Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lost in baking class

       Second quarter was grueling to say the least, we had a full class of more than twenty people and loads of attitude, just imagine what the kitchen must have looked like on "lab days".  I was nervous going into "introduction to culinary baking" more so than first quarter, especially after the Instructor taught us our first lesson in lecture "baking is an exact science" Ouch!  I will fail I thought "an exact science" to me meant you make a mistake you fucked up the whole recipe! That's basically how I perceived it .  I stayed anyway, however the first group I ended up in was too young for me and by young I mean immature, it was near unbearable to me to endure the whole four hours with these girls, they were giggly and careless and let's face it I'm past that at my age, all I want is to understand and get the product done right, they were meant to be together, I was the "outsider".  So I finished the evening with them and we'd produced some decent looking hard rolls, French bread and white pan bread, but once again I felt out of place and unwanted.

      I changed groups two more times before I felt semi-comfortable, baking class is intense when you want desperately to get it right and the product just doesn't satisfy you, you begin to wonder if there's something your missing that everyone else can see.  I believe if I had been with nicer people and if the kitchen hadn't been so hot most of the time, things would have been so much easier, on another note, however, you have to remember when your out in the field working in a real restaurant kitchen, you will find all types of personalities, so maybe the experience I had in baking was necessary for the future, maybe I should re-evaluate what constitutes "nice" in the culinary world.  Now that I think about it I feel silly having changed groups because I didn't want to be bothered, I will strive in the future to be more tolerable in the kitchen and accept my peers as they are, also not expect validation at every turn.

   Two traumatic events took place while in baking class, you probably wouldn't think so but I certainly did.  While attempting to make a simple whipped cream, I over beat the cream and ended up with butter, yes folks it is possible to screw up whipped cream so much so that you end up with butter.  I showed it to the Chef and she said "oh butter, put some honey in it it's great"!  That's what I did, but not before trying to absorb the fact that she showed no disappointment, no anger, just told me to add honey if I like and start again.   My next attempt at whipped cream was just what I needed to boost my self esteem satiny, soft peaks glaring up at me saying "I'm perfect", my whipped cream looked perfect in my eyes and I was happy.  But the worse was yet to come.

     "Final practicals" are the cooking side of final exams in culinary school, the "final practical" entailed making an apple pie, bavarian cream, a sponge cake and blueberry muffins and presenting them to the Chef.   I can't begin to tell you how nervous I was, I needed to get it all right, I needed to prove I could pull it off without a hitch.  The Chef annoumces how much time we have and that our group members cannot move on to their next recipe unless all the other members were ready.  That in itself stressed me out as I was tired and felt I wouldn't be able to keep up.  We were given permission to begin and I hustled to get my "mis en place" (ingredients,pans etc.) together.

      Everything was going well, although I did struggle with the apple pie, it was lovely to look at when done and that was fine with me.  Everything else was a breeze, I was feeling really good about this now and knew without a doubt I would pass.  All was done and looked good, but I was most proud of my blueberry muffins, they were beautiful and I knew they would be delicious, I proudly went to retrieve them from the cooling rack and somehow the\pan unexpectedly slipped out of my hands and my lovely blueberry muffins now lay prostrate on the kitchen floor.  From behind me I heard oohhs and ahhs as some of my classmates witnessed the event, all I could do was stare at them and suddenly I choked up. 

      The Chef got wind of what happened and asked my classmates to help me pick them up, but, I didn't care anymore, I gave up, picked them up quickly and shoved them on the table, but I had to get out of there quick and I did.  I went to the womens' room and began to sob uncontrollably, no one followed me, no one cared I supposed.  I managed to get myself together but did not return to the lab right away, instead I sat in our lecture room thinking of ways to go and get my bag without being stared at as I had been crying and my face was probably red.   In the end I had to go back in as the Chef had sent for me, as I approached her, I felt the urge to cry beckoning, she comforted me when I admitted how stupid I felt and that I just can't seem to get anything right.  She went above and beyond for me that evening, she even tasted one of  the blueberry muffins and said all my products were awesome, I needed that, she didn't leave me, she assured me I did a great job and told me never to let  a mistake or something someone says deter me from realizing my dreams, which only brought on more tears.

      I got A's on all my products and was happy with them, in spite of the blueberry muffin incident, but I cried myself home and cried myself to sleep, it seems the happiness I thought I'd found in culinary school was no more, I was once again the sad broken-hearted woman I was going in.  I pondered the whole thing at work, I couldn't let it go and I didn't want to go back to school anymore, my kids saw how upset I was and immediately intervened  "Mom you can't quit, because if you do you won't be able travel Europe", this from my older daughter, wise beyond her years, love her so much.  I got dressed and got myself to school that evening, as I approached the lab, I heard lots of chatter, but when I entered all quieted down.  "Whatever" I thought, I just couldn't seem to get a break from the nonsense.  I got myself through the last day in lab by chatting with some classmates I liked, had some good laughs and was soon ready for third quarter.   I made it through, I did it, yes it was a struggle, but although everything inside me said" just give up" I didn't and looked forward to the next quarter "Advanced culinary principles"  Thank you for reading and I will post again soon, take care.

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