Thursday, August 23, 2007

The piece of advice that comes most often to mind is something I read somewhere, and I wish I remember where, and it more or less reads as followed:

When you are overwhelmed {in a kitchen} the weeds, as we say...the best thing to do is not rush hastily into some task but take a moment to clean your workspace. When your space is free of clutter and wiped clean, you can really get to work. It's a strategy I used many times at Sonsie when a cluster of desserts-to-be-plated interrupted my mise, and something I try to do in the chaos that is the Saturday market scene in the hot, postage-stamp-sized, my-stove-plugs-into-the-wall kitchen.

{I've recently started missing professional ranges}

I've never had a problem with drive. I've always been after something (much less often someone). I came fairly early to the obvious art of writing and less early to the immediate pleasures and discipline of cooking. I admit to floundering for a while during culinary school (but can it really be called floundering if you're finishing a Masters program, taking 20 hours a week of culinary class and holding down a kitchen job three days a week with someone who either a)didn't want any help anyway or b)didn't want to be there himself anyway?). These last six months I've been acting on the impulse that suddenly made sense, the lens through which everything I'd always pursued was refracted. So what if it meant moving to California? People tend not to believe me when I tell them the things I was looking for in kitchen work were not really going on in Boston and I'm not sure why this is.

{on a super small scale, yes, they were. but on a hey-i-can-afford-a-pastry-assistant scale, nah.}

So here I am and have been and will be and my focus is closing in and it feels great. It feels wonderful. It makes me think that I can still surprise myself. The question now-and there are many questions now-is how to get the rest of the tools I need.

I would like to work with someone who is fast and who doesn't stop working on making things better. I would like to work with someone who appreciates bread and other yeasty things. I would like to work with someone who knows more than I do. I would like to work in a rush of cooks who are digging and digging for something interesting to do. I would like to work with a dough sheeter and a fancy range and industrial sized ice cream makers or maybe tiny and efficient Paco Jets. I would like to play with toys. I would like to work the line. I would like to commit reckless acts of butchery both sweet and savory. I would like to work...

but then I work, already


or so it feels.

I am trying to be patient and know that they way to the information I desire will manifest itself and it may not (is not, has not been) the way that is easy or first apparent.

It is odd I do think that my position at FH has only closed one door to me, being the door that brought me out here, but it is an entryway into so many more interesting things.

And in the spirit of getting-to-play-with-stone-fruit,

I am trying to recall a cake. We made it early on in culinary school, before the basics had really set in. The cake had apricots and peaches but I'm improving it with nectarines. Cheffy called it a clafoutis cake, but it wasn't a proper clafoutis. Nevertheless it was creamy and moist. Like pound cake or brioche soaked in cream, that tender. {but I am not trying to make pain perdu}. I shared it with an ex-friend. I have the recipe, but I tried to recreate it and ended up with inedible disks. I'm going to try it again tomorrow morning on the off-chance I left something out. It is an almond flour cake {though I of course have to make my own almond flour, nonetheless, that shouldn't matter}. It lacks something significant...eggs? No...butter {or oil}. Almond flour, sugar, eggs + yolks, cornstarch, cream, fruit. I've gone through my cookbook library but there isn't anything comparable. How do you search for the-creamiest-cake-ever? I'll google it and keep you updated. And this is also what I need to learn: how to recreate memories in food.

Food is a damn manipulative medium. I've thought all along the writers were the real hucksters but the food artists are guilty of equally great shams.

I do miss restaurants, I do. So much. What puzzles me is why per se. I tend to be a creature of instinct more so than others, so maybe the why is not important.

Of the things I want, what do I get to get? And are they the right things to want? Will the conversations I think I need to have get me answers? What am I still supposed to do with all the information I have, because it really isn't currency if it's a secret? Why are all bakers so gossipy? Who googles me and misspells my name? Why have I been wanting a FOH job lately even at some cheesy tourist hole to bankroll some of thing knowledge-searching? Who are the fellow bodies of this industry and what do they want? Why do I let my anxieties override what my hands know?

Thing is, everyone's weird in a kitchen. We're pasty and sun-deprived, up too early or up too late. If I were still in Boston I'd be {well, probably working somewhere specific with a pastry chef I remember liking a lot, that is, if nothing better had happened along} faced with a rough job market and a much harder shot at getting any of those questions answered. That is if I'd even figured out as much as I have since last November.

The last year has been a string of hot pursuits. Finding a FT job(August). Realizing I needed to move 3000 miles (November). Handing in a quite good short story manuscript for the master's thesis (December). Finding a way to get out here (January). Giving notice and moving (February-March). Getting a job out here (March) or two (May). Landing a dog-friendly yet affordable SF apartment (June). Understanding what will one day be (July). Is August going to be coming full circle or am I, as always, anxious to overanalyze?

In life as in writing I'm always impatient to evolve and it's a fault I have a difficult time tempering.

Considering making a summer trifle with the leftovers of the sponge cake in the freezer at FH and some yummy verbena-spiked peach-berry compote.

What I meant to say and perhaps have not said is yes, the list, the things that are so many and varied I am in the weeds: it's time to take the first step and clean off the table.

1 comment:

Marusya said...

I like that piece of advice. Can it apply to my desk in narrow office (coincidentally, shaped like a galley kitchen) in a university? I'll try it out next time I am 'in the weeds' (can I even use that term?);-)