Inspiration Hidden at the Bottom of a Boiling Pan of Beans

MARCH 16, 2016 by Jordan Terra

Steam billows up from underneath metal pans. “Rapido!” An austere voice screeches.

A boiling pan of beans attached to squat old lady comes running.  She makes her way towards the line as if she’s running in a touchdown–swerving in and out of the horde of workers all loitering on the kitchen floor.  Holding the scorching pot, bare handed, and with great finesse, she darts around the crowd–hopping over a leak that’s sprouted from the sink, she spins around a greenhorn, and drops the pan into the empty space on the boiling line.

“TOUCHDOWN,” I scream and throw my hands in the air.  The busy restaurant halts for a minute. A gaze of utter confusion adorns everyone’s faces. No one else noticed the score that was just made, so I shrug and start scooping sloppy, liquidized beans into tortillas.  “tres frijoles, no cebolla, extra queso,” I yell.  Everyone shrugs and goes back to work.

8 hours later, I am sweaty, exhausted, and drenched in a white and brown Jackson-Pollock-esque spattering of beans and sour cream. The pungent aroma of taco meat filling and onions has become incorporated into my genome and will surely never fade.  Most of the other after school cohorts let the quirks of the job get them down, but I loved every second.  

On my way home, I would walk down the dark, deserted street with a spring in my step and a giant smile on my face.  This mundane after school job working at taco bell filled my life with joy.  It was more than just a paycheck (and not just because I was only making $5/hr)–it granted me genuine human interaction and constant observation of the inner workings of regular human life.  These elements were priceless and provided perpetual inspiration for the art that I was making every free second I had.

As artists, we view everything around us as inspiration, but it’s not always on the surface–sometimes we have to dig for it.  A job at Taco Bell doesn’t outright appear to be the best place for an artist, but, at 16 years old, a steady income and a revolving door of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic life, was exactly what I needed.  I encourage all young artists in this situation to realize that this is just a stepping stone towards future greatness, so dig deeper, find the inspiration hidden in plain sight, then go forth and make art from your experiences!