With the start of module three, came a new instructor, new team assignments and new stations. Having completed our lessons on fundamental techniques, we moved into an exploration of flavor learning the cuisines of countries around the world. We started with two regions in France, the foods varying based on the topography of the land, its neighboring countries, and historic influences. On Saturday, we made a cheese soufflé that I ate in motion, scraping the decadent herb sauce lovingly with a spoon, along with creamy apple pork chops and a classic lobster sauce that I could have drunk with a straw.
Although the day went well, I felt like I was treading aimlessly in the kitchen disoriented from my altered surroundings. I left class Saturday night without the expectation of my sister’s company. She was out of town and being in the city felt oddly out of place. My feet moved more slowly along the sidewalk and a hollowness accompanied the night.
Sunday was frantically busy. We made duck confit, a 24+ hour process that we had started the day before, that was ultimately used in a red cabbage salad and a lamb stew and bean cassoulet. We also made whole trout with spaetzle, a sausage-fest sauerkraut dish, delicious braised chicken, piles of buttery potatoes with sliced truffles, and two different classic French pastry doughs that were used for savory tarts.
Class ran late as we prepared the complex and time consuming French recipes. I moved swiftly, cooling cooking liquids in an ice bath while braising chicken and washing dishes, going back and forth from the sink to the stove to the counter like I was moving through a timed relay. My hair and forehead were wet with sweat under my cap and my skin felt like it was brushed with duck fat. Uncomfortably, I had to leave ahead of my team to catch my taxi to the airport. I didn’t have time to finish cleaning, take any photos of our afternoon work, taste the food or get a sip of water. My bladder pressed against my abdomen but my ride was waiting outside. I felt more disoriented leaving the kitchen than I did at the start of class. The airline had moved my flight time earlier, and it was the last flight of the night, giving me little flexibility; the timing of class and travel needed to be like two well-fitted interlocking gears. As I walked through the airport, my lower back and the heels of my feet ached showing signs of the trade. I could barely manage my own stench and the poor man assigned to the seat next to me must be wondering what he did do deserve this pairing.
Instead of the usually deserted terminal corridor, the airport was still bustling when I landed. I rushed hoping to see my son before he fell asleep and for the first time since school started, made it home to a bright gleeful smile and arms thrown around my shoulders. Whatever hollowness there had been, was quickly filled and with his little hand in mine, the final pieces of the night came together.