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  • Writer's pictureLillian E.

So Many Carrots.

Today is Monday. I last left off with Crêpe/ Pancake night with the French. Having promised them I'd feed them the excess results I bring home from school, I got a ride home because we stayed up so late (they wouldn't let me take the metro alone), and I think everyone slept in on Saturday morning. In the spirit of adventure, I met up with a friend midday and enlisted them in helping me find some school supplies. Then we went to walk through La Magie de Noël aux Tulieries, basically a little holiday market behind the Louvre. One cup of vin chaud later and we walked aaaaall the way to Les Invalides (gold dome pictured above) and in an attempt to escape the wind, got a pair of tickets to the army museum which I had never seen before. Very cool!

(Below: a quick snap of the market)

Honestly I love any museum. This one was full of history, old uniforms, cool swords, lots paintings of guys on horses and of battles. All we did was wander through rooms, pointing out different kinds of feather helmets, and laughing at ourselves when we tried to imitate the art. I learned a whole bunch of new vocabulary and forgot to take photos, which is already on theme for this semester. We didn't succeed at covering even a fraction of the exhibit in 1.5 hours before I had to race halfway across the city for Practical 01.

So, Saturday late afternoon: Practical 01, 17h-20h

We are obliged to wait outside the kitchens until the head chef in charge lets us in.

Told to take a picture of the pots so we could remember the right quantity every time we have to put it all back. (It came in useful for Prac 02).

I'd like to say, this is not easy. We all think we know how to cook (maybe), until you get to culinary school and I'd have sworn I'd never seen a spoon in my life much less did I know what to do with my knives.

Most of it was probably nerves and the anticipation of working with the sharpest steel I've ever laid my hands on, trying to turn my carrots into microscopic blades of julienne grass. The only note I got from Chef was "your brunoise can be smaller". Any smaller and it might as well be carrot dandruff. But at least it was all the same size! That might be my strength so far, keeping everything I chop regular (regardless of whether or not it's the correct size).

Here's a photo from Demo 01 that I borrowed from a classmate. It shows some of the vegetables we were trying to imitate in our practical, though we didn't have to do all of them.

One hour was spent going through the kitchen, learning where things are, etiquette, etc. We went downstairs to the store rooms to learn where all the food comes from, then spent an hour chopping things, then another 45 minutes discussing and cleaning. I went home with a bucket of... you guessed it: carrots, and flopped flat on my bed to FaceTime the family.

Sunday was my day off. I went to mass in the neighborhood at a gorgeous parish. The mass I picked was full of families, and the priest gave a homily I was able to follow along with (talk about a different set of vocabulary). I found a tiny store that was open so I could buy some eggs, then spent the rest of my afternoon plowing through the kids' novels my host family left on my bookshelf for me.

For dinner I shoved some groceries and my bucket of carrots into a tiny backpack and ventured back out into the cold to get out of my room and eat at somebody else's place. Don't worry, this was planned, I didn't just leave in hopes of ending up in a random French kitchen somewhere.

My friend let me in and I proceeded to wow them not with my cooking skills (although they'd never had stirfry before and I think they were impressed) but with the volume of carrots I managed to produce from this tiny backpack. I'm sorry I didn't take a photo. We turned on the TV but the only thing we could find with French subtitles (for my benefit) was Gladiator but since both of us had to be up for work/ school at 7am there was no way on this green earth that we finished it.

Anyway, back to school. Monday morning I woke up at a whopping 5:30 and regretted setting that alarm. The photo below is me, waiting for our elevator with a mini madeleine stuffed in my mouth for breakfast at 6:30. I think my host mom was surprised to find me bumping around the kitchen, half asleep, in the dark when she got up to take the dog out. Made it to school by 7- please observe that not even the Eiffel Tower was awake yet- and dressed for Demo 02.

Chef really juggled a lot today for us. The end result was œufs mimosa (basically French deviled eggs), and a bunch of different kinds of vegetable salad in different sauces. Technically we learned how to make mayonnaise, but spoiler: my attempt was not very mayonnaisey.

Anyways, after 3 hours of watching and taking notes, we had a four hour break before Practical 02. I changed, left, bought a sandwich and a weird little spatula that wasn't what I had aimed for but ended up coming in handy, and made it back to school, changed, ate my sandwich, and still had 3 hours left. Organized my itty bitty locker to optimize space (hangers for my uniforms are a game-changer), fully explored my knife kit, and still had 2.5 hours of time to kill, so I took a pack of Uno down to the lobby and found some classmates with equal amounts of free time. I have yet to meet someone from literally anywhere that hasn't heard of Uno. I've got a couple French-only classmates, a few English-only ones, and I seem to be part of 1/3 of us that can waffle between both. This came particularly in handy for deciding what version of Uno to play. Thanks, Mom, for the deck! I made some new friends, if at least got to know my classmates better (makes it easier to maneuver around a busy kitchen and ask to borrow/ share things).

14h-17h was our practical. I'm pretty proud of this result!

I will say, I couldn't figure out how people were measuring their liquids for the mayo so I eyeballed it and the very amicable head chef just kind of looked at me like "what are you doing, tiny chef, don't ask me why your mayonnaise is runny" which is fair. I also forgot I needed mayo for my celery root salad and tried to use it all for the eggs, which is why the chives ended up in my celery root. Chef's only note was my tomatoes were too big to be bite-size (also he told me again before I left to measure my liquids next time but I didn't find out until HOURS later that there were in fact measuring cups somewhere in the kitchen. My station neighbors and I all looked at each other, shrugged, and eyeballed it like the brave, young chefs that we are). It took us almost two hours just to get that plate together. I thought I was organized in my job as an Assistant Editor but wow are kitchens rigorous. I think it's just going to take some time to get used to our tools, where things are, cutting things and learning how to juggle different dishes (not literally).

One of the boulangerie students in the locker room gave me one of her three extra baguettes to take home. It was absolutely delicious, I had some with dinner.

The dog was my sous chef.

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