Friday, August 19, 2005

Fondant: Feh!

Today's class was a complete pain the ass, pretty much from start to finish, though, oddly enough, I still loved it. Well, not every last bit of it. First we practiced making paper cones (pastry school origami), which was fine. Then we practiced piping, which was okay. It takes time to get good at this, of course, and I've had mere hours to try it, so my work doesn't exactly look like Chef Fred's. (His work is beautiful, if you want to know.) Some people clearly have done it, and it shows in their work, but I was content to find a couple of simple designs that I could execute more or less successfully and stick with those. After we practiced on some ceramic cake dummies, we got out the styrofoam we'd covered in fondant yesterday. We had to add borders, at the seams between the two layers and between the bottom layer and the cardboard, and it made me completely insane. I finally managed to get a twisty rope that I could use for the top one, but, after many futile attempts to do it for the bottom, I gave up and just pressed in a simple shell design on a plain rope. But then I just stopped fussing with it. I don't have the skill to execute something more complex, and I'd rather do something simple competently than try to do something beyond my current skills poorly.

We then made pastillage--a concoction of confectioner's sugar, water, vinegar, and gelatin--for the figures for the top of the cake. Of course, I had to make mine twice, because I put in too much extra water the first time. Luckily, my partner rocks, and he cleaned up around me and covered my ass. I did manage to make the figures and the base, and then microwave the leftovers to get this hard bubbly stuff. Today was also big clean-up day, so we had to finish everything by 11:00.

All in all, then, today was an exercise in patience. I was going to say that that's not my strong suit, but, on reflection, I have to disagree with myself. I am capable of patience, and I exercise it often enough, but I do not appear to be a patient person (even to myself). I am impatient with myself when I screw up something I should do better, or when I miss a detail that I should have caught. I am patient with myself when I'm trying something new; I'm impatient if I don't get better at it over what I regard as a reasonable stretch of time; and I'm especially impatient with myself when I've been able to do something in the past but seem to be fucking it up right this minute. One of the things I love about school is that I can try something a few times and, if I still don't seem to be getting it, can ask an expert, right then and there, and get immediate assistance. That's incredibly valuable, because it means I don't have to try to figure out forever what I'm doing wrong.

Ah, well. S and I had to go out after handball last night (if by "had to" you mean "I suggested we grab some dinner and a beer at this place that has mussels that S likes and S said okay"), and, surprise, the Friday Irregulars are having a brief meeting tonight as well. B will only stay for a little while, and J is bailing completely, but S will be there again, and my group's intern, B2, may also join us. C and The Kid will be home, however. They've been camping since Wednesday, and I thought they wouldn't be back until later tonight, but they were within the city limits by 12:30. C is taking the Kid to the doctor this afternoon, because the Kid has a mysterious something on the bottom of his foot. We thought it was athlete's foot, but C now thinks not; I suspect it's warts. I suppose it makes me a bad wife and stepmother--to go out and drink beer with friends instead of waiting to welcome them with open arms--but I obviously don't feel bad enough about it to cancel the beer plans.

I'm kind of hitting a wall this week--I've been saying that repeatedly, I know--in part because I'm worried about things like money and my future and so on. S told me last night that I am not, in fact, stupid for doing what I'm doing, and I was glad to get his reassurance; I've been doubting myself lately. I don't doubt that I love what I'm doing, I just doubt that I can make any kind of living at it. The other thing up against which I keep bumping is how much I miss aspects of the academic environment. When S and his friend and I were relaxing after the move the other night, I gave the three-minute description of my dissertation (on request; I don't inflict it on unwilling listeners); given their fields, S and his friend both understood at least some of what I was saying. Most of the time, though, I'm surrounded by people and working in environments where people really don't give a shit about any of it. I miss being a practicing philosopher, among other philosophers; I miss talking about political theory and practice with people who have at least some of the language and background in common with me. I miss working these things out, in writing and in conversation; I miss teaching these things. I don't know how to incorporate these things into my life in any meaningful way outside The Academy, and, at this point, I'm hopelessly behind in the literature, given that I haven't read anything in any academic field in more than ten years.

Though I did think of an interesting project last night, having to do with how the American immigrant experience, in combination with industrialization, has ruined the American diet. Maybe I'll write about it in my "spare" time. ("But to what end?" I ask myself. I already have the experience of writing a long manuscript that fewer than 50 people will ever read. Why would I want to do that again? And don't tell me it's for the satisfaction of doing it: writing is a social act, among other things, and one of the purposes of writing is to communicate. If the communication isn't reaching anyone, then it's not a communication, quite, but more in the category of "futile effort." And I don't know that I want to sign up for (another) futile effort.)

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