Friday, July 29, 2005

A Month Late and $15k Short

Turns out that Emma's birthday is actually June 27th. Oh well--so we got married on Emma Goldman's Birthday Eve; I can live with that. (I have no clue how I missed that.) She still rocks.

Speaking of a month late, my student loan is still being held up for a whirling carousel of reasons. Every time I speak with someone, I get a different reason. Plus, I don't speak with the same person twice. Plus, they don't seem to have all the clues that would indicate they know what they're doing. The upside is that I still don't have a loan; the downside is that I still don't have a loan. (The sooner I get one, the sooner I have to start paying it off, presumably; trying to find out whether that's the case seems problematic, though.) What a pain the butt.

In other financial matters, we were supposed to get paychecks today, but the president, who's been sending wads of material to potential investors, didn't come in. (She's been working like a crazy person, sending stuff to rich people who might want to own part of the company, and she lives in the far burbs, so I can understand not coming in, especially since only one of my coworkers appeared too.) Doesn't matter that much--we can't cash the checks until Monday anyway, which doesn't bode well to me. We worker bees have concluded that if the "promising" investors turn out to (a) not invest money after all or (b) not invest very much money, then we're well and truly screwed. I would not be surprised if that's the case--it's happened before, that she told us some group looked "promising" (we worker bees all say that word with air quotes these days), and spent a bunch of time wooing them, and then it looked Even More Promising! With More Money Than Ever!; and then they either didn't pan out or put in a lot less than the Even More Promising amount. And, of course, if I had the nine back paychecks I'm owed, I could probably pay for school without needing a loan. I've already decided that if we start missing paychecks again, I'm collecting unemployment. It's not much, but it's something, and by the time it runs out, I'll be done with school. I'd be able to practice more, too.

Moving on to school, today was interesting (hell, every day is interesting, if you ask me). We only made chocolate croissants, French bread, almond croissants (old regular croissants cut in half so there's a top and bottom, dipped in almond syrup, sandwiching pastry cream and covered in same, with some almonds on top, then baked), monkey bread with the croissant scraps, and MuffinMania! That is, we were encouraged to make our own muffins, bringing in anything that we needed but that the school wouldn't have around (e.g., jalapenos); we used fresh blueberries (and lemon zest) in one batch, chocolate and cherries in a second batch, and dried strawberries in a third batch. I'd say the Cherry Garcia muffins were the best of the lot. The strawberry ones were pretty good, too, and the blueberry lemon had a nice flavor, but we undercooked them (how, after 30 years of baking, have I forgotten to test products before taking them out of the oven?). One team made bacon muffins, which turned out REALLY well, and I'd say one of the winners was a raspberry-coconut muffin--the raspberry flavor was nice, and the coconut kind of came in at the end of the taste, and it was just really good.

Then we sat on our stools and the chef told us how we're screwing up (e.g., not timing products in the ovens; not turning on the ovens in time; not testing for doneness--he didn't single people out, though) and then we went through each recipe we've done in the last three weeks so we could ask questions, etc. It was extremely cool, if you want to know, and it was helpful because we've actually made everything at least once so the questions were more informed. We didn't do a massive kitchen-cleaning today--we'll do it Monday--because we ran out of time. After the discussion, we had to hustle a little to get our stuff packed up and get the kitchen cleaned up (we still had to do the daily things).

There was a little drama, too--not the part where I slipped and fell on a freshly mopped floor, though. [deleted]I understand how one gets (or maybe just feels) behind--that's been me all along here, in some ways--but I figure you just make a plan and execute the plan as well and as quickly as you can. R and I definitely improved on a number of dimensions in the past few weeks, and I felt like we made concerted efforts and they paid off. We complemented each other, too--today, she forced me to use the freezer for our croissant dough, and I'm really glad she did, because it totally improved the products. (Chef Fred noted me using it, and complimented me, so I made sure to point out, then and later, that my partner made me do it. She really was the one who deserved the credit, after all.)

I've been trying to take it at a pace at which I can actually execute reasonably well. I haven't succeeded so much in the execution, but not because the pace is too fast. I'm okay with where I am, in the sense that I can't be much better than I am right this minute, but I also have some faith that I can get up to speed on some things. I asked Chef Fred today on which things I should focus, given limited weekend time to practice--he recommended puff pastry, croissants, the hard things that take more practice. I said, well, my brioche is kind of a disaster, and he said on one of the free days (we get two free days before the three-day exam) I should come in and he'd help me with my brioche. Yesterday I told Chef Bob that I was having trouble shaping bread, so he told me to come in on a free day and make a fermented dough, and he'd come in the next day (after it had fermented overnight) and help me with that. Which, in both cases, is so cool, and which I am so going to do.

I love these guys--they really do want to teach us the art and the craft that they know and love, and that speaks to me on so many levels. Apparently, like my mother, my grandmother, my father, and my brother, I, too, am a craftsperson. We don't have much sense of that in this country--Taylorization destroyed as much of it as possible--but it's revered in other parts of the world. (I have another whole post in my head on this subject, but it will have to wait. Plus I still owe Ann a post about whether all jobs are worth doing well. Hmmmm; are they the same post? Perhaps, but they're not this post.)

Update: I took out some things that I'm not sure belonged here, in retrospect.

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