Thursday, June 24, 2010

Today I threw out a nutmeg

I asked for a nutmeg, because nutmegs are sacred in The Kitchens and the thought alone that there would be a container for pre-ground nutmeg is absurd. You have to ask for one, because the chefs keep them in their private office. Chef K told me to go to Elizabeth, who she made The Keeper of the Nutmegs, and Elizabeth gave me a small wad of plastic wrap.

I unwrapped it, grated it, wrapped it up, and gave it to her.

Done. Or so I had hoped.

Bill came up behind me. "I have a nutmeg for you."

"Oh no, that's okay," I replied. "Elizabeth gave me one. I don't need it anymore. But thank you."

"No, you can use this one," said Bill.

"It's too late--I already grated the other."

"Well, you can have this anyway."

"I don't need it."

Bill started to get angry. Really angry. Some people have "crazy killer eyes." Bill could put them to shame. Whenever he gets that stare, especially when he's cutting meat, it piques my flight-or-flight reaction.

"No, I'm giving it to you! You can have it, d*** it. It's like a gift! Take it!"

"Okay," I said, trying to have the proper tone to say That's enough. "Alright. Thank you."

"See? Here's the bag," said Bill. "I got half a dozen of them for $1.25 at the health store. They're cheap. That's why I wanted you to have one."

And then he stormed off, leaving me with another wad of plastic wrap. His insistence caught my attention and made me curious, suspicious, as to why he wanted me to have this so badly. I knew his intentions weren't out of kindness, either. Bill is in his 50's, married, and has asked out several women at school, beginning in the first semester. Aside from the fact that he told me and my best friend that after he received his Financial Aid check he would take us out to lunch (he didn't), he's stalked at least one woman. His phone calls to her were as last as 11:30 at night.

A gift is something very psychological, as well. When someone gives you a gift, "it increases the bond between us and the person to whom we have given." (Psychology Today) The last thing I want is for Bill to feel as though he created a "bond" between us. This probably never would have occurred to me if he hadn't said "gift" in the first place.

Last night as I was falling asleep (and I fall asleep pretty quick these days), I imagined that I was driving home from school and had gotten pulled over. The officer asked if I had any weapons in the car, and I said yes, I have my chef knives. He asked to see them, and I gave him the case. He opened the case and took out the little plastic wrapped package. He took a closer look at it, then decided to arrested me for possession. Bill didn't give me a nutmeg. For some reason, he tried to frame me.

Obviously that's not the case. But that didn't stop me from tossing the nutmeg in the garbage the next morning.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Baking classes are awesome.

I've never been one to get up at 5:55 a.m., but I'm doing it, and have not yet fallen asleep on my way to school.
Which is good.

The class itself is 5 hours long, so I get out at lunch time and have the rest of the day to myself. Since it's 3 days a week for 6 weeks, and today was the 5th class, today was technically week 5 if I was in a regular 18 week semester.

That is something I am so grateful for! A week really is a long time to be able to forget everything you just learned. This way, you learn a bunch of new things every day, are tested on it the next day, and are allowed to build on that knowledge immediately.

But, as always, what is school without the crazies?

The following conversation took place earlier today:

Max: How many ounces are in 2 pounds?
Chef K: Well, there are 16 ounces in 1 pound...
Max: Yeah, but how many are in 2 pounds?
Chef K: Think about it. If 1 pound is 16 ounces, you need another 16 ounces to make 2 pounds. Right?
Max: So I need 16 plus 16. What is 16 plus 16?
Chef K: You tell me.
Max: I don't know. What is it?
Chef K: Work it out on paper if you can't figure it out in your head.
Max looks at the rest of the class in the kitchen: What is 16 plus 16?
No one answers. Max repeats himself, and I get frustrated.
Me: It's 32.
Max: No, what's 16 plus 16?
Me: It's 32!
Chef K: Mary, let him figure it out.
Max: Urgh! What is 16 plus 16?

Somehow, he figured it out. Everything was fine until he tried to weight out 32 ounces on a 28 ounce scale...

There was another situation later on, too. Chef K yelled across the kitchen: "Whose cookies are smoking black?" to which the same student yelled back, "No. No! No! NO! NOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! D*** IT! NO! GOSH. NO!"

It was impossible not to burst out laughing. Seriously, you would have thought this guy had just arrived at the scene of car accident where a loved one had just died. (Which is not funny, by the way.)

I understand that it's entirely possible that there is something "wrong" with this man, especially since he expresses a series of anger outbursts in each class. However, after the chef told him to discard of his cookies, he pointed to a sheet pan of chocolate cookies and said, "Do you want me to throw out these burnt cookies, too?"

They were mine, and they were not burnt.



Anyway, the first day of baking class was the first day of cooking classes for several students. There's a lady who is very nice and has a kid my age, so she's old enough to be my mother. Day 1, she looked so scared, and I remembered that feeling very vividly, so I decided to take her under my wing, show her around, and feel good that I was high enough on the food chain (finally!).

I regret this.

This woman is very comfortable with me, and everything is now, "Ugh, I have a meeting after school. I am so not looking forward to it." or "I don't want to make this." or "I haven't memorized the 3 muffin methods. I am so going to fail this quiz. HOW can I forget it?"

I've decided that the best way to handle this is to limit her to 3-5 "Aww"'s a day. I'm confident that she'll use these up before class even starts. Small talk in the locker rooms are always interesting and that's where she usually complains the most. That's 7:15 in the morning. I seriously CANNOT understand HOW a person can wake up and complain like that every day. If it's raining, thank God for the cleansing waters and the meditative weather. If it's sunny, thank God for the sunshine, which reflects His glory.

Who cares if the rain messes up your hair? Who cares if the sun is making everything muggy? Is there anywhere where God says, "It's okay. I failed today. You don't have to thank Me for what I've done."

With this lady, it's stepped up a bit more this week. She's not only complaining, she's thrown in a few undeniably, unwarranted snide remarks to me. The kind where she lifts up and eyebrow and pinches her lips together.

Okay, you can find your own darn corn starch from now on.

I don't think I have too much to worry about. While she's under her rain cloud, I'm busy going over to Mr. Williams saying, "Watchu talkin' 'bout, Willis Williams?" and commenting on how a freaky-shaped buttermilk biscuit looks like the Millennium Falcon.

I like to make myself laugh.

ANYWAY, yesterday I made 7-1/2 pounds of whole wheat bread dough. I "baked that off" today and it feels ohsogood. You know in the movies, the over-dramatized knocking on the bread and the main characters goes, "Ahhhhhhhh." I knocked on my bread like 3 times today, and said, "Ahhhhhhhh." Fresh. Wholesome. Ahhhhhhhh.

Today I also made cookies called Chocolate Jumble Cookies, with chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and instant vanilla coffee. (These are the ones that Max thought were burnt and ready for the garbage) They tasted pretty darn good, but each cookie looked like a piece of regular chocolate cookie dough that had plunged itself from a very tall building. I guess they got depressed from listening to my partner.

And, at this very moment, all my mise en place is ready in the school fridge for blueberry muffins. The class across the hall makes entrees all morning, so I get to sample fresh pasta, salmon, duck, seared and roasted chicken, and ginger-infused mashed potatoes.

I have gained 5 pounds, but that doesn't mean anything. My digestive system is confusing. If I eat too much, I get sick and lose weight. If I don't eat much, my body hoards the food to supply me with the necessary energy. I can exercise all week long and eat healthy food, and gain 3 pounds. I can overeat and eat every gram of fat that I can get my hands on, and lose 3 pounds. If I go by how my clothes fit, I can fit into a pair of shorts that my mom bought me 3-4 summers ago that I couldn't fit into last summer.

As much as I eat, I exercise, too. Remember the 5K I was training for? That was this past weekend. I ran with my friend, and we finished in 0:36:38. I'm planning on signing up for another in August and I also plan on shaving another 6 minutes off my record 3.1 mile time and finishing in 30 minutes or less.

That's all. If you read ALL OF THE ABOVE, you deserve a medal because. You. Are. Awesome.

And are obviously not A.D.D.

Or if you are, then this post totally made sense to you.

Off to watch Perry Mason!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer Break, part 1

My summer break started out rather slow and boring because I'm used to driving fast, talking fast, and swiping my debit card fast (as my bank record shows). A lot of people from school have been continually updating their Facebook statuses to complain that they're bored, but I've been keeping quite busy.

I don't want to give you the wrong impression. I do keep quite busy with Sims 3. (I didn't just say that. You didn't just read that. It is not true.)

Imagine a serious-minded, go-get-em young woman who has all her ducks in a row. Now imagine her friend, who stays up until 2 and sleeps in until noon, and watches documentaries on the Titanic while drinking iced lattes. I'm the friend.

However, I have been keeping myself busy by training for a 5k race. This is very exciting for me, because I see myself as an athletic person, but certainly not a sporty person. I love competing and playing sports, but am usually left in the dust when the two coincide. Running is perfect for me, because it allows me to get out all my excess energies and capitalize on my athletic abilities. Plus, my only immediate competitor is myself, yet I can still compare my pace and mileage with others on this great site a friend introduced me to called Dailymile.

I can run 3.1 miles in 40 minutes. My average pace for a mile is around 11 minutes and 30 seconds. If you're a runner, you know that's not spectacular, but it's not terrible either. The Lord has provided me with stable health and strength so that I can continue to get better. And I know it is the Lord, because there is no way I could improve (health-wise and in running) on my own.

Other than that, I have applied for a job, and my dad and I went to an airshow (which was awesome) and I have a newfound love for Perry Mason and have been trying to write more. I haven't been doing much cooking, mostly because I haven't stumbled across a really good recipe. Yesterday, I made chocolate mint patties and they taste good, but the patties won't stay together.

Guess who didn't follow the recipe?

Yeah. I may have to try another recipe, and if that one works out, I will be sure to share it with you :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Iron Chef 2010

Today, I am not feeling well, but that is totally okay by my standards as there is nothing more comforting for me than to sit at my computer, with the whir of the air conditioning, and watch the gloriously bright sun reflect through the myriad of trees and branches just outside my window.

So, I decided that I'm going to work on my blog! I also thought that I would catch up on some of the many, many pictures that I need to post:

Shortly before the semester ended, the school's culinary department hosted their annual Iron Chef competition. Even though the competitors weren't bombarded with cameramen, provided with exotic ingredients, and then judged by famous people, the core purpose of the competition remained: a team relying on their knowledge and ability of cooking to turn out their best dish in a short amount of time.

Instead of 1 hour, we had a little over 2. There were 4 teams, each with 4 students. We had to make an appetizer and a main course (e.g. starch, veggie, meat), creating 6 plates out of each and making each dish out of mystery items. The mystery ingredients included whole chickens, strip steak, shrimp, lobster tails, wall-eye, artichokes, arborio rice, and several peppers.

In my group, Team A, we had a difficult time coming up with what we wanted to make. It was clear that there were 2 distinct categories of food: meat and poultry, and seafood. One girl insisted on making Italian ceviche, but didn't know what to make for an entree. Someone else wanted to do sushi for an appetizer, and then someone else wanted to do minestrone soup for an appetizer.

Even though I was the youngest and least experienced in my group, of one thing I was certain: seafood should be the appetizer. Meat, beef, beef broth, and chicken are just so heavy. It should be reserved for the main course. Seafood is lighter--lighter in color, texture, and weight--and the appetizer should be lighter than the entree.

I'm not sure if the others took my suggestion into consideration (I had a hard time getting a word in, and was fascinated by what the other 3 were coming up with), but they decided on...

Italian ceviche for the appetizer. A ceviche (seh-vee-chay) is a variety of fish and seafood (in our case: wall eye, lobster tails, and shrimp) cooked in citric acid, and served with cilantro and diced tomato. Though originally Spanish, a classic ceviche is cooked in fresh lime juice (no heat), but we ended up cooking in lime and lemon juice. We were worried that 2 hours wouldn't be enough time for it to cook, but we ended up putting in enough citric acid that it was a little overcooked.

Stuffed strip steak with rissoto and fresh veggies with a vinaigrette for the entree. The strip steak was stuffed with chicken and spinach, tied, seared, and then baked. It tasted like nothing I've ever tasted before. It was phenominal. One of my partners insisted the risotto was cooked, even borderline over cooked, but I could tell that it was not. I consider myself the queen of risotto, in case you can't tell. I ran it past one of my other partners, and he agreed it wasn't quite done. I added more chicken stock (from the pot that the chicken was cooked in) and heated it up, so it was quite warm by the time it was served. When our dish was critiqued, the chefs commented that it was (and I quote) "nicely cooked." That was compliment enough for me, especially since a majority of my duties included dicing vegetabes, wiping counters, and washing dishes. In the next year, I plan on gaining much more knowledge and expertise, so that I can be the bossy one in the next Iron Chef.
We got 2nd place!!
We each got a collapsable mandolin slicer and a waiter's corkscrew. Each person in first place won a copy of a fancy French cookbook on vegetable garnishes. Though I love love love cookbooks, I prefer my mandolin slicer over the cookbook: it's green. And collapsable!
We also lost points on sanitation...that was because the one girl refused to wear gloves when plating the ceviche.
First place got first place because their sauce was apparently kick butt. Their team member didn't use a recipe, just went by instinct and taste, and the chefs were immensely impressed. Yes, I am taking a mental note of next year!
All in all, it was a lot of fun, and I feel as though I learned a lot. (I'm not sure I would feel this way if I had gotten 3rd or 4th place -- ha!)

Monday, May 17, 2010

I started writing this blog post in my head...

...while I was baking chocolate-cherry cookies, and I got so deep in thought that I ended up burning the cookies in the oven. No, they are not burnt. I caramelized them. (I have used that excuse in school, and it works.)

The next scene I'm rewriting in my novel is a milestone marker for the storyline. The main character sticks her finger into the middle of the villain's pie without knowing it: she goes on a date with one of the villain's henchmen, David--a super hot, super rich 20-something year old. David is supposed to become very close to the main character, so his boss has an advantage later on in the story. (The main character's father is the detective in charge of investigating the villain)

While mentally rewriting this scene in my head, I realized that it would be difficult to rewrite this scene and not feel as though I hadn't written it before. I can play a song on my violin terribly but passionately the first time. By the second time, I've learned most of the notes and can play it well, but lose the passion. This is my goal for the next chapter: play it well, and revitalize the pathos.

Yes, it sounds dramatic, but if you've read my blog past an entry or two, you know that I'm melodramatic, so this shouldn't come as a surprise.

I decided to look into David's character by figuring out who inspired me to write about him.

Usually, my inspiration is an ad I tore out of Teen Vogue. I tape the ads to my wall and give the models a history, and they eventually work their way into my writing. However, I knew that David was a little more than a Patek Philipe ad.

Who WAS my main inspiration for him?

There are 2 people, actually.

The first was a guy named Cody. I worked with him at Vacation Bible School. I was 15. He was 18. I was there to have fun and help out. He was there for court-ordered community service. I thought he acted like a pig but looked like a movie star. I don't know what he thought of me, but I know that my age didn't matter to him. (A major plot point in my storyline)

It didn't turn into anything, of course, except that he gave me a nickel. It's date is 1974. I know this because it's still in my jewelry box.

During the week that I worked with Cody, I had my first observational experience of police work and I decided that I wanted to be a police officer more than anything. This is ironic, seeing as I was "falling" for a guy who was serving community service hours.

After that week, I saw Cody a few times after that: once at the 4th of July parade, and once when my brother took me to play volleyball with his friends. At the parade, I also saw Cody's girlfriend, who I learned was more of a pig than he was. I also learned the true meaning of jealousy. Why would he go out with a girl with no class, when he could go out with ME? I really didn't need to be thinking those thoughts at that time, since I had other issues. I was so thin that my ribcage was all bones. (Most of that was involuntary, since I was very sick, but when I was able to eat something, I'd feel guilty about it. That was a nasty feeling.) As for the second time I saw Cody, it was 2 months later, and suddenly he didn't seem so charming anymore.

The second guy was named Alex. I knew him a year and a half ago. He would come in at the coffee shop where I worked and would hang around, especially when there was no one else around. I didn't suspect him of anything. He was sweet, but still quite a few years older than me. He loved to talk about music and movies, and had dropped out of a bachelor's degree in creative writing. We had a lot to talk about. He told me that he lived with his parents in the house next to the police chief, which was on the wealthiest street in town. The old houses on that street are huge, old, and beautiful. The bay is practically their front yard.

One day Alex stopped coming in. I forget if I knew why, or if there even was an answer. One of the times he was in the coffee shop, he had mentioned that his cousin was in a band, and he knew it was his cousin by the unique last name. Somehow, I ended up doing research and found that last name on (a site that shows a map of predators in your vicinity). A young man who had the same last name as Alex, and the same face (though slightly younger and with pink hair) was on the list. As if need be said, his home wasn't listed as being on the wealthy street in town.

I don't know all these facts to be true, but I do know that the face on familywatchdog is a very similar but younger version of Alex's face. And in a town of less than 10,000 people, it seems very likely that my suspicions are correct.

So, these 2 dudes inspired my villain's henchman, David, and in more ways than I think I even consciously know. Hopefully, since I just refreshed on these people, I will be able to rework the scene with all the gusto that I hope it will read.

And even if I don't, I still have my caramelized cookies for company :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

I am...


Yet, even though it's a 2-year culinary program, I'm not exactly half done. I have completed 2 of 5 semesters. The next semester starts in 2 weeks, and I'll start Baking for Chefs in 3 weeks. That gives me a nice little break to keep finishing the final draft of my novel, as well as hunt for a job.



I don't mean to shout, and I don't mean to seem so happy about it. There really isn't anything wrong with being a first year, except for the parts where you feel stupid because you can't remember how to braise or where the spatulas are. "First year" does sound a lot better than "tweener" (being "in between" first and second year), but "second year" has a certain golden ring to it.

On a side note, I have many many many pictures to upload and I will save that for another post. I don't realize it, but I still cook a lot at home, despite how much cooking I've done at school. Even the small things count for me, like cooking green beans. Tonight I'm also going to make a strawberry jell-o and cool whip salad. Tomorrow, however, I will be making homemade ratatouille with fresh egg plant, zucchini, and tomatoes. Skip the powdered garlic, too, I bought bulbs, baby ;) I'm going to be serving that on whole wheat pasta. I also bought broccoli for cream of broccoli soup (made with a roux, a thickening agent made with equal parts flour and butter, heated over a stove).

So, for the next 3 weeks, (and whether or not I get a job) I am going to be studying cooking on my own. Why? Don't I need a break? Well, first, I learn better on my own without anyone distracting me or without the one chef spontaneously bellowing "You're doing WHAT. SERIOUSLY...No, really, that's...that's not a bad idea. No, I mean it. You're doing it the right way."

Second, I get to make what I want and don't have to worry about my many allergies and intolerances (like lactose, tryptophan, raspberries, wasabi, cabbage, lobster -- to name a few).

Third, I just really miss learning things at home. Every day I come home from school, I give my mom a reason why homeschooling is more efficient than public school. If I make a mistake, who cares? :) No pressure. Who can learn if they can't have a little fun?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

the little chef who could

It's been a dream of mine to keep up a blog daily, posting often and getting 100's of comments. Sometimes life is to slow for there to be anything to report, and the polar-opp is that I'm too busy to post anything.

This week is definitely the latter. This week is finals week.

The end of my second semester is coming to a close.

On Tuesday, I get to spend the afternoon making a cream soup, a basic vinaigrette which I will turn into a nicer vinaigrette, hollandaise, and mayonnaise, and write a written report on my procedures. I get off Wednesday, which is awesome, because it's my 19th birthday. My early morning Thursday class was cancelled, so I'll be able to conserve some brain cells. (So far as I'm concerned, spending 10-20 minutes telling fishing stories is not teaching) On Friday, I have a final for Nutrition (I already have the small amount of material memorized and posted on my wall, so no worries there).

Then, I get a 3 week break, in which I am going to be looking for a job.

After those 3 short weeks, I will be returning to school for summer baking classes. Now that my best friend is not going back to school, school has lost most of its shine. Don't get me wrong...I absolutely love cooking. Like writing, like painting, like dancing, like music, it is an art. All arts relate to each other, but this is art under pressure and I love it.

You concentrate so hard, and your mind is comprehending instructions faster than it can turn it into actual, audible thoughts, but the mental track explodes when the person next to yousighs, puts away their cell phone and moans, "Ugh, what am I supposed to do? What did the chef say?"

And when you actually have the patience to explain it to this person, they reply with, "Yeah, well, I'm going to do it a different way."

So, I have low patience and a fast temper, I'm completely self-absorbed and tend to think too highly of myself and too lowly of those around me, but anymore I'm trying to break from this stupidity and I feel as though I have excelled above all these lazy students whose cell phone screens are steaming up because they hold their phones over their pots of soup.

And after I get through classes that sometimes feel like a continuous replay of stupidity, my week ends with my favorite class which I spend with my best friend. She gets everything I tell her--we're on the same line of thoughts sometimes it's surreal--and I hate to think that from here on it'll just be me.

Yes, there are other people that I get along with just fine. But I am a homeschool graduate who was raised at home, am not willing to move out of home because I love and get along great with my family, do not partake and discuss in obscene drinking habits, have never even seen drugs up close (much less have ever used them), do not have a boyfriend and prefer to wait on God to find one for me than find one for myself at a bar, do not talk about having a low stock of condoms or an overstock of lingerie, do not brag about breaking the law, do not brag about starving myself because real men like girls with no fat, do not brag about over-eating because real guys love "fat chicks", and because I am going to school to learn something useful.

Because of these things, some people see me as different species. They ask me questions and then purposely laugh, as if it's exceedingly ridiculous and entertaining to listen to a person who has fun without partaking in self-destructive activities.

And the one person who shares the same values as me, who is my partner in bursting out into song, and who is the only one of my classmates that I can really talk to will no longer be at school. And I am afraid I'll be stuck with these idiotic morons who explain to the chef that using the keychain end of a whisk is better because it allows them to stir "a little" when they feel they don't need to use a entire whisk. True story. The woman is in her 50's. Don't do drugs, people.

I am fully intending on seeing my best friend a lot outside of school, and I already miss her, but school just won't be the same anymore. You cannot have an intellectual conversation with a person who stops you when you say a 3-syllable word, and says to you, "Ohhh....! That's a big word."

(Actually, for some reason, it popped into my head and I think the word was "deliberately" that this 30-something year old woman was so intimidated by. No, it's not 3 syllables, but that's not my point.)

I wish school could just be school. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't come home after these classes and wish I was homeschooled again. I can see that God allowing my parents to homeschool me was no mistake. How fortunate I am that I haven't had to deal with these (insert insulting adjective) people stepping in on my education until now.

I actually wish that these people won't pass their finals and will have to repeat these classes. Then, there will be more of us more serious-minded students who can move ahead and learn something without that baggage. Is that bad of me to say?

There is one thing that I like about those people at school. Let me just say this first: my brother has always seemed several feet taller than me. When I was 10, he probably really was several feet taller than me. We used to wrestle all the time, and he'd teach me defense tactics and I learned to bounce back from him tossing me on the couch or pushing me to the ground with his one foot. We still fight sometimes. He's 6'4 and a not a small guy. (I'm now 5'8.)

So knowing that, consider the 6', 125 pound culinary student who stands a few yards away from me and loudly tells his friends that he prefers to beat up women because they are more "responsive". Then he says, "Like those first years. I could totally beat her up." And he and his 2 friends turn and stare at me.

Knowing he can't do anything (not only because a chef is nearby, but I know the minor legal grounds for what can be considered assault and battery and am not afraid to run upstairs to the police department branch), I say without a second thought, "Go ahead. I have a spatula. I could take you on."

The look on his face was worth a hundred bucks.

I didn't even have to think about what to say. I shut the door on him, and there was nothing he could do about it.

So, I thank God for making me tough enough to withstand the more threatening people. I only pray that I will have patience to cope with the others. On my bed is The Idiot's Guide to Dealing With Difficult People. I'm stepping closer. My goal is to be able to shut the door on stupidity and learn. Maybe this is God's plan for me, instead of me bottling up everything and then releasing all the stress when my best friend and I get together.

He has blessed me so much by sending me my best friend, but maybe we've clicked too much. Maybe I'm supposed to become more reliant on Him.