i originally found the gastronomy mla program while searching for a culinary school nearby that i could enroll in. i have no ambitions of owning my own restaurant or working as a professional chef, but i’ve always loved food and the program seemed like a perfect combination of practical and academic work. plus, they had this great “crash course” in culinary school, letting me get a quick introduction to the world of professional cooking and baking.
or so i thought.
this class is serious. don’t get me wrong, i don’t mind hard work, but it’s a lot of stuff packed into a short 6-week period. almost 24 full hours of video lectures, 6-8 books that we were given in each class, 4 comparisons of historical recipes to modern versions, 2 book critique papers, a daily journal as well as two final summary journal papers, daily readings, a short research paper on a particular dish, final projects, plus cooking and baking for about 4 hours every day in class. plus, i really should be remaking all of these recipes over the weekend to practice, because my cooking final is basically like the food network show chopped – we get a list of three ingredients, and have to use them while we cook a three course meal for a panel of judges. no help, no items from home, no problem – should be a blast, if my hands will stop shaking.
class itself is definitely the best part of the whole thing – both our cooking and baking instructors, as well as our assistant, are completely wonderful. cooking class is fast-paced, chopping and peeling, throwing goodies in the pan, tasting spoons everywhere, never enough salt, plating and eating 6 dishes a night. if i don’t have at least 3 pans on the stovetop at once, plus items on the counter or cooling in the freezer, i’m probably doing something wrong. baking is the opposite, completely zen and surreal, gently whisking egg whites, folding in creams and almonds, coating sweet confections with powdered sugar and carefully kneading dough until it’s smooth. we make multiple components per dish, measuring and fussing until goodies are perfect, playing with dishes and seeing what the ingredients do. i learn so much in both classes, and i love having two such different styles and environments for each discipline.
but…i’m tired. and a little sore. and sometimes, like last night, i get a little cranky when my stupid poached pears won’t get tender enough, or the red wine reduction won’t reduce, or everyone gathers at our station while we’re quickly trying to plate because they want to see how food is being styled. the people in my class are amazing, but i’m one of those super-possessive-of-the-kitchen weirdos that wants to do everything herself. i don’t want a sous chef, or someone to set the table, or anybody anywhere near the food until it’s done. i’m usually a fairly easygoing person, but i get weird in the kitchen. i want my space, i’ll do it myself, just leave me alone. i’m not proud of it, but there it is – yet another fatal flaw.
so the pears…actually tasted great in the end. a little firmer than others, but with an absolutely gorgeous color, a bit of a bite (which i prefer), and still a lingering flavor of fresh pear underneath the sweet red wine syrup glaze, with just a touch of lemon.
just don’t ask me to make them again.