Feeling a little under the weather last week, I was inspired to make a pot of chicken soup with rice, something that never fails to bring a smile to my face, along with memories of the café I owned in Sausalito.
There were many wonderful things about owning a café. Regular customers were great—getting to visit with the same set of people most every day, getting to know them and be part of their lives. I love that I provided a place that they considered their “place.”
Doing a lot of cooking was great. Even though I wasn’t in the kitchen every day, I cooked more in five years than most people cook in a lifetime. It was incredible practice.
But possibly the greatest thing about my café was Kate.
Kate was my friend Monica’s roommate. She was also an accomplished home cook and looking for a job. Monica fixed us up and the rest is history. Kate was my chef, friend, and most valued employee for four and a half years. She’s still my friend.
Kate cooked and I manned the counter. As we worked, we gabbed, sang to the music on the stereo, and generally just had a good time together. We talked about food. We talked about the customers. We made faces at each other through the cut-out in the wall that separated the kitchen from the front counter, especially when a customer was being particularly particular.
We talked about our boyfriends. And when our boyfriends became our fiancés, we planned our weddings together (hers was two weeks after mine).
The café served a daily soup, and semi-regularly that soup was chicken with rice. Making it always prompted Kate to sing a little song inspired by a book from her childhood, Maurice Sendak’s “Chicken Soup with Rice.”
I have a lot of not-so-wonderful memories of the café—working hard, worrying about money, being constantly understaffed—but the memory of Kate in the kitchen singing “chicken soup with rice is nice” on, say, a Wednesday afternoon when we were busy and tired and having a good time all at once more than makes up for them.