Monday, August 29, 2005

Baking, Plus Me and the Kid

So I'm sitting here on the Group W bench, waiting to find out whether we're getting paid this week. I had intended to take off all week--this being exam week--but paychecks are really quite key, so . . . I'm using the time to put together the baking schedule for tomorrow, seeing as how we have five ovens and 16 people and a whole bunch of different products to bake and temperatures at which to bake them. I took that organizational task upon myself largely for the experience of doing it--how DO you organize a baking schedule? One way to find out is by doing it, and figuring out where you screwed up, and then doing it differently the next time. So I think I have it figured out, but we'll find out tomorrow. It also remains to be seen whether everyone cooperates; I'm guessing not, but I don't have any predictions about where the breakdown will occur. I recruited one of my classmates to help with the schedule, and my partner (who's also extremely well-organized) threw in his two cents, too, as did the youngest member of the class.

The real challenge begins on Wednesday: ten (multiple-choice) questions on each of the three areas we've covered, and a list of products to produce by Friday at 11:00 am. We can present things as we finish them--and the chef prefers that we do so--so I'll presumably present things each day. The difficulty for me, I think, is that I spent several hours yesterday looking at the sample list of products and detailing each step of each thing, and I barely got it all done in three days, which led me to believe that I hadn't allocated time properly. The other difficulty is that I could schedule the fantasy bakeathon without regard to what other people were doing; on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we're going to have to coordinate those things or we all fail. (Teamwork is actually 20% of our grade on each product.) For some things, timing isn't all that important--it doesn't matter so much if French bread sits out an extra 15 minutes. For other things, though, like a biscuit or anything else with a lot of air in it, that extra 15 minutes might kill it or do it significant damage. Similarly, some things--like tart shells--don't care if the oven opens midway through baking, but anything that rises (bread, biscuit, sponges, puff pastry, croissants) cares deeply. A good way to fuck up someone's product is to open the oven to put your things in while their thing is rising. The chef said he was going to assign ovens to products for the exam days, so that will help sort some things out.

We also had an evaluation today, and I was content with mine. Chef Fred told me to keep doing what I'm doing and I'll be fine. Part of the secret to my success--and I tried to give him credit for it with the chef--has been my partner, who is organized and hard-working and funny and generous, so it's all good.

We had the Kid this weekend (who totally wiped out on his bike yesterday--I haven't seen the damage, because the Kid and C were riding bikes back near Mommy's house, but it broke his glasses, badly scraped his arm, and bruised his face), and he and I managed to have two serious conversations. I felt kind of bad, because I was a little cranky, especially Saturday, but I managed to regroup yesterday somewhat, despite not getting a yoga class for more than two weeks. Anyway, Kid and I went to the park to play catch for awhile, and he wasn't overwhelmingly into it at times. We worked on catching, which went okay sometimes, and then I got tired of him not being into it (and saying how bad he was at it) so we left. As we walked home, I said, "Come here, I have something important to tell you." When he caught up with me, I said, "I don't care how good you are at things. You're already good at a lot of things like writing and drawing and reading, and you're going to be good at some things and not as good at others, and I don't care whether you're good. What I do care is that you try your hardest no matter what you're doing." I'm also trying to impress upon him that to get good at anything takes practice and takes being bad at it for awhile. The truth of that hasn't quite sunk in yet. We talked about why Ernest Hemingway killed himself (we passed a house in which EH lived at one point, apparently) and we talked about how you should tell Mommy or Daddy or Emma if you're feeling really sad about things.

When we got back to the house, he had some lunch while Daddy made his enchiladas for Daddy's lunches this week, and then Mommy started a round of nasty phone calls. When she's upset about something, she likes to call and yell at C, and if he tries to say anything, or if he says something she doesn't like, she hangs up on him. (Very mature, I know.) As we all know, her life is very, very hard; she's doing this All By Herself (yeah? who fixes the pool and the furnace and every other fucking thing that breaks?); and did I mention that her life is hard? Because it is. All the Kid wanted was for Daddy to bring Daddy's bike out to the cemetery near Mommy's house so they could ride bikes together--that's all Daddy wanted, too. It's not clear what Mommy wanted, other than multiplication flash cards. (At one point Mommy apparently suggested to Daddy that the three of us--her, C, and me--all meet because she wanted a third party to hear her grievances. I thought that was pretty amusing, though I do wonder what she could possibly be thinking. And, as I said to C, if it's so fucking hard for her, then the Kid can live with us--no problem.)

After about round three, I turned to the Kid and said, "Let's go. We're going for a walk." "Where?" "Somewhere." I didn't have to ask twice. We went to the small park two blocks away, and on the way there, I made sure he knew that the fighting wasn't about him, and he did, and that that's why Mom and Dad broke up, and he knew that, too, and pointed out that they still fight whenever they're around each other, which isn't exactly true, but close enough. I said that he didn't need to be around while they fought, and he agreed with that, too. We played two rounds of 20 questions, and a couple of rounds of Hangman in our heads, and we looked at clouds and flowers and the parrot someone had brought to the park, and then we went home. Mommy had apparently cooled off enough such that Daddy could, in fact, bring his bike and get the Kid's from Mommy's garage and go riding. She also came to fetch them after the crash.

I, meanwhile, had headed off to a cafe to drink iced tea with S and his friend and study my cookbook and eventually have some dinner with the two of them. Quite the pleasant afternoon, actually.

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