Friday, September 25, 2009

A First Impression of Culinary School

When I signed up for culinary classes, I thought I would be the oldest student in them.  Again.  Older than the instructors. Again.  Like when I first enrolled in college years ago at age 32.  I was a mother figure for many of my classmates. Yawn.

But, I am amazed now that so many, ahem, non-traditional students enroll in culinary school.  I mean, seriously, I have felt like "the baby."  On day one, I was surrounded by so many codgers that I wondered if I had stumbled into a rest home on activities day.

We'll, it turns out I'm in good company because my eyesight is on the wane, and I can't remember shit.

That point was driven home last week when one of my Advanced Food Prep group members, I'll call him "Harold," forgot his reading glasses and couldn't read the recipes.  We had to take turns loaning him ours.

But, it's GREAT!  There's power in numbers.  We get to boss the kids around, and they pretty much stay out of our way because, I don't know, they respect our advanced ages. 

Yeah, that's it.

"Out of my way, sonny, I'm sautéing here."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

OK...I'm one of those people....

On Day One of my new culinary classes, we had nervous introductions all around and tales of culinary inspirations. Most had started cooking rather early: at ages 10, .. 8, .. 5, ... It seemed everyone was trying to outdo each other with who had begun earliest. I was waiting for someone to say he had once made Chicken Fricassée while in the womb.

I have to admit, I was one of those telling of cooking early, at age 10 or so. Growing up in rural Mississippi, I usually had to create my own avenues of fun, especially in summer months when school was out. Not having many other kids around, I would get out my mother's cookbooks and play. My grandparents lived with us, bragged on my experiments, and made sure I didn't burn the house down.

During those 1960s summers, I cooked for fun and for self-expression, though I didn't know what self-expression meant. Had no idea anyone went to school for a career in cooking, or that such schools or careers existed. The adults I knew eked out a living toiling at jobs they hated.

Opening a box of cake mix, I thought I was a gourmet, and, as my offerings improved, my much older cousin would pay me $2 each for my cakes for his Sunday School classes. (That's $2 per entire cake, not per slice.) Everyone raved over the chocolate ones with the swirled frosting.

My grandmother showed me how to make rice pudding. Didn't think it was nearly so sophisticated as my box-mix cakes with the frosting swirls. Didn't know that her lessons were golden. Today, I would die to have her rice pudding recipe. And, her bread pudding one made with biscuits.

So, after at least 5 career changes, I am finally focusing on something I have always loved, but had never taken seriously. And, I'm applying science to the art and anticipating the possibilities: cooking school instructor, food stylist/photographer, the Next Food Network Star?

But, still, in the back of my mind nags the question: "What for, and at this late date, where could it possibly lead .... ?"

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