Race week in Key West is a massive boondoggle for me. I wake, look out at the water, drink coffee, write until noon, personal writing, then head to the house where I cook for 12 to 16 people every night.
I straighten the kitchen, throw away a few forgotten red plastic cups with limes floating in them, make a list, do some shopping, prep what can be done ahead (make some sauces, or a stock, pick and blanch green veg). Then I go back to my room at The Galleon, condos right on the docks, and have some coffee and write and re-write some more.
Donna is back in snowy cold Cleveland with the kids and the dog until next week, and I’m not exactly getting any money-making work done, just some personal non-food writing to restore the soul. So, after I finish writing in the morning, writing I feel good about, the days are a little anxious, in a vague, someone’s-following-you-but-you-can’t-turn-around-and-look kind of way. Why am I in Key West? What am I doing here?
Until I get back to the house in the evening, 324 Elizabeth Street, a lovely little place with a white picket fence, and I start to cook.
Then I feel better. I need to be cooking. Or writing. I put out some salumi and cheese. The sailors arrive, the boys and girl from the boat, a few strays and partners.
“Can I make you a Dark and Stormy?” one of the sailors asks, and I say, “Yes absolutely, many thanks.” And Jim asks “What can I do?” “Start the fire,” I say. And Doug asks “What can I do?” and I say, “Mince some garlic.” And I check the meat and get things ready and then others help set the tables. And before I know it, thanks to Jim and Doug and the others, dinner is ready—duck confit, arugula salad, poached egg, Carolina barbecue, steak and lobster—good food, and people are happy.
Sometimes we plate, but usually we serve family style and sit and people begin eating immediately, while it's hot, but when everyone is at the table, Captain Rob makes inspiring remarks, raising his glass,
and, once, only once, I get up and preach about the importance of cooking and serving and eating and cleaning up together and how wise it was of Cap’n Rob to bring me down here and happily no one disagrees, and we eat and we drink, and the sailors talk about the race and what they’ll do different tomorrow, and then others wash up, and the kitchen is clean and the boys head to Duvall and Cap’n Rob and his partner-wife-sailor sweet Abigail head for a nightcap at the quiet, civilized Tarpon bar before bed, and I wander with the boys and have a smoke but don’t linger long on Duvall, which I can’t stand. It’s worse than Vegas. It’s kind of like a scratchy spot underneath Las Vegas’s sweaty T-shirt. So I wobble on home to look over the day’s work.
And the boys don’t stay out too late because there’s a race tomorrow and return for one last smoke on the balcony.
And then it starts all over again.