A Fashion Forward Examination

Today was the day I had been both dreading and awaiting for weeks — the final exam. I had originally anticipated this event to be the most dreadful of the two tests that a student at Le Cordon Bleu is given, but I had not been prepared for the inane questions on the written exam. I was expecting the same level of stupidity with this one. So, with no real stress, just irritation at the early hour of the thing, I went to bed.

In my mind, for some reason, instead of sleeping, I kept thinking about how to survive plane crashes. Do I jump out the door into the ocean, making my body as straight as possible and dive into the salty deathtrap? Would I survive a mile long fall even if I managed to dive out? Then, once in the water, would the force of the fall cause me to go so far underwater that I wouldn’t be able to figure out which way was up? That has always been one of my biggest fears, aside from spiders, drowning by swimming further downwards. I thought to myself, no, I could just force some air out of my lungs and then see which way the bubbles go…but what if it was too dark to see the bubbles? I could feel for them, but then, would I have any air left for that test. I scared myself silly with this thinking.

Then I started wondering how I’d live on a deserted island. Within fifteen minutes, I had devised a pretty simple way to get running water anywhere on the island as long as I had coconuts, palm leaves, and bamboo. For some reason, my mind switched to a giant forest where I met a lovable stray kitten. There was no food, so do I eat my new friend or keep the companionship trying to survive off of mushrooms that may well be poisonous? Both thoughts were so wretched, that I forced myself to sleep.

Seven o’clock in the morning came much too quickly and without welcome. I wasn’t very hungry, so, I munched on a few Cheerios as I packed up my uniform and equipment then headed out for the train.

The trains were incredibly slow and the people incredibly stupid today. I couldn’t begin to understand why they couldn’t move and why the trains insisted going at a snail’s pace. The train stalled for a good ten minutes at one of the stops…I was sure that I was going to be late for the most important day of class and that worried me. I was amused though, because Beverly Hills Chihuahua is finally coming to Paris next month and there are posters for those adorable fur balls everywhere!

The train finally started moving, and luckily, I was at school with a bit over twenty-five minutes to spare before the exam started at nine. When I arrived, everybody else was already upstairs, patiently waiting — show offs.

A few minutes before nine, Chef Jean-Jacques came out holding a bowl full of poker chips. I was first very excited that it was this Chef because I like him a lot and he isn’t loud and obtrusive like some of the others. He held out the bowl and I gave my hand to God. I withdrew my hand and was holding a yellow poker chip. “Crap,” I said to myself, I hate yellow. I have never found it to be a flattering color on anybody, unless it is a pale pastel version and not the garish color of dandelions.

The other two colors were red and green. Chef said that red would be a Saint-Honoré. “Good,” I thought, I hated that whipped cream confection of crap. Green would be a pear tart. “Sweet,” I thought, I wanted to do that one second to least of all! Finally, I was sure that I would get a Moka or something as equally rancid, but because of divine Providence, Chef revealed that yellow would be Pithivier. I blinked, thinking I was in some kind of a joke, when I discovered that I wasn’t, I couldn’t help but break into a smile. Pithiviers were the easiest thing we had done the entire class and now they were asking me to do it for an exam! Alright!

It hit nine o’clock and we all frantically dashed for the flour, sugar, butter, and whatever else we needed to grab to make our individual recipes. Quickly, my puff pastry came together, I was hitting the butter into shape with a smile on, I wrapped it up, rolled it up, folded it twice and popped it into the refrigerator.

Then, I moved on to my almond cream. I had the first problem of the day here, it wasn’t major by far and I don’t think anybody noticed. The burner I put my butter on to cream it was too hot, so the butter immediately melted, not softened. I had to toss it out and start over, but that probably took a whole two minutes to fix. The rest of it came together perfectly.

I rolled the dough out and prepped it for the almond-butter cream. Once the cream was artfully spiraled into the center, I put it back into the refrigerator to chill. For some reason, my baking sheet didn’t fit into the refrigerator, so, I had to share with My-Ryung, which was fine…until she accidentally sabotaged me. She put her baking sheet into chill a few shelves on top of mine. But for some reason, it slipped and fell right onto my cake, but by some miracle, nothing was ruined, the cream was just a bit squashed, but that was nothing that a quick spread of the spoon wouldn’t fix.

Soon, it was time to work on the etchings on top. They came out really nicely, I thought, even though, I probably should have done more, but what I did was nice. Chef whisked it from me and popped it in the oven, leaving me free to start work on my pastry dough.

I had prepared this while the dough was rising and was very nervous about it. It was the one thing that I had been told consistently I don’t do well enough, but nobody takes the time to show me how to do it, so each time we are asked to line a pastry tart ring, the Chef will inevitably make a ‘Wah-Wah’ sound, smirk, and walk away, leaving me to wonder how I had screwed up this time.

Before I had started, Chef had darted around to the other people who had gone ahead of me, proclaiming, “Catastrophe!” before smoothing it over with his thumb so that everybody had to start over.

I rolled my dough out and did it as I thought it should be done, Chef walked over to me, looked at it, I was filled with fright, and then he said, “Très bien.”

As he walked away, I stood there in complete shock. I couldn’t believe that I had lined a tart ring and then had received a compliment on it! Even if I failed the whole exam, that moment was enough to make me feel I had passed it.

After that, we had to make Sacristans which are these little puff pastry twists that are delightful and tasty. They were very easy to make and looked very nice if I do say so myself.

Before long, everything was out of the oven and we had to plate our dishes. Plating a pastry dish isn’t very hard, you just sit it on a golden card that is about the same size as it is and call it good. I put the pretty twists on top of the ugly ones, called it good, and left.

Downstairs I had to clean out my locker, my joke of an excuse of a locker. My hatred of that room came back to me as I struggled to change into my regular clothing even in an empty room. There is no space in that stupid closet. It made me angry and still does thinking back on it.

I waited for Jongin and Julalak, and then together, we all walked to the Metro. They had both had the Saint-Honoré and they both said that they were miserable. I knew that they were exaggerating, because I had seen both of their cakes, and they were lovely. Jongin’s piping was the best I had ever seen it. I don’t understand Asian culture having such a lack of public self-confidence, even if they have confidence in themselves. Their shows of humility are sometimes very irritating when you just want to tell them what a good job they had done.

By that time, I was starving, so I hurried home for lunch. I had been planning on going out for ice cream since my card had been stolen from me by the cannibal ATM, so I decided to do that after my meal.

I thought that it would be a good idea to put on my three-piece Dior suit for the outing, and it was. I like wearing suits, it makes me feel as if I’m acting in some play, even though nobody is aware of it. I can make myself look a hundred times more important doing a power walk in a suit than I can in my Aéropostale sweater that was designed for women, but I wear it anyway. I love that sweater. It’s also fun wearing suits because people look at you more often, and I enjoy being looked at, it’s as if you are on a catwalk, but again, nobody realizes it. I coiffed my hair into something rather modelesque and then I was off.

On the walk to the ice cream shop, I was this close to stopping in at a salon to get my hair cut. My beautiful hair is nice looking and all, but there is too much of it and it has no defined shape. I realized that I only had ten euros in my wallet — I had left the rest of all the Western Union cash in the apartment — so I couldn’t get my hair cut, which was sad. But, maybe it was a sign…the haircut could have been dreadful. That salon also offers plastic surgery consultations which I found odd and strangely delightful.

There was nobody walking on the little path along the river today, so, I was free to sing along to my iPod if I wanted to…and I did. Soon, I was at the little ice cream shop, but the line was markedly shorter today, only four people. The ones ahead of me couldn’t figure out what a pamplemousse was. They asked some French people, who said, “It’s pamplemousse. Don’t you have that in America?” Here, I had to intervene and reveal that the pamplemousse is a grapefruit. The French man seemed delighted to learn a new word, but his wife looked pissed that she hadn’t known. Everybody else was happy and soon I had purchased myself a cone of blood orange ice cream. (Because I like orange and the name in French is: Orange Sanguine.)

It was ridiculously good, at the same time creamy and icy and orangey and grapefruit-like and heavenly. For a single scoop, it seemed to go on forever, and that was appreciated. I even liked the cone they had put it in, and I hate cones. Back home, ice cream cones seem to be molded styrofoam, but this was a very tasty waffle cone an I enjoyed every bite of it, which surprised me.

To finish my ice cream, I sat down in the little park behind Notre Dame and read more of my book. I had also brought along an old baguette to feed to the pigeons, but it had turned rock hard and when I threw it, the pigeons were afraid and all left looking rather annoyed that I had wasted their time. I apologized to them and continued my reading.

When I grew tired of this, I decided to go inside Notre Dame since I was feet from it, and I’m glad I did. Today, due to Lent, they were showing the Crown of Thorns again. I was happy, but very confused because it was a service, and I don’t know the first thing about Roman Catholicism. So, I took a seat in the back and stood up when everybody else did, tried to mimic their hand gestures, but after about a half hour of this, I grew restless and excused myself. I realized that Catholicism, for all its various madnesses, is very beautiful. I couldn’t ever join, but, I do like the showmanship aspect of it all. It was fun to see the clergymen in their white capes dashing about the pews like elderly vampires. I had no idea what they were doing, but watching them swoop about was rather entertaining.

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I walked around the various chapels inside of the church, and finally arrived at a vantage point where I could see what was going on at the front. There were three old men. One was in red and he was holding a cushion upon which rested the Crown, two other men, all in white flanked him on either side with small towels in their hands. The line of people slowly moved forward and each one kissed the crown, then tapped it to their foreheads. After that, one of the white-robed clergymen would quickly wipe it with his towel so that it was “sanitized” for the next worshipper. At one point, a baby kind of fell onto it, so I have to wonder if the thing is the real thing. I honestly don’t believe that the crown they were presenting was Jesus’ hat at the crucifixion, or even a replica of it, maybe it was something some con artist made in the middle ages, even then, I have a hard time believing that they would let such a priceless and ancient relic be manhandled in such a way, even if it was enclosed in a small, circular, glass tube.

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I left soon after and took the train to Tuileries to try and find the boutique named Colette and the Karl Lagerfeld Barbies. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Barbie, Colette, a famous clothing store, commissioned Karl Lagerfeld to design Chanel outfits for the Barbies. I didn’t think that anything could possibly be more entertaining, but I never found it for some reason. I was on the right street, but I never came across the store. I found a jewelry store, though, that sells ancient antiques. You could get a ring from the time of Marie Antoinette, if not from her hand. I was deeply impressed with a ring that had belonged to a Marquis in the 18th Century, but I didn’t want to part with the hundred euros it called for.

The next thing I found was an art gallery/antique emporium thing that was somehow connected to the Louvre. You could buy the most ridiculously expensive things here like this painted piano for thousand upon hundreds of thousands of euros. I enjoyed the opulence incredibly, and was very glad that I had worn my suit!  The whole place put Harrod’s to shame, but they were going to close soon, so, I left.

I crossed the street to an entrance of the Louvre I had never seen and flashed my membership card to the man. He nodded at me and I was in…I felt like a Secret Service agent, even though he would have let me in wearing a dress.

I used the Louvre as a shortcut to get to Place de la Concorde. Within a few minutes, I was happily seated on a green chair in my favorite place in Paris. I read and read and read as the sun shone upon me and made me happy. Soon, though, I realized I had to move, or I wouldn’t finish my sightseeing before darkness fell.

I got up and crossed the bridge and quickly made my way to 81 rue de l’Universite, where Julia Child had lived in the 50s and opened up her little cooking school. It was a wonderful area, but seeing the apartment building was rather anticlimactic — it looked just like an apartment building. Many buildings around here had plaques on them detailing the famed people who had once lived there, but there was none here. Nothing to see, so, I came home.

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I made myself some dinner and lightly packed up my bags. Nobody from Le Cordon Bleu had called or emailed me, so I passed. If a person fails, they notify them immediately, and, they hadn’t, so, that was great.

Then it was time for bed and I quickly succumbed to slumber.

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