The cauldrons hunch, squat, stainless steel line backers ready for the scrimmage, spigots rhythmically dripping off their gaping, gleaming lips. The grating match inflames a distant roar beasts pawing at dusty floors ready to feed like sharks on a wounded seal. The match ignites the pilot, the aisle bursts into steaming life. Water gushes into the waiting cauldrons gulping with steam, souters crack frozen snow peas and iced greens striking smoking oil. Steam fills the aisle, our stained aprons cling to our legs wet tissue above our black boots. Turmeric and basil smoke glaze our eyes, snapping the hairs in the far back of our noses like snickering sharp toothed creatures. We wade through the scented sauna as in a hazy dream. The head chef roars through blanket layers of mist, a Southern bull cursing and telling jokes fit to make a biker blush. His silver spoon dips in here and there followed by clouds of cayenne dusting through the heavy wet air, gobs of mustard leaving the food in the wake of the Cajun after-taste. A steam pipe clogs. The cauldron buckles and coughs sending the spinach splashing, groping, a green pond beast trying to escape its metallic shores. Our paddles beat it back into submission. Boiling water hits the floor, our rubber boots slosh through a searing tide, an ankle deep swirl, blood red beet water and pasta starch. Through the mists the rovers peer like Golems descending upon a subterranean picnic. Two massive trolls, their cigarette breaths chuckle at bad jokes, through scarred yellow teeth. They scoop the food cramming it into stainless steel pots. Back they limp through the steam two swamp beasts slaving to appease the masses with the salts of our sweat. The waters drain from the cauldrons, spiral vortex sweep the souters clean pooling on the floor about the kitchen drains. The squat, stainless steel line backers sit, the flickering fluorescents dully gleaming off their gapping steel lips.
By Emile Stansberry
© Emile Stansberry 1995