Mack's Corner

This Week


The summer before my freshman year in college I got a job working at a local fan company. They had contacted my High School and said they were looking for any students that were on their way to college. I guess with the idea that maybe we would finish college and come back and work for them? I showed up the first day and was walked in to the boss's office. He was a nice guy and he was very interested in the idea that I was going to Vanderbilt. He seemed to like me. The foreman (foremen wear ties) came in to take me where I would be working. I had on jeans and a shirt, ready to do anything. As we were walking I tied a bandana around my head so my hair didn't get in the way. He was the butch haircut type and looked at me kinda funny. My job was boxing baseboard heaters. There was a tall, good looking, black guy standing there. He was in his 2nd year of college, night school, and had just started working at the fan company the week before. This was also his first day at this station. So the foreman showed us how to do it. There were 4 pallets of un-boxed baseboard heaters on the floor. He pulled down a box and opened it up. Then he got a baseboard heater and put it in the box, closed one side of the box, then the other. There were markings on the box where staples were supposed to be. He carefully positioned the box under the staple machine and stepped on the foot pedal. A staple went in. Then he moved it to the next position and stepped on the pedal, then the next.. till he got all 6 staples in. Then he stacked it on an empty pallet. There were supposed to be 6 heaters on each row and stacked 8 high, staple side out.. He said "just try to keep up! One of you box and staple and the other one stack." They had been doing it this way for years. The forklift guy said he would try not to give us more than 4 pallets at a time. He didn't want to make us look bad. So we started. After about an hour we both realized how inefficient the process was. Plus we were bored to death. We decided to make a game out of it: How fast could we finish one pallet. To do that, we had to step back and get some perspective. What were our best positions? What required the least amount of movement? After a few trial runs, we decided we were better off if one of us got the box ready while the other put the heater in. Then both of us closed the box on both sides at the same time. I ran 6 staples in and pushed it down the line while he got the next box ready. Every 12 heaters we would shift to stacking mode and load up the outgoing pallet. After we loaded 10 he would go get a box ready while I loaded the last 2. The other rule was that we had to do it perfectly. If we messed up, missed a staple, folded the box wrong, put the heater in backwards, that round was disqualified. After all we were going for the world record. Our best time was 4 minutes and 8 seconds or one every 6 seconds. The forklift guy had no chance, he had to load us up and take the boxed ones away. We could finish a pallet in less than 5 minutes all day. So we did a lot of waiting. We swept our area and polished the staple machine, anything to look busy. When the forklift guy had 2 pallets ready I would start my watch and yell "GO!" … About the 3rd day the foreman and another guy with a tie came by. We had just finished the last pallet and were waiting for the next one. He said "What are you doing? Why aren't you working? Where are all the heaters?" I told him we had finished, proud of how fast we were. I expected him to say something like "Great Job! You guys are a good team." But instead he looked at our perfect stack and said "How many heaters are on this pallet?" I said "8 stacks of 6, 48". He said "How do you know that?" I looked at him and said "8 times 6, 48". He said "Really?" and then proceeded to count them 1 at a time.. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 …. 48.. "I guess you're right?" .. "No Kidding?" Then he said "Look at these boxes, none of them are stapled correctly. There's not near enough staples in any of them. They'll come apart in shipping. We'll have to re-box every one of these. I'm going to get the supervisor." Then they left. I could see where this was going, I was getting ready to be fired and that made me mad. This guy didn't want me there and he was looking for a reason. He didn't like efficiency, he liked status quo. And he sure didn't like some long haired kid making him look bad. The next pallet showed up and I started putting in staples. I put about 80 staples in every box. The pallet he saw was gone when he came back with the supervisor, replaced with the 80 staple one. The supervisor looked at the boxes and said "Gosh, I don't even see how we're going to get these open ever?" .. Then they walked off. 5 minutes later I was fired… Nothing changed ..

God's like that: He's about change. He wants us to step back and get some perspective. It's easy to get entrenched in our small world to the point that we don't see who it hurts or who else it affects. Change is hard, sometimes painful.. Step back and see…

Do you think a tie makes me look smarter? Maybe I'll get one?


Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

Since all the food magazines have gone to super simple or super light I've gone back and started re-reading my old Bon Appetit magazines from years back. Everybody needs a great biscuit recipe. Here's one I found from March 2006:

Cornmeal Biscuits with Cheddar and Chipotle


1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3/4 cup (packed) chopped green onions (1 bunch)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (white works too)

2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt (1/2 tsp regular table salt works too)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated yellow extra-sharp cheddar cheese (any cheese will work … sharp cheddar has way more flavor)

1 large egg

3/4 cup (about) buttermilk

1 tablespoon finely minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo (or 1 tsp of Tabasco)

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon whipping cream (for glaze) (or just beat the egg and skip the cream)


Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 425°F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add green onions and sauté 2 minutes to soften slightly. Remove from heat.

Blend flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in processor. Add 1/2 cup chilled butter; cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese; cut in using on/off turns. Transfer flour mixture to large bowl.

Whisk 1 egg in glass measuring cup. Add enough buttermilk to egg to measure 1 cup; stir in green-onion mixture and chipotles. Make well in center of dry ingredients. Pour buttermilk mixture into well; mix just until evenly moistened.

Turn dough out onto generously floured surface. Knead gently just until dough holds together, about 10 turns. Pat out on generously floured surface to 3/4-inch-thick round. Using 3-inch round cutter (a drinking glass works well), cut out biscuits. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Gather dough scraps; pat out to 3/4-inch thickness and cut out additional biscuits. Brush biscuits with egg glaze.

Bake biscuits until golden, tester inserted into center comes out clean, and biscuits feel firm, about 18 minutes. Cool on rack 5 minutes. Serve warm

The cool thing about this is that it goes with any meal…



Posted by Mack Oates at 9:38 AM