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Rainbows and Unicorns

June 8, 2014

It’s (not) all rainbows and unicorns at the CIA- even if the sign says so!

Hello dear readers! Things are really busy around here, there certainly is plenty to blog about, but I’ve found in my new adventure in culinary arts school brings me more ideas than time. My enthusiastic proclamation last month that I would “see you next week” might have been a little optimistic.  I will get here as often as I can and share with you what’s going on, at least once a month, maybe more often if only to share a photograph or two.

The first month has been quite intense. Culinary math is my biggest challenge, as well as knife skills. I think there’s something in my brain that does not like EXACT precision. I don’t mean precision within a recipe but I mean linear precision. Such as math and such as cutting multiple onions or potatoes into exactly the same size shape specified. I find this extremely difficult. There are a couple of reasons why. I’m sure part of it has to do with my hands and wrist injuries. I don’t think I am able to hold the knife exactly as I need to. The other piece is just simply my personality. I am a free flowing take it as you  go kind of gal. And precise knife cuts are not free-flowing. They are expected to be exact. Of course I know I’ll get better with practice and I do practice. (Thank goodness for the knife skills tutoring that is available once a week in the library.)  I have a couple of more weeks before the midterm so hopefully I will get better. So far my cuts have been graded as a “B” but that’s not good enough for me- I want them to be graded as perfect.

Culinary math understanding has come a little faster due to receiving tutoring three times a week. One of my my math tutors is a very nice guy who is probably almost young enough to be my grandson (!) But he is kind and smart and extremely helpful. I call him “the math  ninja” because his teaching sneaks up on me later when I least expect it and need it the most. It is such a relief to have someone helping because trust me friends, word problems are just as challenging even when they’re about food and subjects you love!

Of course we are cooking. We started off with broths and stocks, they are different you know. I didn’t really know the difference, I just thought that they were one product called two different things. Stocks are made with bones and broths are deeper flavored because of the addition of meat to the cooking process.  I’ve been making chicken broth for a couple of years now at home and freezing it. I love using it in all of my recipes instead of buying commercial broth. I know now that I got a nice result doing it “my way” at home, but my method of putting everything in at the same time and letting it simmer all day is simply unnecessary. Good broth can be made in just a few hours, putting aromatics and the mirepoix in pot the last hour or so of cooking time is the way to go. We’ve  learned how to clarify stock or broth  (Also known as consommé) by using a raft-  not the kind that you get at the sporting goods store but the kind that is made from raw ground meat and raw eggs. It’s an amazing process to watch as you put a big gloppy mess into the cloudy broth and then shortly while simmering the raft (the raw meat and eggs) begins to form and float on top – underneath is an incredibly clear beautiful consommé.We have also started making thickened soups such as potato leek, lentil, and now cream soups and volute.

Each day builds on the one before it and each week the time that we are given to complete our knife skills tray is shortened and intensified. The chef’s and instructor’s expectations of us grow with each day. I find that my own expectations for myself also grow each day. This truly is an opportunity of a lifetime for me. While living in a new city without my husband and creating a  lifestyle that works for my education is a challenge I find every day to be rewarding. I wake up excited to see what’s in store, and I go to bed each night pleased with the person that I am becoming.

Here are a few photographs from the last few weeks:

A lovely day on campus

A lovely day on campus

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Lentil soup with fresh made croutons.

potato and leek soup

potato and leek soup

knife skills before

knife skills before

knife skills after

knife skills after

The Raft!

The Raft!

Chef Jerry Reed the kitchens manager. One of the nicest people there!

Chef Jerry Reed the kitchens manager. One of the nicest people here!

An amazing "family meal"

An amazing “family meal”

it was Japanese cuisine day for the family meal. (I dont eat sushi so I had a GREEN plate!)

it was Japanese cuisine day for the family meal. (I don’t eat sushi so I had a GREEN plate!)

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a totally unrelated pic of Lilybelle in her new palazzo pants. <3

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2014 12:16 pm

    How wonderful for you! I envy you.

  2. Jeffrey permalink
    June 8, 2014 12:19 pm

    The lentil soup looks totally delicious.

  3. Debra Rose permalink
    June 12, 2014 6:53 am

    I love this! It’s probably because I relate to all of it, from the wrist injury to the difficulty with precise cutting (no thank you!) all the way down to Beautiful Miss Lilybelle! The creamy potato and leek soup literally made my mouth water. I look forward to more tales of your culinary adventure!

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