In my final year of school I was lucky enough to be encouraged by dad to get a part-time job in the career I was looking at. Through a family friend at the Labour department I got connected with a weekend job assisting in the Kitchens at one of the local boarding schools. During the year I learnt a lot of cookery tips & recipes from the Nuns but it was not until many years later I realised the work ethics that they were quietly instilling in me.
Over winter it was always nice and warm in the kitchen with the big Aga stove going with meat cooking and the parsley infusing in the milk for the white sauce.
By contrast it was freezing cold in the back alleyway where the potato peeler was located. I didn’t like peeling the potatoes – it was dirty, cold, wet work – although it was peaceful and I was left alone with my thoughts on those days when I was assigned to Potato duties. Some weekends one of the boarders did the potatoes and I was in the warm of the kitchen helping make sauces, gravies, salads and desserts. Not only was it warm but I chatted away with Sister Maureen and the other Nuns who assisted in the kitchen from time to time.
Many years later when I was doing study in Hospitality Management and in particular Organisational management and workplace psychology I had to find examples of ways employers develop their workplace culture….and suddenly the lights came on. Sister Maureen had been teaching me what was acceptable and not acceptable in her kitchen. When I was hungover and shabby – I did potatoes. When I was bright eyed and bushy tailed – I did fun cooking. No lectures, no warnings, no cranky looks…… I worked there for most of the year, every Saturday and Sunday for about three hours…..and never actually realised that I was in control of how often I got to peel potatoes out in the cold!!!!
Sister Maureen had the patience of a Saint. In her quiet, gentle way she taught me a very valuable lesson that took me a while to see but has stayed with me ever since.
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