Monday, September 28, 2009

Tis an ill wind that blows no minds

It was one of those cold, windy days today. Since I didn't have to work, and in the absence of usual visual cues to wake up, I slept until noon. I talked myself out of feeling guilty for sleeping half the day away, and decided to make up for my slothful ways--and warm up the house at the same time! Popping a school uniform jacket over my flannel pjs, I started up a batch of pumpkin bread. This recipe has a special place in my heart as the first one I learned in home ec back in the 8th grade. Perfect for a brisk fall day like this, when I need something warm and homey. Soon, the pans were in the oven and the whole apartment started to smell good. The recipe makes two loaves, more than I could finish by myself, so I wrapped one up and brought it to my grandparents.

They really appreciated the visit and the treat. They're so cute, very easy to please. They aren't up to doing much these days, so getting the odd visitor now and then really brightens their day. When she was younger, my grandma used to bake a lot for my mom and her brothers and sisters, but she hasn't for a very long time. Amid the stereotypical achetype of the doting grandmother at the stove, I've never even seen her cook before. She certainly enjoys the fruits of my labors, though! Maybe, at this point, that's enough for both of us. I love performing for an audience, no matter how small. Knowing that they enjoy it and appreciate the times I bring treats I've whipped up, that's a perfect reward for a cook. If something I enjoy doing anyway makes someone else happy, that's all I ask for.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Attempts, valiant and vain

The other day, I was going through my kitchen drawers, taking stock of what I have versus what I've lost in the move. By some great fortune, I found my candy thermometer! I had just been flipping through my Halloween cookbook and read a recipe for pumpkin fudge. It sounded good so after a quick jaunt to the store, I had everything I needed to get started. I followed the instructions (I thought) to the letter, and soon I had a bubbling pot of orange goo ready to turn into yummy treats. I took it off the heat, stirred in the butter, and waited for it to cool before the final mix and panning. As the hours passed and the pot remained molten-lava hot, and was taking on the consistency of cement, I figured something had gone awry, the word crystallized sprung readily to mind. Growling to myself the whole time, I poured the mess into the pan anyway, figuring it'll be easier to throw away when it's hardened rather than dumping culinary napalm in the garbage or down the sink. I tried, I failed. But I'll try again.

I've been getting better at my various positions at work. When I first started working salads, my initial prep (chopping heads of lettuce for the day) took me two hours. The past few times, it's only taken 45 minutes, and that's to chop, clean, spin, and tray up several pounds of lettuce. My speed has been improving, as well as my multitasking. I can face a sudden slew of tickets that would've had me from a month ago run screaming into the night. And now, I've been made their primary day salad station person! Hard work pays off! does getting along with my coworkers. There was one who at first didn't like me, distinctly. His name is Jos`e and he had very little patience with "la gringa". Then we worked together one night, he was on saute, right next to the salads, and we just started talking. Food, life in general, condensed backstories, that kind of thing. It totally turned it around. I even gave him one of my favorite recipes, written from memory on the back of a ticket, and we've gotten along great ever since.

I'm visiting my parents today, and my mom just told me about an hour ago that she's in the mood to try some new recipes. We've spent a fun evening going through a few cookbooks together, picking out ones that have potential to go over well. We've found several that sound like something she could do. I can't wait to hear if she enjoys it as much as I do! I love spreading the love of food. She already loves food, but I think the actual cooking part leaves her a bit intimidated. I'm glad she's trying to break out of her comfort levels and try something new.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It's amazing...

How just a little appreciation can turn a whole day around. I was having a perfectly wretched morning, everyone seemed to be yelling at me and I just couldn't go fast enough to keep up. I was ready to throw in the towel and look for something else, seriously. I don't get it when people have to act like such jerks so much of the time, just to be mean to someone for its own sake, it's like being back in high school, and that can really get me down. Like, I can't say or do anything right around them without them making some sarcastic remark. Then on the way out, the chef said to me "Good job today, Katie", and I felt better. Like, maybe I can do this again for another day. It doesn't take much to give someone the strength to not give up. It's a delicate balance, how much can we take, and how much do we need in return. It helps out a lot when other people seem to think I'm doing okay. Just to know that I'm appreciated. Hey, I keep showing up, don't I? I might not get through my task sheet in record time, but I stay till the job's complete, I don't give up.


I got done with my second half of work, which went so much better than the first half! We just had a party of 40 people, we had everything set up and ready to go in record time, so we all got to go home early. Chef John was in good spirits, my urge to slap people silly was considerably lower, it was a good end to the day.

I have an evening shift tomorrow, which are always nice because I get to sleep in! I might have time to get some baking in or put something together to have ready for supper when I get home. One of our night managers just quit, so I wonder what it'll be like with whoever they stick in in his place. I hope everything goes all right. I bet we'll be busy, which will be good, the time will go by faster. I've been doing all right on the line, I feel more comfortable up there than in the back doing prep. John seems to think I'm more suited to it, too. That's always good to get a vote of confidence.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy Halloween!! Wait, I'm early?

Okay, good news, the perceived pumpkin famine which threatened my holiday baking rituals is over! Pumpkin for everybody! I've whipped out my Halloween cookbook and I'm not afraid to use it! Now where to begin...I have the day off today and I'm in the mood to cook (imagine that). Another thing I'm going to try out today is a new recipe for pastry dough. It's supposed to be foolproof and it sounds really good. I found it in an e-newsletter I subscribe to, it's always fun to get a new recipe to experiment with, and this is a great way to find them! I love it when they come with pictures :-)

On Sunday, my mom and I finally got to see "Julie & Julia", I've been waiting to see that for a month and I finally got to see it. It was worth the wait! I'd just read the book earlier this summer, and I'm happy to say that the movie did the book justice, a rare feat! As many critics also say, I enjoyed the parts focussing on Julia. As a culinarian, it was fun to watch her journey through French cooking. I must say, that throughout the movie, everyone's "food-gasm" face was totally spot-on. It made me remember some of those moments I've had in the kitchen or dining room, where words fail and all is well.