Day 4: Gifts. Treacle. Statistics.
We were all certainly relieved that the plate of brie, chèvre, nuts, grapes, and craisins, which we had seen on the first day and not since, had been reintroduced to our little (big) kitchen. This relief was alleviated - after the platter's contents had been eaten, naturally - when Chef revealed to us the statistic that the average weight gain during the program is twenty-seven pounds. It wasn't exactly shocking news, but hearing it said aloud seemed to violate some code of ignorance the greater part of us had simply assumed was in place. My prior decision, at the uniform store, to opt for the check pants that barely fit as opposed to those that were clearly much too large, has now been thrown into question, much in the style of 1970s paisley wallpaper or those seven extra vodkas that time in college. This of course is saying nothing of the balance of my wardrobe, on the circumference of whose boundaries my weight already presses. Well... raw eggs and undercooked pork are an FDA-listed health concern, and I haven't had a problem, so hopefully I just have a natural proclivity for statistical advantage. Please do duck, though, if you hear something like a ricocheting button. For your own good.
To more pleasant matters. Several times throughout the evening we were interrupted by members of culinary classes (as opposed to pastry), who came with platters of things. One was a large and varied array of sushi. Two were creamed spinach. Two, most blessedly, were plates of cheese, which we set upon with the vigor known to those of our kind. I had been telling a classmate only four days ago about Bobolink dairy (http://www.cowsoutside.com/), a mythical place in Vernon, NJ, which grazes its cows freely, but on particular grasses. Different grasses in, different cheeses out. The plates gifted today were graced with slices of a very garlicky cheese, which we were told contained no garlic, only what appeared to be chives, but that the cows who gave us this most excellent creation had grazed on garlic plants. It may be a strengthened belief in God, it may be a more optimistic outlook on life in general, or it may be something as simple as having reached the ultimate form of enlightenment and peace, but this cheese and the concept behind it just do something to you. Something good. I don't know if this was a Bobolink cheese or not, but I have a strong suspicion it might have been. In any case, it was simply illuminating. If you can, get some. If you can't, suggest sending me some money and perhaps I can arrange something.
This is to say nothing of the other varied cheeses on the plate, all of which were excellent. The sushi and the creamed spinach weren't bad, either.
Other than the moment of realization that I was extraordinarily fortunate to have been born into a world where such divine cheese was a real possibility, the big event of the evening was our first bake. In teams of two we all simultaneously prepared the same gingersnap recipe (which Chef referred to, somewhat callously I must say, as an exercise in weighing ingredients), promptly and completely filling the entire room (and floor) with the superlative aroma of caramelizing molasses. This experience, this blanket of soft, sweet smell rolling forth from the oven in such marvelous quantity was truly soul-warming, and it was our first olfactory reminder of where we were and what we were there for. It made me know that to be there, baking, was right, that it was me; that it was where I was supposed to be. Mind you, I really like molasses. No less than two days ago I confessed to my mother a secret fear that too few people use it and it'll be taken off the market. Laugh, yes; it's irrational. Our least rational fears have very little grounding in reality, obviously. I'm just really emotionally attached to molasses.
And cows that eat garlic.
[I dedicate this post to Jess, whose last day in our class was today. Without her company the first four days would have been less than they were, and the rest of us would have had far more to eat. Tell those people in the weekend course to treat you right!]