Summer jobbing, and Mushroom & Tomato sauce

Student summer jobs are awfully hard to come by, as I have learned. When I arrived back from university for the summer, I began to send out CVs here and there; after receiving no responses, my efforts quickly grew more desperate. Jobs I’d before glossed over as not offering enough hours or being ‘unattractive’ became opportunities I chased eagerly. After submitting countless applications and enquiries to shops, agencies, and restaurants, the truth hit me: the majority of employers don’t want to hire students. We’re ephemeral beings, present for only a short working period before we flit off to where we came from.

As much as I am loath to admit it, I understand why employers adopt this attitude;  it’s no use hiring an impermanent person for a permanent position, unless the position is temporary. Very few places responded to my enquiries, and even McDonald’s rejected me (twice.)

It was only with a strike of luck that I managed to find anything. Racking my brains for any possible opportunity, I recalled that one of my dad’s former clients was the owner of the nearby care home, in which my friend had spent the previous summer working. Only really half-seriously, I asked him to email the owner to see if there were any vacancies. Conditioned to receiving no response, I was surprised and relieved to accept his offer to work as a temporary kitchen assistant.

I have enjoyed my first few days, with new responsibilities and a sense of purpose to occupy the empty bulk of my time. Although it’s hard work and long hours, being up on my feet is such a change to my previously unlimited leisure hours – oh, the boring languor of summer holidays – that I don’t mind it. Knowing that I am earning money to pay for next year’s rent eases the monetary anxieties which had consistently dogged me.

I’m also pleased that I can help out the two cooks, who have been working tirelessly with no breaks and no help. They prepare three meals and three snacks for the care home residents, and my role is to make their lives easier: washing up, preparing vegetables, taking down trollies, and cleaning. It’s repetitive, but the time passes fairly quickly.

On another note, I also wanted to share a quick and easy dinner I made from a few leftover bits lingering in the fridge. It was an evening where meal choices consisted of shop-bought pizza, or fending for myself.


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This was a simple tomato sauce with mushrooms, red onion, garlic, chilli flakes, and red wine vinegar. All the work this required was to finely chop a third of the onion with three cloves of garlic, fry it for a few minutes in a lug of oil, then to pour in half a can of passata. (I had half a carton of this in the fridge, otherwise I wouldn’t have opened an entire new can!) Add a good splash of red wine vinegar, and season with salt, pepper, and chilli flakes. Give it a stir, and leave to simmer for around fifteen minutes.

Get some pasta cooking – I used fusili. Slice up some mushrooms and mix them into the sauce. Courgettes, peppers, aubergine, or peas would work well too: whatever is going spare. Once the pasta is cooked and the mushrooms softened (they’ll need about ten minutes), stir in a good handful or two of chopped parsley. Serve up with an extra few sprigs to garnish, and enjoy!

This was a flavourful, tasty, and healthy dinner. Red wine vinegar gives tomato sauce a really lovely, rich taste, enhanced by the parsley. I love impromptu meals like this, which require such little effort, yet taste so good.

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