Mid-Semester Slump

I can’t even remember what we made in class last week – it was that uneventful. And this week, we made appetizers. Strike that. We didn’t make, but rather, rushed through appetizers. What a mess.

What I do remember is that I did not learn anything new between last week and this week, except how to turn on the gas grill, which disappoints me.

Chef tasked our team to make these awful snail appetizers with goat cheese in puff pastry, with little direction or help. We waited…and waited…and waited for him to come to our station and provide the recipe he promised. “Chef,” we called out several times. “We’re ready for you – what’s the next step; you said dice…what size? How much cheese? Where does the snail go? How big do you want the circle of puff pastry? Do you want the herbs rough chopped or finely chopped?

Yeah, we could have made it up as we went along or tried to figure it out. But, we’ve gotten in trouble with Chef when we’ve tried to do that in the past. And at my age, I have no patience for being called a kitchen idiot, when I could have done perfectly fine with a recipe and some direction.

Cool Girl has mellowed out a bit since her temper tantrum in class a couple of weeks ago, which has been a nice change of pace. And the other girl in our group – I don’t even know what to call her, her personality is so complex, and not in a good way – she stream rolled over many of us this week as a peanut sauce know-it-all (who didn’t really know it all). This week I’ll call her Steamroller.

The group next to us asked me how they could thin out and rescue their peanut sauce, which can only be described as having the appearance of seized chocolate. I suggested chicken broth or stock, which would thin it out, without diluting the flavor like water might. And then the Steamroller came on through without a warning: “Add corn syrup – it will thin it out and make it sweet. I do it all the time!”

I crinkled my nose and mouth in such a way that said, “You’re crazy,” to Steam roller, and “Don’t do it,” to the group next to us. I repeated the chicken broth suggestion, and if I had been standing on the same side of the prep table as Steamroller, I would have been knocked clear out of the way as she muscled her way closer to the group and took over the conversation.

I shrugged my shoulders as the other group looked at me with confused faces, and continued chopping herbs.

Later Chef came by and told them to use coconut milk – corn syrup was not the answer unless they wanted to make peanut butter balls.

So, this is the drama I experience every week. Sometimes it’s entertaining. Other times it’s downright frustrating. This week though, I didn’t seem to care – I had no reaction either way to what was going on around me.

I think I’ve hit my mid-semester slump. And I think it’s because I’m kind of bored. Like with my baking class last semester, I’m desperate for those secret nuggets of cooking knowledge — the tips and tricks of the trade. And I’m not getting them. I know how to make stock, I know how to make appetizers and bake chickens and pan sear, roast, fry, bake.

I need to practice my knife skills and sauces and plating techniques (ironically, I have a degree in art and have the hardest time making a pretty plate). Hopefully we’ll get to some of that soon.

How do you all stay motivated in class? What have you done to get through the mid-semester slump?