Reflections

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…

Calculus

With a car load full of heirlooms and memories, we drove from my late parent’s house to the city in the early morning hours before class. Coffee was as critical as the muscles in my eyelids to keep them open. We pulled into the garage and after a brief walk, I was in the locker…

Thankfully Undefined

Thankfully, I shared time with my family in the chaos of a meal with kids squealing and the boon of fragrances drifting from the kitchen to opposite corners of the house. It was our first Thanksgiving absent three with whom to share it, and no matter how filled the table was with stuffing and pies,…

Abundance

I have a suitcase full of food – literally. Grilled, roasted and braised meats wrapped in foil sit adjacent to my folded sweatpants. Fortunately, airports don’t have a 3-1-1 rule for proteins the way they do for liquids. While others eat peanuts and pretzels on fold out trays, I have at my disposal ancho rubbed…

Cooking Cactus 

Have you ever looked curiously at cactus paddles at the grocery store and wondered how to prepare them?  These prickly green plants are exceptionally healthy to eat. To remove the spines, lay the cactus flat on a cutting board.  Place a clean towel in one hand to hold the pepper and your knife in the…

To the Letter

“Are you hearing me?  I’m just saying. Alright?  Okay,” Chef said repeatedly in a tough city accent as she winked at us. She is fiery, unapologetic, slightly outrageous, and very warm. We are her baby dolls. We are her students, and in her class it is okay to learn by both success and mistake. I…

Practically Speaking

The final class in module one focused on soups, which gave rise to quarts of silky, creamy, cheesy liquids marked with my name, followed by a 3-hour practical exam where the principles learned over the last several weeks were tested through both written essay and food preparation. This program milestone layered on top of a…

Mother Sauces

In classic French cuisine, hundreds of sauces are derived from five mother sauces. Last week, we learned four and this week, we prepared Hollandaise, the fifth of these grand creations, along with nearly a dozen variations that are now stored in small plastic containers in my sister’s freezer. This weekend’s lesson was at the foundational…

Spectators

My father would have gasped with longing delight at what I have learned about protein fabrication. If I could, I’d make him a feast of veal shank and lamb and he’d sing with absolute sincerity about how he never met a leg he didn’t like. The sad paradox of this journey is that it was…

Fabricating Delicious

Fabrication, as I had previously known it, was reserved for storytelling and knitting sweaters, but in chefs terms, fabrication is butchery and similar seafood preparation.  Our instruction began as a blend of anatomy physiology and US food grading 101, and then we donned our gloves and transformed hunks of meat into the cuts you might normally buy at a grocery store….

Just a Pinch

This week, the observation of Christopher Columbus’ discovery provided some respite.  Ironically, Columbus, who was highly influential in sparking global trade and blending culinary traditions across cultures, was among those recognized in my recent research paper about the history of black pepper. With no travel in nearly two weeks, my bones feel less heavy but I miss the…

Wet Paper Dries

Wet paper dries. Once the water evaporates, the paper strengthens again taking on a slightly different texture. It’s a bit more rigid and wrinkled, but when carefully attended to, its substance can be preserved and the stains tell the story of reality. With two weeks and eight classes complete, I felt invigorated. I had managed through…