Friday, January 11, 2008

If you're confused, see last week's post.

It's like baseball.

I don't remember learning how to play baseball, or kickball either. I understand bases and outs the same way I understand brushing my teeth or getting dressed, the logic to it is an ancient foundation in my mind, so old that it has always been.

And that's what sandwiches were for Earl. Sandwiches were like baseball. Bread, something else, bread. Of course! How else would you do it? Sandwiches just made sense, which is precisely why it took a long time before he realized that he was good at making them.

Looking back on his life now, his sandwich aptitude had always been there. Earl started making his own lunches at an early age, once he realized that his mother would never understand how some jellies went with crunchy peanut butter, some went with smooth, and only a select few were reserved for extra-chunky.

And he can remember being asked to make sandwiches for school events, parties, all kinds of things growing up. At the time he hadn't thought much of these requests. Someone asked him to make sandwiches, he liked making sandwiches, it was perfect. It never occurred to him that sandwiches could be a direction for his life.

It wasn't until Earl got his first job at "Vaguely Sounds Like a Foreign Word for 'Bread", when he got his first look at the dark world of corporate sandwiching, that he knew he'd found his purpose. The job had been a difficult time for Earl. Everyday was a new fight with the kitchen manager, another reprimand for "improvising," another explanation of why "asiago" and "chipotle" were not magic deliciousness potions. The kitchen manager didn't understand. Recipes aren't commandments, they're someone else's best guess! If everyone followed the recipe exactly there would be no recipes except the first one!

Earl remembers that job with sadness, yet it was one of the most important things that ever happened to him. Until you see someone doing it wrong, you don't realize how important it is that other people go out and do it right. Only in the moment after he screamed "But they won't even taste the mayonnaise, and it will keep the oil from making the bread soggy!" did Earl, stunned at his own sentence, know he had a gift.

The gift became work, the work became learning, the learning became mastery. The mastery became blackened beef, cheddar, fried egg, and tomato, all on a fresh onion roll.

Thanks Earl.*

*His name is probably not Earl, but man that sandwich was good. Really good.

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