The key building block to final exams and a day that will forever be remembered as 9000 seconds of chaos that would make a 5 week bus tour through the nine circles of hell look like a tropical vacation. And I might even have had enough airmiles to make it.
But, let me take a step back and look at the silver lining. You only learn by making mistakes, right? Generally, I would prefer to have fewer of them and maybe not all in the same 2 hour period, but it made for a HIGHLY educational day!
I got to learn just how short 150 minutes can feel, as well as, what it's like to write a task list that starts going sideways 20 minutes into prep. I also know at exactly what point said task list becomes a constant, fear invoking, reminder of just how bad your day is really going. I found out it's possible to make 100 trips to both the North wall and the fridge, for ingredients that I managed to forget on each of my last 99 visits, which clearly quantified for me how much time 100 laps around the kitchen can eat into 9000 precious seconds.
I learned that doing a brunoise of semi-hot roasted beet is like trying to shave cubes of jello using a vegetable peeler, that quinoa will not cook in 20 minutes if you allow all the moisture to evaporate from the pot, and as an extension of that lesson, food in the absence of moisture, with the continued application of heat, has a tendency to burn... Hmm, that came right out of left field. And what about that an improperly heated oven will not produce a golden and crispy skin on quail, and don't expect creamy potato gratin to hold its shape if un-moulded immediately after coming out of the oven.
Oh no, wait, there's more - with a no less than 45 minutes to go, an overwhelming large number of loose ends and 3 unsuccessful attempts to cut one piece of parchment paper with shaky hands, I realized exactly what reaching rock bottom felt like.
(hey - who turned out the lights and where is that strange white light coming from anyway?)
And I know you're not supposed to swear in a kitchen, but holy HELL, if there was ever a time in my life that it would have been more appropriate...
No, I stopped for a second, took a breath for the first time in 2 hours, and decided I didn't really want to keep digging. Which, coincidentally, I couldn't have done anyway, because along with my desire to live, I'd lost my tasting spoon too. Awesome.
I considered my options.
1. Quit while I was behind - attractive at the time, but not totally my style.
2. Use sharp objects in my possession to inflict bodily harm - not entirely keen on pain and plus they'd probably be able to save me anyway.
3. Take a minute, rally the meager few functioning neurons and start again - okay, I count 13 survivors, let's give it a go.
So, what happened the end. Well, I don't remember all of it, early onset memory supression has saved me from some things, but I do clearly remember surviving. I remember plating something that wouldn't get me passed a first interview at McDonald's, and then returning to my station to scrape what was left of my ego from the bottom of a blackened pot.
And believe me, I wish I could tell you it stopped there. But, upon further reflection, yet another moment of shining brilliance, popped to the surface.
I was eating breakfast, pondering the reason for my disappointing tahini sauce, when it dawned on me that I didn't ACTUALLY put tahini in it. Wow! No seriously, wow. Small wonder that it tasted a bit off.
It would appear that even fewer neurons survived than I first expected.
The one solace I have for this day, is that I was not dumb enough to take a picture. Oh no wait. The chef's took one for me.
Brilliant! A photographic record. That's got to be worth about 10,000 words.
Plus, 958 silent curses, 573 thoughts of "OMG! I going to be here until 3am", 382 misshapen knife cuts, 218 beads of sweat, 134 trips to the North wall, 75 thoughts of "WTF was I thinking", followed by 27 "I hope the chef didn't just see me do that!", and finally, 1 tasting spoon, down for the count...
And, if I ever get my hands on that picture, I am framing it . An elegantly framed picture of an albino looking, flabby skinned quail, served with a collapsing circle of tasteless quinoa pilaf, a structurally unsound mound of (but at least tasty) potato gratin, brightened with turns of overcooked squash and a wonderful sauce, that after 2 hours of nursing to perfection I managed to burn during the last 90 seconds of reheating... And I am putting it in my kitchen - a fitting epitaph for my ego.
(I will take this moment to interject a touch of reality here, since I'm being overly dramatic, Chef Tony was far more forgiving and less critical than I have been. At least on paper, my performance could be seen as passable.)
On the up side, and with one more cliche to add to the merry mix, if laughter truly is the best medicine, I expect to make a fully recovery by Monday. Which is good, because we have to do it all again on Monday - only far better!