Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cooking (or not) at Home

I have a lot of kitchen crap.

By kitchen crap, I mean home kitchen supplies like an ice cream maker, espresso maker, two cake display pans, a spice grinder, steamer, mortar and pestle, TONS of extra offset spatulas and other tools like that, various food colorings and sprinkles…the list goes on and on. I have to come to realize this (I was probably in denial before) because I’m moving soon, and there’s nothing that makes you notice how much extra junk you have until you’ve got to move it.

But the thing about having all these cooking supplies is that, well – I rarely cook at home. I mostly live off of cereal, sandwiches, and fruit. Though some might be surprised by it, most people that actually cook for a living live off of crappy food when they’re not at work. This stockpile of stuff I have was accrued over the first couple years when I started working in the industry and had just begun culinary school. I had this wonderful na├»ve vision of myself, working hard all day in the kitchen, and then coming home to make wonderful meals for my boyfriend and I, to apply all that I had learned. I thought I would make everything – from bread to tarts and ice cream to cheese and dinners that would have a starch, protein, veg, and sauce.

I was assisted by my mother who, in all her sweetness, would show up at my apartment with another unneeded piece of equipment, and when seeing the look on my face would say, “I know you’ll need it one day!” Really. She even bought me not one but TWO full sets of Cuisinart cookware. Nobody I know needs 12 skillets and pots, least of all someone that lives alone.

I suppose there are still a few inspired souls out there that have the passion and drive enough to go home and cook – and when they do, they’ll be snatching whatever they need from work – garlic, lemons, maybe a bit of stock or prepared sauce, even flour. And there are of course the cooks and chefs out there that will cook a nice meal to get laid. But I, like most others, live off a very limited diet at home.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Moment in Hospitality

In London, I arrived at Borough Market for free time during a recent school trip. I was tired, grumpy, and cold, and wanted a place to sit down and order coffee and have some good food. As a friend and I wandered around looking for something that could fit the bill, we came to a pub. Of course, like every other place, the front doors were open, bringing the chill inside. But there was a restaurant upstairs and we figured this would be a warm place to sit and stay for a while. It was five till noon, and a man behind the bar told us the restaurant wouldn't open for another five to ten minutes. My instant thought was to move on and keep looking. I suppose it was the American in me, expecting to be delivered exactly what I want all the time, and wanting to find something else if I’m not getting it.

Seeing the dissatisfaction on my face, I’m guessing, an old man at the bar said to me, “Have a pint, stay a while.”

It was this that spoke to me perhaps more than anything else on the trip. No, he hadn’t gone above and beyond in delivering hospitality to me – moreso, it was a transfer of an idea; a culture; a lifestyle; in one simple sentence. He had helped me find my way when I was lost on a deeper level than giving me a map to my hotel. As I let his words settle in, I realized how right he was – why would I go somewhere else when this (albeit chilly) pub was just right, and playing Elvis no less – and all I had to do was wait a few minutes for the kitchen to open?

And so my dear friend Paul and I took a seat at the bar, and I forewent my cup of coffee to order a pint of cider instead. We sat for over an hour, eating bangers and mash, drinking beer and cider, and singing to Elvis. I’ll never forget that simple line.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Irony

Recently I was sitting in my Business Law class, one of the final classes in my bachelor’s program at school. Our teacher was going over how much things have changed since the old days in the sense that one must always watch what they say, lest they get sued.

“If you say something the wrong way someone could sue you for sexual harassment! People used to say ‘Boys will be boys,’ but not anymore,” he exclaimed.

“Except in the kitchen,” I mumbled, as another student glanced at me and chuckled.

Part of working in a kitchen is the ability to not get easily offended. Currently, I get called a skank on a regular basis from one of the sous chefs (as do all the females). Another chef told me once that he knows I can’t think as well as a man because I’m a woman. Talking shit and getting it back is part of the job – and it’s usually based on gender, sexual orientation, or race.

Right now I also work with the only gay man I’ve ever met in a kitchen – and god knows he must have a thick skin to deal with all the gay impressions he gets on a daily basis, and all the cooks asking him if he has AIDS.


So while I understand that it’s part of the curriculum in any business law class to go over how to not get sued, it is truly situational irony at its finest.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fresh Fruit

I fucking love eating fresh fruit. Especially, of course, when it's in season. Which is kind of funny because when I see it on a dessert, unadulterated, I detest it. A raspberry for a garnish? No, I'm sorry, that's not a garnish. That's what I call a "bullshit berry." You ordered the creme brulee and, surprise surprise, there's a a big fat unripe strawberry, stem attached, sitting on top for you to awkwardly move around. Bullshit berry.

And I see it all the time, whether as part of a dessert or in a pastry case sitting on top of a cake. When they take that cake home someone is going to have the task of plucking off that shriveled strawberry and plopping it on the table nearby because no one wants to eat it. If you're going to do something like add some fruit to a dessert that you couldn't take the time to roast or puree or make it new in any way, at least do the guest a favor and make it easy to eat.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Coffee

I've been thinking a lot about coffee lately, and how much I love it. Brought on by those 5-hour energy shot commercials that are firmly anti-coffee, as though it takes too much time and isn't worth the hassle.


Not to me though, and I know I'm not the only one. There is something about holding a warm cup and letting the steam hit your face. Something about the way it smells and fills up your kitchen as it brews. Studies have shown that touching the warm cup brings feelings of happiness and makes people warmer and more generous. No crappy tasting energy shot will ever replace coffee, no matter how hard they push those commercials.


There's a certain mentality in people that take their time over a cup of joe in the morning. And I for one definitely nurse my coffee - it takes about half an hour to get through a cup. But when I actually have the time to take for it, it's my favorite time of the day: when everything is peaceful, the stress of the day hasn't begun yet, and I can truly savor it. It's so important to me that I even look for it in a significant other - if they would rather drink a Monster I'm afraid I'm not as compatible with them, or it's going to be harder to relate to them.


So maybe I'm a little crazy when it comes to coffee. But lately it has become the only regular thing in my life: I have school full time, and work back and forth between two restaurants. The time I get up changes almost every day, as does my schedule, but at least I know I can always rely on having a delicious cup of coffee, whether that's at home before work, on a break at school, or an iced coffee while I work. It brings a much-needed balance into what I do on a daily basis.