Archives for posts with tag: food


Hot Fudge Sauce
by Susan W. Goldstein

One of my least favorite, between college semester jobs, was in an ice cream shop . . . excuse me: Shoppe. The owner was a dirty old man who would pinch my butt whenever I was leaning in to scoop from the drums of hard-as-rock ice cream. I was too shocked to say anything, but I am certain that he lost money that summer, as I ate most of the profits when he wasn’t looking. (I mean, have you tried rum raisin with hot fudge sauce?)

One incident evolved into a long-standing family joke. A customer was trying to be helpful, as she pointed out that I had a big drip of hot fudge sauce on my collar bone. I looked down and didn’t see anything, so she pointed. And I began to laugh! It was a beauty mark that would forever be called my “hot fudge sauce.”

I did not return to this store the following summer. Instead, I sought employment at the Weed Pizza Parlor, its unofficial name. At night, after closing, the manager would make pizza that was covered, not in oregano, but in non-medicinal marijuana. I was still a naïf, and would run home to my parents and report what those wild and wicked kids were doing. My folks just advised me to keep working during the day, because summer was almost over and I guess that my mom didn’t want my whiney little self hanging around.

IMAGE: “Hot Fudge Sundae” by Sandy Tracey. Prints available at

 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I don’t know why I took these crummy minimum wage jobs, instead of applying for internships or something useful. Perhaps I knew back then that I would one day need to draw from each of these experiences to fuel my writing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan W. Goldstein is Livin’ la Vida Loca in Delray Beach, Florida — if you define such as a sensible bedtime and early rising to begin typing away on her little laptop. She has been proudly published in Mothers Always Write, Silver Birch Press, Mamalode, Medium, and JustBe Parenting, Lunch Box (Issue 11: Summer/Fall 2017 ), and is a winner of Hyland’s “A Mother Knows” campaign. Coming up later this month:  Sammiches & Psych Meds.  Follow her blog, at

cassia beck
The Job I Hated, But Needed
by Amanda Eifert

My first job was a leap, caused a limp,
Applied at the DQ, the manager was likable.
Trainees had three-hour shifts,
And no one explained how the take-out and eat-in system worked;
The manager yelled at me on my second shift.
I didn’t understand if he needed workers,
Why I had one shift each week of only three hours;
Never long or often enough to catch on.
I practiced endless ice cream cones and Sundaes.
I made delicious blizzards, brownie desserts, and treats.
When the milk shake machine exploded on me,
I held my breath and cleaned up the mess,
I was screamed at and no other worker defended me.
I felt isolated and tried to be friendly,
Then, I was told I needed to get along with the staff better.
I received stilted conversations, older girls who were mean to me.
Somehow I understood why:
They were stuck at the DQ in their twenties,
I was just fifteen with life before me.
Most shifts I spent washing dishes,
With the only “angel” in the kitchen;
A woman who decorated cakes,
Told me it wasn’t right I was only working three-hour shifts.
She said I was too pretty to be working there;
So when September came I quit.
Three months and barely $400.00.
I was thankful for the blessing of an odd tip,
After the manager yelled at me in front of a crowd,
Cute boys who slid an extra toonie my way with a smile.

IMAGE: “Ice Cream” by Cassia Black. Prints available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I hated working at the DQ in the summer of grade 10, but it was the only job I could get at the time. It was as you can read above, a humiliating experience. A great deal of it had to do with never being given enough shifts so that I could learn my job properly beyond making ice cream treats. I was barely given one three-hour shift a week and often sent home and not paid for the hours I did not work. This example of an awful manager affected my outlook on work profoundly. It taught me how to never humiliate or embarrass people who work under you or who you are training. In later jobs, I learned to be gentle with people when trying to help them correct mistakes or errors. I hated that job at DQ so much I refused to eat or buy anything at that location until the DQ was under new management.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amanda Eifert  is a writer, freelancer, and blogger in Alberta, Canada. She has poetry and short fiction published online for,, and on on Instagram. She has an English BA and is working towards an MFA program in Creative Writing. You can visit her blog at and @mandibelle16 on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.


Blue Hair and Game Hens
by Karen Sawyer

I was 17 and working as a banquet waitress at a formal event of mostly elderly people. The first course went smoothly, but no one warned me about the slippery main course, Cornish game hens and sautéed vegetables. As I leaned over to serve the plate in my right hand, the hen on the plate in my left hand slipped right off the plate and down the back of a lady whose hair and gown were both a pale shade of blue. We were both shocked and horrified. Not knowing what to do next, I ripped the napkin off her lap and started wiping the greasy mess off her back, then I grabbed the Cornish game hen and ran for the kitchen. My supervisor rushed out and somehow handled the whole situation with grace and charm.

When it was time to serve dessert, my hands had almost stopped shaking and I no longer felt nauseated, so my supervisor sent me back to the scene of the crime. I should have reconsidered when I saw the tall, ice cream-filled parfait glasses sitting on tiny saucers.

Sheepishly, I approached the table of my earlier humiliation. As I set down one saucer, I looked to see an empty saucer in my other hand. I went numb when I realized that the parfait glass was now resting upside down in a woman’s open purse on the floor. She was sitting across the table from my first victim who yelled, “Why is she still here?” I melted into the woodwork and, well, frankly, I don’t remember what happened next but I did get to keep my job.

My boss told me I would look back and laugh. She was right.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, at age 17. I don’t have a picture of me at this job but this is the age I was when the incident happened.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What can you say about an incident like this one? As a 17-year-old girl, I thought my life was over.  My parents happened to be dining in the restaurant next door and stopped in after the banquet to say hi. When I saw my dad walk in the door, I completely fell apart.  He didn’t say a word, he just hugged me.  I’m sure he was chuckling under his breath as I sobbed my way through the whole story, but being a good dad, he didn’t say anything except that everything would be okay. I can now see the humor in it and it has made for some good laughs when I’ve shared it with others. It was a character-building night that I will never forget.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Sawyer’s work has appeared in Precious, Precocious Moments, Wounded Women of the Bible, The Secret Place Devotional, guest posts in Mother Inferior blog and Unsent Letters blog, Girlfriend 2 Girlfriend magazine, and MONTROSE ANYTIME magazine. She has contributed numerous articles to ehow, and Demand Media’s other web-based sites. She taught elementary school for seven years before her children were born. Karen lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband of 29 years. They are the parents of two adult children.

Vending machine
Fluffed, Not Crushed
by J.L. Smith

Cheetos bags should fluff like pillows,
not crush,
my boss said,
plucking the orange bag—
flat in the middle,
like a tire tread ran through it—
from the vending machine.

like a pillow at a two-star hotel,
a training demonstration
on how to refill Lay’s potato chips,
make them look appealing to factory workers,
who were sleep drunk,
tired from making plastic Pantene shampoo bottles,
who cared less about fluffed bags,
more about whether the contents
were stale or not.

My eighteen-year-old hands filled Squirt cans,
fountain Coke syrup,
prepackaged turkey sandwiches—
with just the mayo packet—
into vending machines each weekend,
as the middle-aged janitor
took a half hour to sweep the break room,
while we discussed Jason Goes to Hell
and his seventeen-year-old girlfriend.

His eyes targeted my back
when I pulled out expired ham sandwiches,
placed them in milk crates for disposal,
after his hands took what he wanted,
before the burly foreman
shooed him away for his break—
fifteen minutes before everyone else’s—
to ask me about my life plans,
before telling me to get an education
so my back won’t become twisted
from bending over lines,
loading bottles on a conveyor belt,
showing people how to pack boxes.

he threw his Coke can into the trash,
his eyes on me,
wishing me a good day,
before his eyes lifted to the clock and
the workers outside,
who were also looking at the clock,
waiting for salvation,
and maybe,
a bag of Cheetos.

I twisted the key on the soda machine,
walked past the workers,
who knew me,
asked refunds of me,
complained of no sourdough pretzels to me.

I was their dinner bell.
I fluffed their pillows
in the vending machines I filled,
if only for their ten-minute break.

IMAGE: Vending machine featuring Cheetos, Lay’s potato chips,  and sourdough pretzels.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I loved this prompt, as it made me think of a simpler time, when I could not wait for my life to begin. Not to mention, how much I remember those fluffy bags of Cheetos!


J.L. Smith
works have recently appeared, or are forthcoming, in Avatar Review, Cirque, Calamus Journal, Alaska Women Speak, and others. You can follow her blog at and via Twitter @jennifersmithak.

JackintheBox63 (1)
College Sophomore at Jack in the Box
by Tamara Madison

They start me at the drink station, lunch shift.
Orders flood the kitchen. Soon I am using both hands
to pop lids onto soda cups, unaware that there is
a right way to do it. Diet Coke pours all over me,
7-Up slurries the floor. It takes a few orders to figure out
how the shake machine works. At the end of the shift,
there is shake mix in my hair, soda and coffee
all over the floor. The manager asks to see me.

“Some people are cut out for this sort of work,
and some people aren’t,” he muses. “Are you telling me
not to come back tomorrow?” “Oh, no, no! Come back
of course!” And I do. By the start of the second shift,
I have learned how to spread my palm over the lid
as I pop it on the cup. I learn how to read
the order display. I discover that onion rings
are better than I thought, that shake mix
and coffee can brighten my day, and that hamburgers
even at Jack in the Box, are made from meat.

By the end of the week, the other employees
have shed their wariness and are almost friendly.
After work each day, I drive to Pacific Beach;
whether the afternoon is sunny or chilled with fog,
I bathe in the cool waves until all the grease
and the sticky soda fizz wash into the green Pacific.

PHOTO: The first Jack in the Box restaurant (San Diego, 1960s).  Established in 1951, the chain was the first to use an intercom system for drive through orders.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamara Madison grew up on a citrus farm in California’s Coachella Valley.  Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Pearl, Chiron Review, and The Writer’s Almanac. She is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers and two full-length poetry collection Wild Domestic  and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. She has just retired from 29 years of teaching English and French in Los Angeles and she is over-the-moon thrilled!

I Was a Carvel Soft Serve Queen
by Kathleen A. Lawrence

My first big jump from babysitting money to minimum wage,
and I was thrilled. I was out of the house on a school night
and I was employed by my favorite spot for treats, a mystery
palace of Fudgie the Whale Cakes, Cookie Puss, sugar cones,
peach topping, and space-themed ice cream flying saucers.

It would be the first time I got a real printed paycheck;
I remember buying a pucker shirt the color of lemon-lime
to show off my sweet-sixteen curves and I had money
left over from my twenty-six dollars and thirty-seven cents.

Since childhood I had felt there was a real artist hidden deep
within me. Swirling soft vanilla and chocolate twists suspended
atop a crisp, tasty but somehow tasteless, wafer cone became
my medium. Somehow, as though I had studied the craft
for years my wrist would know how just to turn and curve
and pull the lever creating the perfect design topped
with a meringue tip like a wave caught mid-crash.

My manager saw the potential in me right away and soon
I was working most nights with a line out the door and spilling
into the parking lot, especially when the heat would start
melting their resistance to ice cream. Customers would
light like butterflies fluttering: baseball teams, lovers, friends,
families, teens with their parents’ station wagon, any colorful
social group busy and flapping waiting for their sweet nectar.

I loved the lines, the pressure, because it only made my magic
spin faster into sundaes crowned with rich dark fudge and
a cheerful maraschino cherry. Tall scoops of favorite flavors
with sprinkles and jimmies and chips and fruit and salty nuts
were the orders I built. The freezer contained my palette
of lovely pastels like strawberry, sherbet, and the cool vibrants
like black raspberry, mint chip, banana, and the decadent tones
of almond to coffee to eggnog to chocolate to ripple to decadence.

By the end of my long, sticky, marshmallowy summer
I was proud of the ice cream guns I had developed, the money
I had saved, and the impressionistic dairy dreams, whipped cream
wishes, and modern silky works of edible art I had created.

PHOTO: Carvel ice cream shop in Irondequoit, New York, late 1970s.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about my first job outside of house chores and lots of babysitting of siblings, which started early for me. I really enjoyed reminiscing about the seventies when I spent my halcyon days wearing peasant blouses, hoop earrings, Maybelline, Levis, and eating cherry bonnet vanilla ice cream cones. Because my first three serious jobs involved twisting, scooping, and piling high dairy treats, I imagine that I have more confection- and cone-inspired poetry in me still.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathleen A. Lawrence has had poems appear recently in Rattle online, Eye to the Telescope, Silver Blade Magazine, haikuniverse, New Verse News, Inigo Online Magazine, and The Epic Presidential Poem: The Trump Years (section 74), as well as in two anthologies memorializing Prince, Delirious and A Prince Tribute. A poem in Altered Reality Magazine was nominated for a 2017 Rhysling Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. She was Poet of the Week at Poetry Super Highway in January 2017.

HOWARTH Silver Birch period photo
Keeping Afloat
by Stephen Howarth

I quit school, or school quit me, and
I needed an income. There was no grand plan
beyond the intention to be a writer,
being sure my career would be with the pen;

but penury demanded pounds and pence.
A chance arose, and within days I was
a milkman, an invisible but essential backbone
of the community. With my alarm set for 3 a.m.,

I was daily in the dairy by 3.30 to load the milk float —
my wagon! — with a ton of fresh-bottled liquid.
My hair was long then, worn carefree in
a ponytail to halfway down my back . . .

. . . and there were bright pearly mornings when
I gazed out over the vale, trees punctuating
the sea of mist below, and at the hilltop, free of traffic,
I released the brake and sped to 70 miles an hour,

propelled by that massive weight of milk in
a float designed to do 20 max. Gliding to a halt, I ran up
the paths, put down the orders, picked up the empties,
and gave so much away: potatoes, bread,

extra items I forgot to record — and when queried,
had to pay for from my hard-earned wage. Once,
reversing inadvertently, I crushed the foot
of a colleague. Once, I was surprised by a sleepy

customer who appeared dreamlike in her nightdress,
reaching to take the milk from my hands.
Once, I was charmed by a little girl who walked
together with her sister as I ran up the path:

“Hello big milkman ponytail man!” I returned her smile —
then, as I ran back to the float, heard her puzzlement:
“But — mans don’t have ponytails!” “Hush,” said her sister.
Now the ponytail’s long gone. The pen delivered.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I’m sorry that no photo exists of me as “Big Milkman Ponytail Man,” one of my proudest titles. The registration plate on this float shows it was operational a year later than my first job, and unlike this lucky milkman I never had an assistant; but otherwise it’s very like the one I used every day. Loading a ton of milk by hand and running to make every delivery was a great way to keep fit — better in that regard than writing . . .

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve often been slightly doubtful that a poem can write itself; an internal voice reminds me that “poiema,” the Ancient Greek root of poem, means “a thing made”: words carefully chosen, stanzas carefully crafted to meet one or another set of rules. But “Keeping Afloat” is an exception — not solitary but unusual for me — and it was instantly evoked by the “My First Job” prompt. It obeys no formal structure and really is a poem that seemed to write itself. The episodes within it are all true; the major one omitted is the recurring nightmare I had at the time — of my milk float crashing through my bedroom door to tell me I was late for work.

HOWARTH Silver Birch current photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born and brought up in England, Stephen Howarth is part-English, part-Scottish, and half-Shetland. He has a Master’s degree with Distinction in creative writing from Nottingham Trent University. He has been a professional author of history almost all his working life. His subjects are wide-ranging but he is particularly known for naval history, notably including To Shining Sea, his history of the U.S. Navy. Currently, he has 15 major books and more than 25 minor ones to his credit. His poetry has been published in the English language and in the Shetland dialect. He has a special liking for Southern California and its invigorating poetical community.

gourmet cheese platter

The Art of Cheese
by Jayne Buckland

My first job before I went to Art College was scraping the mould off and rewrapping cheese.

Sixteen years old in a white coat that was too big and a hairnet from my Granny, I was kept in a windowless, whitewashed backroom of a village supermarket doing this illicit activity every Saturday.

There I would spend whole days scraping green furry creatures off the shiny, sometimes sweaty, yellow pieces of cheddar and numerous exotic cheeses for the 1970s’ cheese board. Some of these pieces of cheese became old friends. I would unwrap and scrape them at the beginning of the month and say hello again when they would reappear, sometimes week after week; because I discovered that once the mould had got started it wasn’t going to give up. Its ghost remained, unseen to the human eye.

I would first unwrap the cling-film and place the cheese on the wooden board. If there was mould, I would have to use my wire cheese cutter. The pleasure of this was so satisfying, cutting away through the solid moistness and restoring its original hue. But this enjoyable activity was carefully monitored by the Store Manager to make sure I did not cut too much away. Then it was wrapped in the cling-film and on a heated plate I would seal the plastic and weigh and label it again.

The textures and structures of this most delicious substance, and the joys of cutting, scraping and covering it with a stretchy clear plastic, has never left me. I formed little sculptures to sit on the Deli counter.  Cheddar, Stilton, Gloucester, Apricot Wensleydale, Brie, Chèvre sec, Gorgonzola were part of my new beginning of life in the workplace. They were my small works of Art that would go on sale and bought by Art collectors.

IMAGE: Gourmet cheese plate, found at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jayne Buckland lives in North London with her three cats. She enjoys the stimulation of the City and the peace and quiet of the Green belt to write. In her Day job, she works as a teacher and the evenings are taken up with singing with the local Operatic Society. Her ambition is to become a full-time writer and artist.


by John Hardic

In the seventh grade my brother and I became paperboys. We delivered the evening paper six days a week and the Sunday morning edition.

Saturday was collection. I was out around 10 a.m. to collect my money. In the winter I adjusted and collected while delivering papers. Why be out in the cold more than necessary?

One customer on my route had a mental health history that the entire town knew about. My father told me that Ray was a genius and had gone to Carnegie Mellon University. He had suffered a nervous breakdown and ended up in a mental hospital for some time.

Ray was about my father’s age. When he was discharged, Ray worked for the turnpike passing out the toll cards. This was back in the early 1970s before EZ-pass and automatic ticket machines.

Ray lived with his two sisters and every time I went to their house they were eating scrambled eggs. Whether it was ten in the morning or four in the afternoon, I’d knock on the door and whoever opened the door would be chewing on eggs.

Because it was a small community, news traveled fast. Ray was in jail for killing his two sisters. The word on the street was that “Ray blew his top” and killed his sisters because he did not like the way they made his eggs that day. Ray went back to the State Hospital.

About a year later the word buzzed around town that Ray was getting out and coming back home. My parents told me that I would NOT be delivering to him. If he wanted the paper that much he could walk to a store and get it.

IMAGE: “Sad egg,” courtesy of

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I belong to a writers’ group that meets weekly. We critique each other’s work and offer suggestions and opinions. One of the benefits is having creative people around to bounce ideas around and help stimulate and nurture an idea. When the prompt came up for the “My First Job” submission I was initially not interested. “How could being a paperboy be interesting? I delivered papers to people.”. This brought out a discussion among the group and one of my colleagues suggested things that happened while collecting money and delivering papers. Although this was 40 years ago, I began to think of the people on my route and an event immediately came to my mind. I shared my story with the group and was encouraged to submit it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Hardic is a 1978 graduate of Gannon University, where he studied biology and writing. He ascribed to theory of having a backup plan and while writing and perfecting his craft worked in the health care system for over 30 years.  Several of his short stories were recently published in a book about writing titled Prompted, Prodded, Published. John enjoys science fiction/ fantasy and stories that challenge the reader to think. He is influenced by The Twilight Zone, the writings of Albert Camus, and enjoys the Dune novels by Frank Herbert. He is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan and brags about being at Three Rivers Stadium for Franco Harris’s Immaculate Reception which he did not see. John lives in a Pittsburgh suburb with his wife and four cats.

Bakery Girl
By Penelope Moffet

I couldn’t see the counter for the loaves
were baked in back by sultry older men
in soiled white smocks and sly mustachios.

I worked up front. It was my job to close
the sales of sourdough, wheat and multigrain.
I couldn’t see the cashbox for the loaves

pulled steaming from hot ovens by those
bakers sauntering through a darkened room
in soiled white smocks and sly mustachios.

I yearned to be where they were. So
I wheedled my way to run the slice machine.
I left the clean glass counter for the loaves,

for the searing humid furnace, chose
to risk chopped fingers to be near the men
in soiled white smocks and sly mustachios.

His hair and beard were gold. Sometimes I froze
using one baguette to push another in.
I couldn’t see the slicer when he loafed
nearby in soiled white smock and sly mustachio

IMAGE: “Still Life with Loaves of Bread” by Ilya Mashkov (1912).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I rarely write villanelles, although I like them. This particular villanelle arose from a combination of factors: the prompt about first jobs from Silver Birch Press, and an assignment for a poetry workshop in which we’re studying and working in traditional forms.  Using the villanelle form somehow made it possible for me to find words about my first job in a bakery, at age 16 – a subject I hadn’t previously considered writing about.

moffet in santa monica, 12-2016

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Penelope Moffet’s poems have been published in The Missouri Review, Columbia, The Broome Review, Permafrost, and other literary journals, as well as in several anthologies and in online magazines, including The Rise Up Review and  She has published one book of poetry, Keeping Still, and has work upcoming in Levure Litteraire and Natural Bridge.