While living in Ireland in 1998, Catherine was surprised to find herself one summer working as a waitress in a little café in the popular destination town of Kinvara. Nestled in a crook of Galway Bay in the West of Ireland, Kinvara is a place of megalithic tombs, holy wells, a 14th century castle, ancient cairns, Irish music, and weekly set-dancing. Out of her experience, Catherine wrote the book “God is in Rosaleen’s Restaurant.” This blog comes from her book.
I realised the first day that my challenge was to stay centered. During the five-hour shift I found myself scattered between Table 3 wanting more bread; the blinds needing to be pulled; the empty roll of toilet paper in the ladies’ room; Table 6’s demand for a receipt; and the three hungry people who just walked through the door.
Where was I? How quickly I no longer existed, no longer felt my own thirst and tired feet.
The chef would yell my name whenever the food was ready. “Catheriiiiine!” would fly across the small café, but it was always unmistakable. My mother’s voice calling me for supper.
“We’re all going to start talking with an American accent!” the chef teased me one evening. My voice startled people when I asked if they’d like ketchup instead of tomato sauce. It wasn’t so much the drawl of my voice, but the words I used. When I first arrived in Ireland, I had no job and no place to live. My life was in crisis. When I entered a pub or restaurant, the waiter or waitress would ask, “Are you OK?” Back in the U.S., service people usually say, “Can I help you?”
When asked if I was OK, I wanted to cry out, “No! I’ve no home and no job! I am definitely not OK.”
Instead, I ordered bottled water and a bag of peanuts.
“Slice the lemon thin,” Rosaleen said, “because they cost.” I stood in the kitchen slicing lemon for water jugs and thought of the tree in my mother’s backyard. A lemon tree heavy with fruit. Lemons falling, languishing in the California sun, turning green and white with mold. Lemons with no value at all.
Here, in the West of Ireland, where barely a tree grows in rocky limestone soil, lemons cost and are sliced thin. Such value seemed to rise beyond the cool, tangy smell that filled my nose.
Women are biologically capable of feeding others. Our breasts can swell with the milk of life. There is something deeply satisfying about nurturing others, something nice about serving food. Most evenings at Rosaleen’s Restaurant we were three women doing just that — the chef, her assistant who also washes dishes, and myself. Sometimes there was more help in the kitchen, and sometimes more help on the floor. But we were almost always women. Women feeding others.
You gave them the food of angels and, without their toil,
supplied them bread from heaven already prepared
containing every delight, to satisfy every taste.