I have survived a week and a half of meat fabrication and identification. I feel like I have run the “Protein Gauntlet” having hacked, sliced and cut my way through poultry, beef, lamb, pork, veal and sausage. As a rough estimate, we have processed and fabricated close to half a ton (1ooo lbs) of flesh making everything from Frenched racks of veal to beef roasts to airline chicken breasts to forcemeats. The sheer amount of information thrown at us combined with being in the kitchen from 2:00 – 8:30pm every day proved to be challenging. I came home every night wanting to collapse into bed. Fortunately reeking of raw meat is a major motivator for not falling asleep with your clothes on. Overall, I can’t honestly say that I am any better at butchering than when I started the class. However, I do have a deeper respect for the proteins that take up the majority of the American plate every day.
I leave this class with mixed feelings because while I am more knowledgeable about meat, I am now more wary of the kitchen. I never quite felt 100% in the kitchen; never at ease and never quite myself which I think showed in my work. I was not confident and my nerves got the better of me more often than not. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember things and identifying the various cuts of meat proved a challenge. The final was a bit gut wrenching since there was an identification portion of the exam and I blanked. It was as if all the angst I felt in the last week all went to my head and wiped my memory clean.
I was anxious and apprehensive for much of my time in the kitchen which has me thinking hard about my future. One of the reasons I considered cooking as a second career was because I always enjoyed the quiet calm that came with me being in the kitchen. It was a place where I felt safe and centered. In the kitchens at school I feel overwhelmed and lost. My heart pounds, my mind races and insecurities (real and imaginary) boil up. I feel weak and incapable. It’s horrible and I am hoping that what I am feeling is due to an unfamiliar setting and working with people I don’t know well. With any luck it will pass as I spend more time with both and I will get back to my happy state of “kitchen zen”.
The stress I was feeling in the kitchen was no fault of my team who I found to be quite enjoyable and supportive. Rodney, Matt, Scott and Molly – thank you for dealing with my constant questions and for allowing me to peer over your shoulders. Those small gestures saved my sanity multiple times and I appreciate it.
As mentioned, my team had one of only three girls in my cohort, Molly. I consider myself lucky to have worked with Molly and have developed a deeper respect for her as a person and leader. When you first meet her, she strikes you as a quiet person….what my Grandmother would call a “mousy” girl. However, I saw her repeatedly shut down members of our class with just a sentence. She stood her ground and made her thoughts known, but never in a loud or bossy way. She was assertive without being pushy. It was actually really quite awesome to watch because so often the people she interacted with never realized that they weren’t getting their way until after the situation which I believe is a testament to Molly’s quiet will.
For the most part, my cohort came together as a team and delivered. I am proud of us and what we have accomplished so far. I hope that we can continue the unity and build on it. Here are a few candid shots from our week and a half of meat fabulousness……