The approaching holiday brought with it frigid temperatures and crisp snowfall. My son and I waited for a taxi at the airport for hours with our toes chilled as lifeless as crumbling stones. I kept pulling out clothing from our suitcase to add onto him yet another layer. I longed for my father, who would have already been there waiting when we arrived. His absence was cold like the air. After more than two hours in the taxi line, we shared a cab with a girl from Missouri who had missed her flight and was returning to the city. I held my son tight to warm his body, and felt reassured by the heat of the car.
As I walked to school in the morning, my feet crunched along the walkway and plows passed by churning up tiny flakes. The evening’s shambles lingered in my mind like a stubborn cough and for the first time I was late to class.
We spent hours in the morning perfecting eggs, a complex protein veiled by the simplicity of breakfast food. I cracked 108 eggs, one in each hand as I practiced sliding the yolk and white from the shell with the smooth motion of two fingers. Omelets come in both French and American style – the French, more challinging, with flavor that shames the dry mouthfuls packed down with dry toast and bacon at weekend joints. Eggs are not served seasoned – something I didn’t know, and as we fried and poached, I learned about the differences in structure between a fresh and older egg from the degradation of albumin.
Chef had taken orders from other students, staff, and instructors, and called out to us restaurant style: “Number twelve: a French omelet with mushrooms, green peppers and cheese. Number thirteen: over medium with bacon. Number fourteen: a three minute egg with sausage.” Our wrists jerked the pan to flip the eggs as we bit our lips hoping it would land back in the pan. The heat of the stove raised the temperature of the room at least 15 degrees and as I stood by the burner rolling my French omelet carefully onto the plate, I felt the energy of the kitchen unlike before. I wrapped up my orders to-go and with a smile waited for the next to come.
In the afternoon, we pulled on all of the various techniques learned during the course of module two to prepare slow roasted barbecue ribs, braised sweetbreads, oven-cooked Indian rice pilaf, tandoori chicken, and leg of lamb with celery salad. The night’s memory faded like the heat in the room. We all happily gathered around the table to celebrate the holidays with a family meal, still full from tastings during egg cookery, and we exchanged secret santa gifts, ranging from truffle oil, to tea infusers, to socks. Chef decorated the room with holiday decor drawn on a white board embellished with potatoes, carrots, and shallots. We laughed and enjoyed the respite of a chair, a luxury unseen by chefs in working hours. As I shared the company of my classmates, I looked forward to a family meal with my sisters afterwards.
On the way back to the apartment, cascading lights draped on trees reflected on nearby windows and illuminated otherwise dim places. Experiences colored the day like ornaments on a tree, incipient and unhindered.