Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Corporate cooking class (or, chicken diapers)

Yesterday evening, I had a chance to go to a corporate cooking class. R.'s company had arranged it for their employees, and I got to tag along as a guest. My impression (and theirs!) was that the class would consist of making a meal under the supervision of a chef, a hands- and tastebuds-on learning experience. Fun, community-building, tasty.

Reality diverged. There were too many of us for the kitchen (although it was a large kitchen), so we sat, very quietly and politely, and listened to the chef extemporize while he prepared our dinner. We occasionally interjected questions, but his monologue rambled without pause.

Among other topics, he mentioned chicken diapers for the rich and famous; being blindfolded while driven to the wine-barrel woods; how the salt content of your food can incomprehensibly increase without any additions; hunting wild boar with a team of chefs; the difficulty of insinuating into a saffron-picking family; how to properly make chicken stock (6-8hrs); cheese cave security guards; the historical, political, and social migration of curry recipes over the past 800 years; how to properly make beef stock (12-20hrs); the refined and curry-acclimated palate of his dog; the three canonical ways to mix flour and water; how to get that perfect emerald green patina on beef; the textural and procedural differences between mashed and smashed potatoes; how to properly make vegetable stock (n+1 hrs); monkeys escaping Disney to terrorize chefs; and how proteins suddenly harden at both high and low temperatures. I attempted to remain respectful through all this, but he was so outlandish that I lost it when he said:
Oh! My fromagier would be so angry with me right now!
He was hyperbolically thus. (As he built up steam, more and more French entered his vocabulary; he started making French puns with no explanation in English. Or maybe they were serious phrases that I only interpreted as puns.) I began to giggle, but I tried to only giggle when he had made a joke. It was difficult.

If I had transcribed his speeches, you would think that I had invented an incredibly one-dimensional character. But there are witnesses: he was real, and he really lectured us on those topics. Overall, he cast cooking in such a mystical light, governed by innumerable specific rules which must be rote memorized and conform to no consistent set of principles, that I think it might be easier to learn alchemy. It's basically a miracle that I feed myself at all, given the flagrancy with which I violate his dictates. Nothing I cook for myself even qualifies as food according to his professional standards.

The dinner was okay. The desert (pears poached in raspberry puree) was really good, and I think I'll try to make it. You'll see photos when I do.

This post's theme word is pharisaical, "characterized by hypocritical self-righteousness; putting emphasis on strict observance of rituals unrelated to the spirit or meaning of the ceremony." The chef's instructions were arcane, pharisaical, and punitive; it does not require 10 steps and 3 specialized devices in order to boil an egg.
This post written, yet again, like H. P. Lovecraft. I wonder which indicators keep picking Lovecraft? Long sentences? Word choice? Sexism? (This last is a joke, of course.)


Lila is a complex system. said...

H. wrote: "pyoosh, you are such a tease. i want to hear more about all of these topics he lectured you guys on. please tell me you took copious notes.

(i would have giggled too.)

ps. please note my laziness towards exiting my google reader and posting this as a comment on your blog"

masha51 said...

You may decide to withdraw your trust in the I Write Like widget upon hearing that it told me I write like David Foster Wallace... especially when you see the writing sample I submitted.