a rough start

To say things have been off to a rough start would be an understatement.  In a mere week during our class break, I’ve traveled to the south of France and the coast of Italy and back, and somehow managed to forget how to cook along the way.  What a difference a week makes =/  I’ve become a total disaster in the kitchen and fumbled practically every dish I’ve made so far in Intermediate cuisine.  The food on my plate has been either undercooked, overcooked, undersalted, oversalted, and yes… even burnt I’m afraid ><  Needless to say, they resembled nothing like the Chef’s dishes from demo.

Other apparent changes have also taken place… our class size has shrunk in half (which also means our tastings have doubled in size… for better or for worse), competition has gotten stiffer, expectations are higher, and the cliques that have formed in Basic cuisine are now tighter than ever.  And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I came home one night after school to find that my connections to the outside world were completely gone… internet, TV, and phone lines were all down.  As it turned out, my landlord had decided to switch providers, but failed to let me know beforehand.

For an entire week, I waited in vain for SFR to come and install my new neufbox.  A week without the internet and I seriously felt myself succumbing to a deep depression… it was if life itself had no meaning anymore =P  What I’ve come to realize is that Parisians have entirely no sense of urgency… which is so obviously apparent when you look at their lifestyle.  There was a news article published recently about how the French actually spend more time eating and sleeping than anyone else in the world… seriously.  They can spend hours just sitting at a cafe and relaxing; going out to dinner is at least a three-hour ordeal; grocery shopping at the local Monoprix can take hours because you’re stuck waiting at the checkout lines for what seems like eternity =P  As an example, the other day I went to buy toilet paper and tissue, and ended up waiting half an hour in the EXPRESS lane, 10 items or less.  It’s simply incredible.  Starbucks has successfully opened up franchises here in Paris, but you don’t see people sipping to-go cups of cappuccino on the streets, because they’re all sitting down to enjoy their cup of coffee inside the dual-story establishments.

So, when my landlord finally paid me a visit to drop off the new equipment and told me to wait another 48 hours for an SFR technician to come and install everything, I simply had to take matters into my own hands, knowing that two days according to Parisian standards would mean at least another week.  I was desperate and desperate times call for desperate measures.  I followed the installation instructions (in French, of course), and with a few improvisations, before I knew it, I was starring at the beautiful butterfly on MSN.com’s homepage… ah, so pretty =P

With my life back in order, I managed to make it through the second week of Intermediate, with a few minor cuts and a slightly bad burn, but nothing that time wouldn’t heal =)  I’ve managed to French a rack of lamb, debone a fish to be served whole, roast a duck Salmis style, and fillet a fish to be wrapped in lettuce leaves and braised in its own stock.

All this hard work, and it still feels like my cuisine has seen better days.  Amazingly enough, I think I’m doing better in pastry this term since we’ve moved on from baked goods to actually baking presentable cakes and tarts.

I didn’t have the heart to slice into my own cakes since they looked almost too pretty to eat, so I ended up giving them away… which was a good thing since they would have made considerable contributions to my waistline =P

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