Monday, June 11, 2007

notes from a bilingual kitchen

At the cupcakery, my fellow bakers and I are always trying to teach more English to the Mexican guys who work with us, and trying to pick up more Spanish from them. We've got the basics down, enough to say "mas zanahoria" and "dos bolsas chocolate." This morning found me trying to explain the concept of bragging to our 19 year old OCD dishwasher/prep guy who lines up all our cambros with the handles stacked in a perfect line. "Yo soy Miguel, rawr," posing with big muscles like a strongman. Then: "yo habla espanol, solo!" He laughs, but it's hard to know sometimes. What gets through? We thought we learned the word for mixer today but it was only sound, "sonido." In the kitchen we joke, we listen to energy or my ipod, we learn to force the overworked Mexicans to take a break. "Ahora," we say, "no mas trabajo. We'll do the dishes."

Bruce made crackers today with leftover flour tortillas and salt, and we had them with hummus. There's always snacks at the cupcakery, bagels or boxes of fruit picked up at Costco, cookies someone's made at home as if cupcakes aren't enough sweetness. With half a watermelon we made smoothies" watermelon, banana, lime juice, ice, some salt. Not great smoothies. Could have used some mint, some hot pepper. But nice to break up the day.

What I get from working at a bakery, what I haven't gotten in the restaurant scene, is bakers to talk about ideas with. Always the pastry person's alone, and at Sonsie every now and then Chef Bill and I would discuss things like making better muffins or how we could convince Michael to do a cupcake for the next menu, but this is different. I get to ask about things like if anyone has a good biscuit recipe. I get to share my idea for the roasted-apricot vanilla babycake with someone who won't just say "yum" but who will ask how much caramel, hard crack or soft. Someone for whom what I do is not just a component, so much less sexy than the crush of Saturday night service.

We want to make bread now, and crackers. I'm going to dig out some of Monte's recipes and Bruce is going to bring some in inspired by his Threestone internship. We've talked about starting a sourdough starter. I got Michelle into the idea of ice cream-injected cupcakes, so next batch, here we go. We feed off each other, on the good days. On the bad days we just bang stuff out in a flurry of decorating and scooping. But today was a good day, slow enough for cleaning and for talking. A nice way to end my new extra-long work week.

I've got some puttering to do at home,some peaches to make into pie and the bread recipes to search through, etc. I'm getting a reputation at the cupcakery apparently. Not at decorating (still can't pipe my way out of a room but I'm getting closer to the door). But for being good, for being fast.

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