Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Little Fussy Things

Today was Day 2 of gum paste flowers, something that many people (including all three of the male chefs, I believe) apparently hate. It has some gendered aspects, of course: apparently, in the last session, the person who excelled at gum paste flowers was a police officer, and he was kind of embarrassed about it and demanded that his classmates not tell his fellow officers about this newfound talent. And, of course, the biggest "consumers" of these items are brides preparing for The Most Special Day In My Life. Some of the samples we've seen, in books and magazines and the like, are so over the top as to defy description. The other thing that's true about gum paste flowers is that they require a lot of slow, detailed, fussy work. I don't see it as so different from some of the other things we've done (e.g., petit fours) or will be doing (e.g., chocolates, sugar sculptures, elaborate plated desserts), because all of those things require working small. Smaller than a loaf of bread, anyway, and smaller than a tart.

I don't mind them--all that needlepoint and knitting and so on is, in fact, very similar. With all such tasks, I've found that there are almost two separate rhythms going on. One is in your hands, as you do this or that little bit of something, and the other is in your head. When I'm alone, I've always found such tasks to be meditative (jigsaw puzzles, too, which I also love); your mind is free to wander. When I'm with other people, as I have been in class, conversations break out; it definitely makes it clear why, a century or more ago, women would bring their needlework along when they visited each other.

The main reason I'd avoid doing gum paste flower decoration is that I suspect I wouldn't deal well with the inevitable bridezillas. And, really, it doesn't do to piss off your customers, you know?

We also had a news crew in class today, but I have no idea whether we'll be on television. (I don't even know what channel they were from.) They didn't really talk to us, just to Chef Fred, mostly.


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