Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hivelettes, etc.

So last night C and I went to dinner, but we decided to have dessert at home, because of the ice cream cakes in the freezer. I hacked off a couple of pieces for us, we ate them . . . and I broke out in hives. Not from the ice cream, but I really have no clue why. The hives only lasted about 20 minutes, and they weren't extreme, but I definitely had me some itchy blotches. I suppose I could freak out and think that my body is weakening or something, but I prefer to interpret it precisely the other way 'round. That is, something made me break out in hives, but the sensible part of me said, "Oh, stop it already," and the hives went away. It's not obvious why I actually, instead of merely metaphorically, broke out in hives. Yes, I had shrimp and red wine, but I've had them hundreds or thousands of times without hives, and, frankly, they wouldn't have gone away so quickly if it were a truly serious allergy of some kind. I think I had some a few weeks ago at handball (and, it turns out, exercise can induce them), but I just ignored them and kept playing (which, it also turns out, isn't what you're supposed to do) and they went away, if, indeed, they were ever there. (I didn't stop playing and take off my clothes to check.) Eh; I'm not going to worry about it, but it was a little weird.

Chef Tom is a trip. He likes to quiz you as he goes along with his demo, and he forces you to (try to) think about what makes sense, not just blindly follow along. It's challenging, and I like it. He, too, complained about how much noise we (as a class) make, and I fear we're never going to be very good on that score, but I think we can improve. We'd better, or he'll make us miserable.

We also got our exams back from Chef Bob today, and my evaluations were just about where I expected them to be. As I noted before, the only thing I really fucked up badly was the chocolate showpiece (and the sugar written exam), and I did a few things quite well, so I'm pretty pleased, all in all. Satisfied? No, not really, at least not in the sense of "Okay, that's as good as I want or need to be," but definitely in the sense of "Okay, I'm getting this, and with some practice I could be good at some of it." It's funny--I suspect that there are people (and times in my life when I would have been among them) who focus on, and mainly see, the negative comments, the criticisms and critiques the chef provided. I certainly read those, but, really, I could have done some (but not all) of those myself in some ways. I find myself focusing at least as much on the positive comments, in part so I know what I did right. My last partner, V, thinks that the chefs are all soft on us (not Chef Tom, so much, but definitely Chef Fred). I see her point, on one hand: they don't run the kitchen as strictly as they could, even if they are demanding about quite a few things. On the other hand, when it comes to grading the product, they point out the smallest details, and they grade accordingly, so I can't quite classify them as "soft," either.

The exams are an interesting exercise. They really force you to focus, to manage your time and your resources, and to produce something that's as good as you can get it without taking too much time, which means, at our level, that there will be compromises. Take the raspberry bonbons: I could have redone the shells a third time and perhaps managed to get them a little bit better. Would I have done them better enough to justify the extra half hour to 45 minutes it would have taken me? Probably not. Something else would have suffered, for sure, and I finished maybe 15 minutes before time was up as it was. So, I know they were flawed--not perfect--but they were still pretty damned good, and I managed to get really nice bottoms on them, too. But was it worth it to do them a second time? Definitely; the first time around, the shells were really horrible. In any case, with both the raspberry and the hand-dipped chocolates, I had enough from which to choose so I could find 12 of each that were pretty good. (I only dipped about 16-18 of the hand-dipped ones.)

In Emma's-a-geek news, I reread "The Hobbit," which I hadn't done in years, prior (this time) to reading the trilogy. And now it's time for the yearly reading of the trilogy. Yeah, I know, I know. And I don't care.

Finally, I've had to burst balloons lately, which isn't all that much fun, but is sometimes necessary. As I fret about whether I'm actually going to be able to start a business, I have people tell me that "If there's a will there's a way," and "You can do it!" and so on. I know people mean to be kind, and they mean to tell me how much they think of me, but I know better. That is, hard work is a necessary but not a sufficient condition--and, frankly, if you've got the right connections and/or money, it's not even a necessary condition. I've wanted things very badly, worked very hard to get them, and gone into serious debt and spent many years in the effort, and it still didn't work out. That's not to say I'm not going to try this time, only that there's no reason to think I'm actually going to be successful.

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