Satellites & Dinnertime

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Satellites and Dinner time by Emma Chow for MamaBakeby Emma Chow

“Should your phone ever be lost or stolen and you have installed the app, you should be able to locate it on a computer or other piece of Apple tech. I use this app nearly every day, but not to recover a lost phone. I use it to track my partner’s movements.”

If you have an iPhone, you might also have or know about the ingenious little app known as ‘Find my iPhone’. Should your phone ever be lost or stolen and you have installed the app, you should be able to locate it on a computer or other piece of Apple tech. I use this app nearly every day, but not to recover a lost phone. I use it to track my partner’s movements. In an age where we cannot live without our mobile phones, tracking a phone is as good as tracking a person. Don’t get me wrong, this is a voluntary exercise. He could turn off the app if he didn’t want me to find him. Though I suppose this would be more suspicious an act than if I located him in a mysterious place. We use this app for one thing and one thing only: hot meals.

Out of all the chef work I’ve done most people think that the worst was when I was pastry chef. The 5am starts and uncertain finishing times were pretty bad, and it ruined my social life. But the hardest chef work I’ve actually ever done is the breakfast shift.

For most people, breakfast is a very personal meal. Everyone has a specific idea of ‘done-ness’ that each item on their plate should achieve. Breakfasts generally don’t do very well under the hot lights of the pass; eggs dry out, bacon becomes rubbery, avocado browns. Often these plates don’t go under the heat lamps at all and so get cold faster. Fail to get breakfasts to patrons as soon as they’re cooked and plated, and you get meals sent back. People are crankier, hungrier and fussier in the morning. As plates come back, more new orders come in. You’re seconds from losing your mind and drowning in stress. Then you burn things, mess up orders, and forget stuff. It’s a nightmare; I’ve actually spent so many nights dreaming about mornings like this that I’ve inadvertently caused them by not getting enough sleep. So after years of this I’ve become obsessed with getting hot meals to the table. If I’m going to cook a hot meal – and I do this every day, sometimes three times a day on weekends – everyone’s got to be seated and be ready to enjoy it.

At workday’s end I watch my man make his way to the nearest train station for the hour long train ride home. Sometimes he takes the car, and I watch him pick his way through the city and onto the freeway. Occasionally he tries a new route which gets him stuck in all kinds of peak hour traffic and I rant and rave at the little flashing dot on my screen. I’m trying to time my dinner preparations so that everything will be ready five minutes after he walks in the door; enough time to put down his bag, take off his shoes, greet the children and sit down.

“Cooking is the one thing I feel I know how to do properly, the only thing I was ever taught by an expert. I’m raising my babies on books, internet advice and guesswork, cleaning the house in the most haphazard and slapdash way I know how.”

It’s been nearly two years since I stood in a commercial kitchen, but I can’t shake the obsession. Because my partner is the breadwinner, my main contribution has become the housework, child-rearing and cooking. Cooking is the one thing I feel I know how to do properly, the only thing I was ever taught by an expert. I’m raising my babies on books, internet advice and guesswork, cleaning the house in the most haphazard and slapdash way I know how. I’m fairly certain that before I became a chef, the main thing I brought to the relationship was sex. But babies make you realise that bed really needs to be a place of rest, when you can get it.

Like when I use a GPS generated route on the Maps program and the electronic voice tells me that I’ve arrived at my destination and that I should stop, when in fact I’m still on the freeway and if I stop my car I will most certainly die.  

Sometimes this system backfires on me. I don’t know why the satellites lose the signal sometimes or why it says he’s not where he actually is, but it does happen. Like when I use a GPS generated route on the Maps program and the electronic voice tells me that I’ve arrived at my destination and that I should stop, when in fact I’m still on the freeway and if I stop my car I will most certainly die.   Once, the app placed him at different points in a city park for an hour. Even when he walked in the door carrying his phone, the dot didn’t move from the little green park on the map. Dinner was late that night.

It may not be the intended use of the program, but it’s better, more accurate, and less nagging than having him call me through the trip home.

‘I’m half an hour away.’

‘The train got delayed so I’m still going to be another 40 minutes.’

‘I’ll be there in 10. Wait, no, there’s an accident ahead, maybe more.’

This would be far more annoying for both of us. He imagines the looks on the other passenger’s faces as he makes his repeated reports. I tend to injure myself when I talk to people while cooking. We’d have more arguments if he called, more hospital visits. Safe in the knowledge that modern spy technology keeps track of him; my partner enjoys a quiet read and listens to music on his journey. I stand in my kitchen and time my preparations to the movements of a little dot on my screen. When he gets home, our family has hot meals together and my obsessive need to make this happen is satisfied. We agree not to talk about the unfolded piles of washing. He tells me not to worry about the meals, he doesn’t mind them cold. But he knows from the hard glare in my eyes that this will not do. He will sit down and eat his hot dinner. It’s just my crazy way of showing that I care.

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