The Growing Concern, like the Bread Shop Kitchen, specialized in vegetarian cuisine.  We served Chicago’s North Side new age community.  Palm readers, activists, astrologists and all kinds of spiritual path practitioners visited us for our casseroles and freshly squeezed juice.

The manager of The Growing Concern was a devout Sikh, dressed in turban, white cotton with full beard, a former hippie Westerner who had converted.  Arthur was the owner.  Arthur was a concert violinist with a passion for food.  Portly, dressing in professorial neo hippie, Arthur wore a beret and smoked a pipe.

Business was slow.  Arthur the owner began driving taxi to pay the bills.

At about the time Arthur started driving taxi, the manager was let go.  Business was very slow.  Eric, the other cook, and I were now the sole employees.  We were the cooks and wait staff.

Eric was a follower of a local guru.  It seemed pretty much anybody connected to or patronizing The Growing Concern was exploring alternative spirituality.  I was sort of the odd guy out, spending most of my spare time illustrating a line of greeting cards I was about to publish.  Still, it was a wonderful place to observe a unique community.  Eric and I pretty much could do whatever we wanted regarding the menu, specials and food preparation.  Arthur was out driving fares.  What we wanted to make, we made.  Arthur was delighted that for what it cost to have two cooks he also got management and wait staff.

Eric and I became good friends.  With lots of time to talk, we explored each other’s interests.  I learned about astrology.  Eric learned about Neuro-linguistic Programming.  We were both trained artists.  Eric was interested in the greeting card company I was putting together.

Some days there were maybe ten customers.  We had lots of time to talk.

The Growing Concern closed its doors, and Eric and I looked for other jobs.  I published my illustrations as greeting cards, calling the company Maplands, and I found myself able to make a living selling the cards of other small greeting card companies as I went from store to store with my own.  Eric contributed several images to my tiny firm.  Soon, sales reps across the country were placing our illustrations in city and college town stores.

Thirty years later, I still get emails from folks expressing appreciation for their Maplands cards.

Eric became enamored of the communications model I’d been exploring, Neuro-linguistic Programming.  In 1980, I went through the training program, becoming a licensed practitioner.  The next year Eric proceeded to do the same.  Only Eric immediately began practicing professionally, becoming a Neuro-linguistic psychotherapist.  Then he became a consultant to corporations.  Then Eric started writing books.  Eric Klein is now a widely respected author and consultant.

I’ve always felt restaurant work to be deeply rewarding.  I meet fascinating people, experience adventures, get to be around food, prepare food, serve food and eat food.  I have one speed when I cook at home, restaurant speed, lickety-split.  I don’t cook often.  Marcia is a real cook, preparing her dishes with artistry and affection.  I’ve forgotten almost everything I learned.  For me, cooking was never about the art, but about the atmosphere.  A kitchen is the center of a home.


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