The Summer Hustle
By Lexie Roth
Summer. Expansive growth. Flowers and humans tilting their heads to the sky synchronized with the desperate need of energy from the sun.
Sweat, cold beer, sandy sheets and that weightless feeling of submerging your body into water. Reset button. That dusty ripe taste of a sun-gold tomato falling off the vine, lemon verbena sun-tea and way too many iced coffees. Oysters with lemon and horseradish fresh as the ocean, paella cooked over a fire with lobster broth and beer and wine poured on by friends. These are the reasons I keep coming back.
I have lived on Martha’s Vineyard during the summer since I was in the womb. As each year passed, my parents figured out a way to stay, just a little longer, just a little longer. Crash with friends, rent another house somewhere, stay in a shitty motel down island for a night, anything to have one more lobster roll, one more pile of steamers dipped in butter, one more dip of smoked bluefish spread and to get our hair salty again.
As I grew up I went through many different jobs on the island, from a deli counter girl at the Chilmark Store slinging pizza slices to cleaning haunted bed and breakfasts with no running water and never getting paid, followed by working as a waitress at a Jamaican Restaurant where I would have to frequently crawl into the basement under the wait station to grab more plantains and soda syrup mid service. I learned what great service was, I learned what it was to read people like I read books, remembering what they liked and why they liked it adding each thing I learned to my internal encyclopedia.
One evening I was asked by a regular to come to her house to help her serve a party for eighteen where she was cooking a special menu. She didn’t strike me as a chef, but hey, everyone has their thing. “I make a delicious stir-fry”, “Oh man, you haven’t tried my husband’s paella? No one can top it” “I’d love to try your pesto, but I know it isn’t as good as mine, no offense”. I pulled up to a driveway lined with full heavy blue hydrangeas and a house completely built with mahogany everything down to the dining room table. Took a deep breath, put on my apron, attempted to figure out which of the seven entrances was the more appropriate one to enter, and, “hello?”.
That night started my journey as a private chef all thanks to a margarita machine. Due to my client rightfully enjoying said machine the night prior, my tasks shifted from setting the table, polishing finger prints away and cutting fresh stems to, cooking for eighteen influential people, including a famous chef, well. And, I did.
From then on I became their private chef. I became like a part of their family, my dad got married at their house. I’ve known them for ten years now; since then the extended family of connections from this moment has fueled my availability to fulfill my creative endeavors with music and acting and stay connected to such a beautiful place. It lead me to culinary school so I could dive into this passion and maybe a little preaching to my friends and clients about the benefits of sea vegetables and healthy cooking.
I will keep coming back as long as I physically can. To the raw dairy farms with homemade mango lassi, crunchy pea shoots and spring garlic, to the crackling charred lamb chops from my friends' farm on the grill and crispy late summer dates around the fire with friends I don’t get to see when we’re all buzzing around in the summer. The work became the play. Maybe it’s the pizza-bagel in me that makes feeding people so fulfilling or maybe it’s the flooring, grounding love that comes my way.