I've done a lot of embarrassing and stupid things during this quarter of culinary school. There was that time I caught my apron on fire, for instance. Or the time I gashed my hand boning chickens and didn't notice for about fifteen minutes. Once, I was told to roast red peppers and ended up making a muddle of it all, not blacking them enough and almost losing one to the gaping hole of the range. But it's not even that high-level stuff always that flummoxes me. Based on my performance in class, you'd think I couldn't: 1. fry an egg, 2. remember that metal pans in the oven get hot (I've burned myself three times on this oversight), 3. soft-boil an egg, or 4. make steamed rice.

I'm not sure what it is, but it seems that as soon as I cross the threshold of the kitchens, I lose basic culinary skills. I become all thumbs and sort of dim-witted. I think a lot of this has to do with feeling totally intimidated by all the other students who seem to have some sort of native skill set that I don't have. It's the skill set that allows them to salt entrees perfectly or cut allumettes that don't look like a blind two-year old was in charge. Good thing I've not really planning on trying to compete with those people for jobs, right?

The single most humiliating experience happened earlier this week, though. We were making some stewed beef and needed beef stock. The stock we had to work with was in this huge container, probably holding about about 4 gallons. The stock had been frozen and then thawed...sort of. There was a huge chunk of ice in the center. The chef instructor told me to remove the ice and then scoop out the stock I needed. So, I went to, grabbing the block of ice. I got the cube almost to the top of the container when it slipped. And it fell. Back into the huge vat of stock. I'm sure you've seen where this is going: there was an explosion of beefy juice EVERYwhere. It looked like a scene in a movie where an underwater charge goes off and sends spray from heck to breakfast.

I got drenched. I soaked the floor. I even got stock somehow between my apron and coat. I reeked of cow parts and onion the rest of the night. Fortunately, the other person who got hit by beef splash just found it funny and everybody else was not paying close enough attention to notice what I had done.

I keep telling myself that it'll get better, that once I'm in the world of flour, sugar, creaming and the baked goodness that I love; that things won't turn out so poorly; that I'm not a totally lost cause. I hope that's true. I also hope, someday, to put on my chef's coat and not suddenly wonder where that demiglace smell is coming from. I'm not sure which of those hopes is the easiest to fulfill, but I'm not ready to give up on either just yet.


daine said...

Amanda and I are pretty prone towards turning on the wrong burner and then walking away. Not only does our food then not get hot, we've destroyed 2 expensive pieces of stoneware, a ladel, and a plastic spoon (melting stinky plastic all over to boot). Luckily, being a space cadet and being a good cook are not mutually exclusive; I think that you and I are probably just both.

Petra said...

daine, someone else did that to me the other day--that is, left a burner on and walked away, and so I, blissfully ignorant, left a pan of uncooked cinnamon rolls on top of it, and they all got burned. I was not. happy.

And alea, please, like I believe any of this stuff. You're a brilliant cook and are lying to all of us.

librarianite said...

You are taking culinary arts classes? Your life is so much more interesting than mine. This is probably why I have not kept in better contact with you since grad school. I am far less interesting and being around you just highlights that.

I did get your Christmas card - thank you.

Burn something for me.

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