Occasionally, my job allows me to think probably a little too much for my own good. I suppose its the nature of working pastry in a restaurant, you wait and wait and wait, then all your orders come in at once. C’est la vie.
This week was filled with shelling peanuts and pecans, both of which are beloved in Georgia, and I now have a deeper appreciation for, especially full halves. Although this task fully occupies your hands, you’re left staring at them, and your mind wanders or races in thousands of directions. As I stared at my hands, I began to notice how easily they moved, using a pick to get all the meat from the nuts, and then it got me to thinking about Anthony Bourdain.
A bit of a jump? No, not really. I finally got to reading Kitchen Confidential (it was published in 2000, that’s right, almost twelve years afterwards) and there are two times he discusses how his hands look. First, when he has a revelation in a professional kitchen, still fairly green out of school and trying to show off. He’s quickly put in his place, and then, the lightbulb. Another cook shows him his hands, and it becomes his goal to have hands like that. The second time, Bourdain is looking back on his career and notices his hands, happy that he’s accomplished his goal to have the hands he wanted. I’ve had a few people mention this to me, also seeking to have hands like that.
My hands are not like that. I don’t have the tell tale callus of a cook at the junction of the index finger and palm. I don’t have the scars on fingers and knuckles from cuts and knives that got a little too close. My hands are different. I have the callus of a pastry cook, at the pinky and palm from whisks, spatulas, and wooden spoons. I have the stripes from the oven getting too friendly. But I’m still young, and I haven’t been in the kitchen long.
As I stared at my hands, noticing the burns from cooking sugar, I got to thinking about other chef’s hands. How do they look? And wouldn’t that be an interesting study? What of the hands of Thomas Keller, Daniel Buolud, Paul Bocuse, Grant Achatz, Alex Stupak, Michael Laiskonis, Ferran Adira, and all the rest? Hands are one of the most difficult things to accomplish in art. How much more difficult the hands of a chef? Of a construction or factory worker? Of a woodworker?
It reminds me of a line I heard once, shortly after Kitchen Confidential was published, of a woodworker who had passed away. He was a man who loved spending time building, and built my sisters and me a wonderful dollhouse, which we still have and love: “He went to the Master Woodworker with all ten fingers. And now he’ll use those hands to bring Him glory.”
What a blessing, to have these hands, to think of all the wonderful things they can accomplish. But also of all the things that aren’t so wonderful. These hands, with all ten fingers, whether callused and burned or soft, how are you using them for God’s glory? That’s what I pray for. When one day I look back on the hands, all the burns from ovens, the cuts from knives, the calluses from utensils and rolling pins, that I can honestly stand before the Lord and say, “With these hands, I brought Thee glory.”