Cooking for Naked People

Art Fenski

I didn’t realize at first that I would be cooking for naked people. The job ad simply referred to an upscale resort in the desert west of Tucson without any specifics regarding the type of establishment. I emailed a response to the ad and received a call later that day from the resort’s manager. After thirty-minutes of telephone conversation, mostly about my vast skills, the manager asked if I would like to come in for an interview.

“And, oh…I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but this is a clothing-optional resort,” he said.

This was an unexpected twist. Like the moment between slamming on the brakes and the collision impact itself—a slideshow of images played in my mind.  Mainly, visions of naked supermodels salivating over my food.  An explanation to my wife immediately came to mind:

“Really, honey, I’ll be too busy concentrating on my work to notice any naked supermodels,” and,  “Naaww honey, accidents involving a dangling appendage and a meat cleaver are surprisingly rare,” and the like.

“Uh…I would be wearing clothes, right?” I asked.

Laughing, “Yes, the staff is always in uniform.”

“OK, then,” I said.

And so began my brief career as a cook for this wardrobe challenged community (WCC).  I’d never seriously thought about working in such a place, but I had heard of these communities and formed some preconceptions of what life in a “nudy camp” would be like. Most of these assumptions had been formed during my adolescence, so of course the nudists were all amazingly proportioned nymphomaniacs. Sort of like living in a Robert Palmer Addicted to Love video gone wild.

My first visit to the resort immediately dispelled the notion of the Playboy Mansion transplanted in Tucson. I was glad I ditched the idea of donning a bathrobe and a pipe.  And the Robert Palmer video disappeared into the realms of Weird Al’s version, Addicted to Spuds.  If you yourself have such a misconception of the scenery at a clothing optional resort, replace that image with this one: take a stroll through your local Wal-Mart or State Fair midway. Scan the groups of people, deleting the ten most attractive. Close your eyes and mentally undress the remainder. Now you’re getting warm.

Several other assumptions also proved to be false. Sanitation and hygiene are topics that immediately spring to mind while thinking about a nudist resort. It seemed to me that the lack of clothing would present challenges to the sanitary environment one expects in a dining room. One of the useful functions of clothing is to keep the microscopic flora and fauna we all carry relatively confined to our own bodies. Usually if we are amongst a group of naked people, it is in an environment made up of easy to clean surfaces such as shower tiles or sauna benches. This was not the case in the common areas of this resort. The dining room and indoor gathering areas were furnished with plush, overstuffed, microbial friendly upholstered chairs (MFUC). The furniture was cleaned about as frequently as furniture in other venues, which is to say, rarely. Placing a towel or other covering on the furniture before sitting would draw disapproving looks from other nudists. Apparently, it violated the spirit of sharing.

I mentioned earlier that the resort was located in the Sonora Desert. Nudists are an invasive species in the desert. Rattlesnakes are not. These two species in fact seem to have a profound dislike for one another. I’m not sure why rattlesnakes are irritated by human nudists, the snakes being naked themselves, but they frequently showed up to hiss and rattle their displeasure. Several times a day the maintenance staff would get a frantic call to remove a rattlesnake from a casita or common area. Most people react with justifiable alarm to the presence of rattlesnakes—nudists react with mortal terror. Perhaps the thought of a bite to the exposed genitalia is more horrifying than a bite to the ankle.

I began working on a prank where I would mechanically imitate the sound of a rattlesnake during a busy dinner service but never figured out the logistics to my satisfaction. Probably better for all concerned. Another aspect of the subject of one’s exposed genitalia at the resort was the unwritten rule, such exposure was mandatory at all times even if other body parts were covered. I was surprised to learn that nudists “dress” for dinner. The garments, available for purchase at the gift shop, consisted of a bare minimum of fabric, such as a bowtie.

Although I eventually got used to working around naked people, I never got used to having discussions with them. I never mastered the art of not looking at someone’s privates without being uncomfortably conspicuous.  I, therefore, became known to some as “The Weatherman” for my constant attention to atmospheric conditions.   Avoiding looking was especially difficult during business meetings with the owners who were themselves nudists.  Meet the nude boss, same as the old boss. I have a habit of looking at the other person’s hand before shaking it. This is difficult to do if you are trying desperately to look the person in the eye. A missed handshake is always a faux pas, but even more so when you consider what you might shake if you miss here. I became master of the shoulder height handshake.

It’s easy to forget while recollecting this experience that my primary function there was cooking. In this area, my preconceptions included spa cuisine, miniscule portions of sprouts and baby vegetables, and a total absence of fried foods, desserts or anything else that might compromise the integrity of the beautifully tanned, perfectly proportioned bodies milling around.  Did I mention my preconceptions suck?  The menu was actually not dissimilar to that of a Burger King or the bar and grill of your local bowling alley. I was assured that this was mine to modify as I pleased and that there was great interest in going to a more imaginative offering. This turned out not to be the case.  So my tenor at Nudy Acres was brief, like my uniform. My resignation had nothing to do with the lack of naked supermodels wandering through the kitchen.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.  Not stickin’ as bad as the clients to those microbial friendly upholstered chairs, thankfully.

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