For two years, during my college summers and Christmas vacations, I sold women’s shoes at Nordstrom. The job wasn’t glamorous but it was worth every backache and cranky customer: I made 10% commission on each pair of shoes I sold. During our biggest sales, I could make several thousand dollars in a week.
Ironically, almost all the employees in the women’s shoe department were men. When I was hired, I didn’t realize that I’d stick out like such a sore thumb: I was surrounded by bros in suits, all competing to see their names on the top of the daily sales lists each morning. I was tiny and educated and a woman, which automatically made me an outsider. After my first few weeks, though, I consistently made the list of top salespeople in our department. It turned out that I was damn good at convincing people that they needed cute shoes, earning me the nickname “the silent killer” from my ultra-competitive coworkers. Usually, I didn’t talk to anyone except my customers while I worked — and during my lunch breaks, I practically sprinted out of the store into the mall, desperate for normal human interaction. I spent most of my lunch hours at Panera or PF Changs, snacking on lettuce wraps (see the recipe below) or cinnamon bagels.
I believe everyone should have a service job at some point. How else can you learn what it’s like to be “on the other side” of a sale? How else can you learn empathy for others, and the value of the kind of hard work that makes your body ache at the end of the day? Eventually, I realized that couldn’t stand to be at Nordstrom for another second — during my third summer, I quit in a flurry of angst during a high-yield sale day. And yet, if my memory serves me right, I’ve never felt more badass and accomplished than when I beat out a room full of competitive dudes with precision every single day for a month straight.
Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Makes 4 servings. Adapted from this Life in the Lofthouse recipe.
- 1 pound ground turkey (or chicken)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
- 1/4 cup + 1 T hoisin sauce
- 2 T soy sauce
- 1 T rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated
- 1 t sesame oil
- 1/4 t fish sauce (if you don’t have this, add a pinch of salt)
- 2 green onions, sliced thin
- 1 head butter lettuce (iceberg will work too, but butter lettuce is much better)
For quick pickles, you’ll need:
- 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 T rice wine vinegar
- 1 pinch salt
- sesame seeds
In a cast iron skillet or saute pan, brown your ground turkey (or chicken) with a scant tablespoon of olive oil, stirring occasionally. After 2 minutes, add onions and garlic and continue to cook until there’s no pink left in the meat.
Meanwhile, slice a cucumber thinly and add it to a bowl with 1 T rice wine vinegar and salt, tossing to coat. Let your quick pickles sit.
Back to the ground turkey: Once there’s no pink left, add to the pan: hoisin, soy, rice wine vinegar, ginger, sesame oil and fish sauce. Stir to coat the meat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
To prepare for dinner, stack slices of washed butter lettuce on a plate, being careful not to rip them as you separate them. Put your ground turkey in a bowl, topped with green onions. Top quick pickles with sesame seeds in a third bowl. To serve, spoon 2 heaping tablespoons of meat into a lettuce leaf, topping with a few pickles. Enjoy!