So today was a rather crappy day, not only because I am battling a life-threatening head cold, but because I don’t like apples. That may not sound devastating, but it truly is.
I had to get up this morning at 6:00 a.m., an ungodly hour that no human being should have to unwillingly witness. It is the Devil’s time with all that darkness, gloom, and sand in your eyes. My stomach was too queasy to eat, so I just kind of left in a haze.
The Metro was appealing this morning as the hobos seemed to have cleared off. Though, come to think of it, there were a bunch of police around it yesterday, so, hopefully, they jailed them and deported them to Iceland or something. I’m not saying that they are Icelandic by origin, I doubt most of them are French anyhow, I just imagine that Iceland would be a Hellish place to be imprisoned. All the ice and kippers…
The train ride was a long trip of dry coughing and sniffling. I brought my book with me to read, a fascinating novel about the cinematic masterpiece that is Sunset Boulevard, but never got to sit down, too many people.
It was dark when I emerged from the station and hurried to the school. I quickly got changed and went to class where I made my shortbread cookies. You have to smear the dough, which turned out to be rather fun, and was something that most of the people can’t do. Actually, some people just sucked. They were thick and thin and hexagonal for some reason. Mine, on the other hand were perfect, not all of them, over half though, by word of the Chef.
Then we worked on piping with icing–something I never think I will accomplish, or do for that matter if I were to have a shop of my own.
The class ran long, so there was no real break. It was around noon, so I was tired and ready for lunch. I naively assumed that a world-renowned culinary institution would have a vending machine or bowl of nuts or water fountain or something like that, but, no. Nothing. There wasn’t enough time to change and go to the Shopi for a snack, so I starved. You can’t wear your uniform to school, but you are perfectly welcome to step outside for a smoke in full cooking school regalia…?
I ran to the locker room and put my apron, towel, and hat away as wearing them isn’t suggested in the demonstration room.
The demonstrations are really my favorite part of class, it is like watching a funny foreign cooking show. I really like the Chef, and the British translator, who shares my name, but calls me Benjy to differentiate, has that dry British humor that I so enjoy. So, the combination, makes for a very entertaining time.
I discovered that liquid vanilla extract isn’t a thing that exists in Europe. Both of them were confounded. All the Americans look at each other in confusion when they use this stuff they call vanilla. It looks exactly like chewing tobacco and is considered a dry ingredient. It is actually the dried and crushed bean pod, whereas vanilla extract, I learned later after some Internet research, contains no actual vanilla.
We made apple tarts today, which saddened me as I do not like apples. I don’t like fruit at all really, which has proven to be a problem. Apples are too sweet, strawberries are like poison, bananas make me gag. I can handle pineapples and warm, fresh off the vine grapes for some reason, but in severe moderation.
The demonstration was over now, but by this time, I was starving, my nose was running, I had a killer headache, my dry cough was the embarrassment of the decade, and my back felt as if I were being stabbed by a friendly Jack the Ripper. For those who do not know me, my back is a joke. If I stand or sit for too long, it begins to pain me severely and won’t heal itself. So that’s sad. Every single day I spent in High School, I spent in hidden pain.
I ran back to the locker room to pick up my hat, apron, and towel and rush up to the practical room, but when I opened my locker, they weren’t there. I don’t know where they are, even now I don’t have a clue. All I know is that they are gone, they are as gone as the late, great Eartha Kitt. So, I had to look pitiful to the front desk and ask if they had any turned in at the lost and found. They hadn’t, but the woman was very kind and lent me some. I felt retarded.
When I entered the kitchen, everybody was rushing about like lunatics, cooking their apples. I wasn’t even late yet. There was no stovetop available, I just had to wait, so I made my crust. The butter was very warm, it had been sitting out far too long which made it almost impossible to use. Butter has to be frigid in a dough, or it is tremendously difficult to work with your hands.
I was very good at cubing my apples, you do them like an onion. I have cut up so many tear-inducing onions that I could do it comfortably with my eyes plucked out by pygmies in an African swamp. All you do is, hold the onion/apple by each end and cut straight down about a quarter of the inch apart, turn and cut into the side, then turn again, and cut straight down and magical cubes will appear! It was good fun.
I peeled my apples and cored them and then sliced others paper thin as per instructions. I finally managed to find a place on the stovetop to make the stupid filling and that came together easily. The pie crust proved difficult. It just wouldn’t cool. It was sticky, hard to roll out, and uncooperative. I managed to get it into the mold with serious difficulty, but I couldn’t decorate the sides to save my life. You have to take a miniature serrated tong and gently squeeze. Looked stupid. Chef complimented my French though, said it was pretty, the French, not the crimping. That was nice.
I whirled the apples around the top with grace and elegance, or so I thought, and popped it into the oven.
Now we had to write with chocolate using miniature piping tubes we made out of parchment paper. It was very hard and mine, and everybody else’s, looked like something from a kindergarten art show.
After that, it was time to see our cooked tarts. I thought mine would look nice, and it really did, the apples whirled around (I would show you a picture, but it was ruined on the train home by a person running into me) like the one Chef had made. Nobody had done a good job though according to the chef, he called mine bizarre and went on to say that I hadn’t even formed it correctly, oh, and my crust was too thin. Why he didn’t tell me when he was helping me with crimping, I do not know.
Oh well…this is the thing that annoys me about this school. How can you really judge a person after they make something for the first time in their lives? I know when I first started making my trademark piece, the baguette, the were as ugly and hard as a block of wood. Now, they are magnificent. It is impossible to give an honest assessment of a persons work without seeing more than one finished piece. Maybe this is just me. It is like telling a person they will never read when they are just learning the alphabet for the first time, in a foreign language. Oh, and they don’t translate the practicals, so while Chef is chatting away helpful hints, I’m just getting about 70%. Seems odd.
So I came home realizing that nine hours at school is just too much. Thankfully it is the only day in the whole course that is over six hours in a day. I never saw a ray of sunlight. It was darker now than when I left this morning. I’m going to bed now. Maybe a new picture tomorrow, maybe not. Have to go to school for six hours, a minor improvement!