Friday, March 28, 2008

Your Friday Moment of Zen: Being patronised the 1940's way

Why oh why did I go to Le Cordon Bleu school? All I needed to do was be patronised by this 1940s film made by the Home Economics Department at the University of Kansas. "Cooking Terms and What They Mean" is intended for young, newly wed white women and attempts to teach them how to interpret recipe instructions. "While the premise seems benign, it is delivered in such a way that puts the films main character, a twenty-something newly wed woman, on so low an intellectual echelon as to say she is incapable of divining meaning from common cooking terms."

In the film, Margie and Tim are just back from their honeymoon. Tim, being a man, heads off to work in the morning, while Margie stays at home, touching all her new appliences in the kitchen trying to decide what to make Tim for dinner. Will she be able to make Tim all the food he likes just like his mother?? What they don't show you is that after she makes a disasterous cake because she doesn't know what "cream the butter" means, she'll probably realise she can't keep Tim happy with her food, only use her kitchen as a place to drink sherry by the gallon, and sit around wondering why the fuck she didn't go off to university so she could be the one out at work and leave Tim at home to fuck up the cooking. And what will happen to Tim? Why he'll go out on the piss every night with his co-workers and try to pick up girls from the typing pool at the office of course.

Ahh the 1940's. Where the little lady was expected to stay at home and baby their hubby's just like mum. Watch this and enjoy. Enjoy the fact that us women are not expected to do this anymore. Unfortunately I actually know women who are still like this. And they're around my age.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Late Night Waiter

Heard in a late night cab home:

Me: "So if I make cakes for work and people don't want to donate money, then that's ok too. I'll just say 'well Jesus will judge you'".
Calv: "No, you should say "your god will judge you""
The Magic: "So would Einstein judge me for not paying for a cake?"
Calv: "Einstein's your god? Really? I'm a bit disapointed in that"
Dr D: "Yeah me too. Not Carl Sagan?"
Me: "Yeah Mag, Einstein? Really? I would have you thought your god would be much more impressive and unknown than that"
The Magic: "Well, to be honest guys he's not. I just thought I'd pick a name you might all know".

BAH-ZING. Magic was our waiter that night. Cause we got our arses handed to us.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I'd have posted yesterday if I hadn't passed out at 7

School is so much fun. But it's also absolutely exhausting!

Yesterday I gutted and filleted my second fish in my life, the first being on Monday. I've worked with fish a lot but I've never actually had to gut one myself... Just watched fish mongers and my mum do it... Yesterday we cooked:

Pan fried trout with beurre sauce
Medallions of pork with a herb crust and mustard sauce
Coconut Creme Caramels
Mixed seafood thai broth

I spent all day on my feet, but when I got home I was completely wiped out. So much started to feel like I was getting the flu, so at 7pm I packed myself off to bed, like a child in kindergarten.

Today we prepared and cooked our own lobsters.. I have always maintained that as a meat eater it would be completely hipocritical of me to be squeamish about where my food comes from. Beef comes from cows, tasty bacon comes from cute pigs, KFC buckets comes from chickens - let's face it that probably are not reared in the most fabulous of conditions (and that's an understatement). But when I saw the little lobsters squirming around on the plate before they were to be cooked in a boiling broth, I felt a real twinge of guilt. Poor little bastards. Poor little tasty bastards baked in their thermador sauce with guyere cheese melted on top (oh yes, I still ate one.. vegan I will never be).

We also made squid ink cannelloni with a crab filling and sweet sauce. I found out how to extract chlorophyll out of spinach (slowly) and I rolled my own cannelloni sheets! I suck arse at making pasta and even with Chef watching over me I managed to fuck it up a little. One side was a longer than the other and when I was cooking them two of the cannelloni sheets stuck together in the pot. Idiot.

Tomorrow is my last day (sob) but I'll tell you what, making all this food all day in a boiling hot kitchen is tiring work. And bizarrely I have no appetite at all. Cause I went to bed so early the night before I hadn't eaten anything, so I had to force myself to eat some toast for breakfast. I then had to force myself to have some a couple of rings of squid in a lime, tomato, olive, caper salsa for lunch... God it sucks to be me right now!

Monday, March 17, 2008

First day at school

Today was my first day of cooking school at Le Cordon Bleu!! And it was fucking fantastic!! Hot, quick, tiring, fantastic fun!

I learned how to cut up a whole chicken into 10 pieces, how to fillet a flat fish, how to french trim a rack of lamb, how to make veal stock with veal knuckles (16 hours of gentle simmering people, 16 hours..), how to prepare mirepoix and what ration of vegetables to meat to use, what the french term for the oyster of a chicken is - Le sot l'y laisse - "the fool leaves it behind".

The whole day was fantastic. Absolutely 100% would love to do this forever fantastic!!

All except for when the chef put some cognac in my chicken casserole.... As soon as the cognac hit the hot pan and it's heady aromas hit my nose all sorts of memories of bad casinos and free champagne cognacs in St Maarten, drinking Armagnac by the unreserved bucketful at our favorite East End pub, and horrendous hangovers where I could barely hold on to the floor in the bathroom what with it spinning out of control all around me came flooding back. My face got this contorted "EEEK I'm not feeling so good" look to it but thankfully I pulled it together and managed to control my urge to gag out loud. Being sick on the kitchen floors of the prestigious Cordon Bleu cooking school simply would not do.....

4 weeks later

It's been almost a month since my 30th birthday, and what have I been doing?

Basically, anything I've never done before: so far, almost every week I've done something that I've not done in my previous 2 decades of life: skiing, dentist, hospital (not in that order). It's been fantastic!

My Almost Brilliant Career as a Ski Bunny
The most exciting thing I've done was go skiing in Cervinia, Italy with Li and her friends! And for all those of you who are now asking "how many bloody holidays can this girl take?" the answer is 28 sweet, sweet, non working days.

I've been skiing once before for a grand total of 2 days, about 12 years ago (god that sounds old), however that didn't work out so well for me.. I spent one day learning how to stand skis and how to fall on our skis. The next day we went up the biggest mountain I'd seen in Australia, where I was completely paralysed with fear of death, and had to be helped to snow plow down by a very unimpressed ski instructor. This time however, I refused to be gripped by fear and after 3 hours on the baby, baby, baby slopes, I was convinced that a life skiing was definitely one for me. I had decided then and there that we were all going to be going down the big blue run within 2 days - all part of my "just go for it" idiotic attitude I'm planning on taking now I'm in my 30s.

On our second day, Li, Mary (the girl I was sharing with) and I, who were all beginners, enlisted into ski school - which is just like primary school but for adults all acting like Bambi on ice. Within 3 hours, we were all snow plowing our ways down, and I was loving it. With my mantra of "knees bend, feel the boot with my shins, legs apart" I was plowing my way down the second level blue run. Snow plowing, which is the beginner skiers best friend and life saver works by keeping your knees bend, and your legs apart so the edge of the skis can slow you down as you go hurtling down the mountain. Unfortunately for me, I find doing this properly quite hard - my legs simply refuse to stay apart and my knees keep forcing themselves together - I guess 13 years of a catholic education with nuns really have driven home the idea that good catholic girls keep their legs firmly shut...

At the end of our second day, this is where I decided that a ski bunny life was the life for me: ski all day, party at night, get a tan whilst lying on a deck chair in t-shirts in the amazingly hot sun with snow under my feet. So on the mountain, next to the Matterhorn I called Dr D and told him to tell our boss I quit:

Dr D: Um, yeah she says she quits... yeah she says she wants to be a ski bunny... yeah I don't know what one of those is either..

So am I going to properly quit my day job and become a fully fledged snow follower? Hmm I'm not too sure... our 3rd day skiing down the insane run to the village almost killed me - if my fear of flinging myself off the cliff wasn't enough, then perhaps the constant falling over as snow boarder after sodding stupid brainless snowboarder smashing into me kinda took the edge off it... My second last day I was tempting fate and honestly was expecting to break something - unfortunately for Li, she took the bullet for me. On our way down from the top of the mountain, her skis crossed themselves and snap she micro fractured her femur, and tore the ligaments in both her knees. Clearly not a girl for doing things in half's. I personally reckon this was all a master plan for her to pick up the burly Italian paramedics who skied her down the mountain in a sledge... she might not see it that way, but she was getting an fearful amount of attention from the Italian boys when she was upstanding, so I reckon her damsel in distress should have had them flocking to her!

This brings me nicely to my next "I've not done this before" of my 30s:

Attaching my feet to my bike and peddling like a falling stone

As I'm doing the London to Paris cycle, I thought it was high time I learn how to ride in cleats - pedals that attach to your shoes. Having got a pair for my birthday, the Sunday I got back from Cervenia Calv attached them to my bike and off we trundled to the local park so I could learn how to ride - again. Cycling round the park, I was really getting the hang of it.. the whole "feet attached to moving bike, twist my feet to get them out of the cleats" thing seemed like a piece of piss. That was until I went round the gentle bend, saw a man and his massive german shephard, slammed on the brakes and in slow blurry motion went crashing into the ground, smacking my head into a metal bar fence, and seriously hurting my hand..

Thought I'd dodged the bullet of hurting myself by not breaking anything skiing eh? Yeah, well fate really hates me..

I ended up for the first time in my life in casualty not just visiting but getting my hand x-rayed cause it hurt like crazy. Calv said the worst thing that could have happened was that I broke something in my wrist. I said no the worst thing that could happen is that we go to hospital and they find nothing wrong with me and me looking like a total baby. You know what? I could have been a psychic. The nurse looked at my x-rays and say "well, it seems you've only sprained your hand.. you'll be fine in a few days". Bloody crap - Li fractures her femur. I, like a hypochondriac go to hospital with a sprained hand. And by the next morning it started to feel allot better. Definitely that's the worst thing.

Not yet paying for his kids college education
The next thing on my "not done this before" tour of my 30s: seeing if I can help the local dentist send his kids to Eton.

Strictly speaking I have been to the dentist. Twice. But both times were those "first check is free, but after you're addicted to the pain of having a sadomasochist ripping into your mouth, you'll have to pay" visits, which I don't really count because they didn't do anything other than say "if you want that chip in your front tooth fixed, we'll have to remove your back 4 teeth" (Why?). However seeing as I am now in my more, ahem, mature 30's I thought it was only wise to go and get myself checked out... So you can imagine the amount of abuse I got when I said I'd not been in 16 years. My dentist told me before I opened my mouth he was expecting to find lots of problems, and then proceeded to tell me off for not having been before (well I can't imagine why not..) Fully expecting root canal or all of my front teeth needing to be replaced and being forced to live with the nickname "gummy" forever, I was shocked to my core when the dentist said I nothing wrong with my teeth. At all. GET IN!! I'm not "big book of British smiles" yet!! WOOHOO!!

Tomorrow: Cooking, cooking, cooking
I have wanted to go to Le Cordon Bleu cooking school for about half a decade now. Finally, thanks to Calv, C, Dr D, and The Magic, I am going to a 4 day course starting tomorrow. I'm frankly shitting myself. I'm insanely nervous but looking forward to like you wouldn't believe!

So that's the cliff notes version of where I've been, what I've been doing, and were I'm going.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Friday Moment of Zen: Watching a massive brain hemmorage from the inside

One my biggest fears in life is realising one day I am having a stroke. Why? Partly because I keep getting told if I keep eating too much salt I'll end up having one, partly because I was the person who found my grandmother lying on the kitchen floor when she had hers and I had to watch her deteriorate - lose function, lose her ability to walk, look after herself, go to the toilet unaided. But mostly because I am terrified that one day I'll end up in a "locked in" situation - where I'll still be able to think, see, feel, hear but not be able to move my body.

This brings me to my "moment of zen".

Dr Jill Bolte Taylor is a neroanatomist who in 1996 found she had a ringside seat to her very own stroke - a massive hemorrhage in the left side of her brain. She watched as her brain functions shut down one by one: motion, speech, memory, self-awareness... All the while her brain was deteriorating she was processing its breakdown as if she were a "curious explorer taking field notes".

She's given a fantastic and fascinating speech on (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design.) At one point she even says "Oh my gosh, I'm having a stroke! I'm having a stroke! And the next thing my brain says to me 'WOW! This is so cool! How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?!'"

Admittedly some of it may offend some people who think words like "energy force" is as disgusting as rotten cheese, but you should watch to see how she describes the differences between the left and right hemispheres, brings out a human brain, recounts the events of that morning in vivid detail, from when she thought her hands looked like claws on the exercise machine, to how at one point she could only dial her office by trying to match the shapes of the squiggles on her business card to the shapes of the squiggles on the buttons on her phone, to how one the way to hospital she thought she was going to die, to her shock when she realised she was still alive, to how 2 weeks after she woke up in hospital, surgeons went in and removed a golf ball sized blood clot in the left hemisphere of her brain, to how it has taken her 8 years to fully recover.

The reason why I'm posting about this is because for the first time in about 19 years I feel like perhaps if or when I have a stroke, maybe there could be some hope for me too. Watch the video - it's long, but honestly worth it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Back with more stories of stupidness

Want to hear a story about us making complete tits of ourselves? Yeah course you do.

Dr D, Calv and myself were off to a housewarming party on last Saturday night. We get to the house, in the middle of a long line of terraced houses you get in London, and see loads of balloons and loud music and lots of voices next door. The thing is, none of us really knew where we are going and taking note of salient points like, I dunno, the address of the house is not our forte really. So we all think "well there's a party in there, and we are going to a party so we must have read the number wrong". We walk up to the front door, ring the door bell, and some bloke answers it who we've never seen before, but heck, it's a house warming - there are loads of people we wouldn't know. We mosey on in, start walking to the back of the house and then notice everyone looks about 17, they've all dressed in kinda slutty school outfits, and it looks like a scene for Skins or something... that's when it hits us: those balloons with "Happy Birthday" all over them outside are not because they didn't have any other type of balloons. The sign with "5 things to remember as a Christian youth member" was not an ironic little joke in light of all the booze that supposed to be inside, the totally out of character hip hop music was out of character for a reason. And the 17 year olds who all stopped their conversations and doing god knows what in the kitchen to stare at 3 30 plus year olds looking confusingly around were definitely not our friends...

There are lots of things out that are very embarrassing. Having to quickly mumble "sorry, wrong party" as you scamper out the door quick as you can, with a whole brigade of teenage brats laughing their arses off at your in definitely one of them..