Have you ever seen The Frugal Gourmet?
It was a cooking show on public television, featuring cooking techniques and recipes. Many weekend afternoons I would grab a pile of cookbooks from the shelf in our kitchen and sit in the living room with my Dad to watch chef Jeff Smith discuss and prepare some fancy meal. 6-year-old-me would sit and salivate over dishes like Chicken Marsala and Beef Wellington, while asking my Dad which menu we might cook some day.
The Frugal Gourmet didn’t just demonstrate how to saute or blanch something. He took exotic trips and showcased cuisine from different parts of the world, a world that seemed so large and intangible to me back then. In particular, he took a trip to Morocco and shopped the markets, buying exotic ingredients like saffron, from beautiful women who danced and played finger cymbals.
I became a flight attendant with a major airline because of the Frugal Gourmet. I wanted to see Morocco. I wanted to buy saffron and one of those brass spice mills. I wanted to meet people from Denmark. I wanted to make friends from Brazil. I wanted a bigger world.
I went to Morocco.
In fact, I saw so many different countries, either through work or through travel benefits, that some layovers became a nuisance. “Ugh, I have 50 hours in Shanghai… AGAIN.” I visited every U.S. state. I hiked almost every national park. I made the absolute most of every new location.
What do you do?
I fell in love with the profession. What began as a means to get from point A to point B became a life. Layovers meant time. Time meant experiences. I talked to the people around me, passengers, crew, friends and locals. I welcomed every chance to have a cup of coffee with someone new and hear their life story. These conversations often began with the common question “what do you do?” I started to feel that people are so often defined by their work, their profession or their trade.
As I bonded with my coworkers, I became more engaged with my labor union and the political turmoil within my community. Now, in addition to listening, I began to speak up. I moved from my role in life as tourist, to active advocate. I eventually left the airlines to become a union organizer, and later a union representative.
Today, I am proud to be a mother of two young children, a wife to a guy who can fix cars and loves history, a friend to working people and a community activist in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. The world seems smaller now, but possibilities endless.
When I am not working, or watching the Disney movie Frozen for the millionth time, or playing peekaboo, or cleaning up barbies or reading Goodnight Moon, I enjoy cooking, writing and asking people “what do you do?”