monkfish, and I got a few portions for Friday night; they were fresh and an idea started to germinate; a friend of mine used to do something like a basil sauce with it, and it worked so well! We went back to the restaurant and Harriet asked me:
– So, what are you going to do with your fish?
– I am going to make a sauce with leeks, shallots and mushrooms, and a bit of basil pesto at the end.
– Yes, creamy, white wine, basil pesto at the end.
– I like it! How many portions have you got?
– I have 12 to see how it goes…
– What are you going to call it?
– I was thinking of “Monkfish Forestière”, Earthy, you know?
– I know… Hence the mushrooms uh?
The recipe was really well received by our customers, I was overwhelmed with pride and confidence, this meant a lot to me! My Finnish boss was also very pleased and asked me to do something we rarely did; to put it again on the menu for Saturday. What an honour!
The restaurant was getting full, the orders were falling steady and all went well until mid-service; I don’t really know what happened, I did the exact same thing as a dozen of times before, fried the fish and dipped a teaspoon in the sauce for taste before serving: nothing… More white wine, more pesto… Nothing, no taste. The voice of our favourite waitress was getting fainter and fainter: “Order in!”, “order in”, “order in!”… And no more “Order out” from me. I was still trying to get my sauce right without success. Lolo, who had professional training from France, spotted fairly quickly my misfortune, and realised what was happening to me. As the kitchen was a two-man operation, he gently invited me to go on starters and desserts. Disillusioned and in disbelief, I finished the busy Saturday service like this, without a lot of words shared, no more jokes. We cleaned the kitchen before heading for a pint on the harbour and Lolo slapped me on the shoulder:
– You alright?
– Yes… I am sorry, I don’t know what happened!
He looked at me, kind of amused, with a compassionate smirk and a giggle, his hand flat in front of my nose, going rapidly and repeatedly from left to right in a frenzied manner:
– Hey! Relax! You just “took a juice”, that’s all!
– A juice?
– Bah ouais! A “juice” like! You know ? A juice !
I smiled back, realising that it had happened to all of them before; a rite of passage and his welcoming slap on the back was the misdemeanour I needed to see, changing my feelings from shame to acceptance. I was now part of the pack and no more shall this Breton was to be seen “taking a juice” ever again.( Recipe coming out soon)
Keep Well and Eat Happy