Thursday, February 24, 2011 Opportunity Lost

Maybe I'm starting to lose it. Yesterday in my cooking class I found myself wishing they had a vegetarian option in the culinary program. Forcing my knife through sets of chicken ribs, trying to separate the backbone from the breast, proved to be slightly more than I could handle. I did about three before my partner offered to do the rest and I returned to doing dishes in the three-bay sink.

Last week my class butchered rabbits. And since my son is a rabbit I took myself out of that equation and worked on a venison loin to avoid the lesson. My teacher didn't say anything, it wasn't even an option, he knew I wasn't about to butcher a bunny. And if he had insisted I was absolutely willing to walk out of class that day and take the F. Thankfully it didn't come to that. I had Bambi while everyone else worked on Thumper.

Yesterday, before the butchering began, we sat in the classroom planning a menu for an upcoming breakfast. Yes, next Wednesday I have to be at school at 6:00 AM to put out a breakfast buffet for our state legislators. So we sat around shooting around ideas of what to serve our elected officials.

This is where I start to get lost.

I'm a creative soul. I have made plays out of nothing, characters out of thin air, songs out of sounds and food out of thoughts. I need theme in my menu. I need something to go off, a jumping-off point, a reason for being other than "we need to make a menu and this is what we have."

My teacher loves leftovers. And I understand that in a professional kitchen food cost is key and every little bit you use and save to use later adds up to the profit you expect to make when you own a restaurant. But I don't want to own a restaurant, I want to learn to be a better cook.

So, on the blackboard, under titles like "meat" and "eggs" and "baked goods" and "vegetables" we start to plan this menu that, in my mind, has nothing to do with anything. Bacon, smoked salmon, quiche, potatoes, croissants, danish - all these things get placed in their appropriate columns. Then a 45 minute discussion of poached eggs in potato baskets. All the while I'm sitting there bored out of my gourd, without inspiration...or at least without reason to share what I find inspiring about the opportunity to cook for our state legislature.

OMG! These people make the decisions that effect all of us! They're voting to decriminalize marijuana! They fund the grant programs that help save Connecticut farmers. They effect the community college budget, the state university system budget and all sorts of other things that I can't even begin to comprehend and we're filling their tummies with an artery clogging breakfast that has little to do with the state of Connecticut.

Talk about a missed opportunity.

If I thought for a moment my idea would have been well received I would have been more than happy to share, but I knew that wasn't the case. Not once has the origin of the ingredients been a factor in my culinary education. Locavore is an unheard word in the halls of my school. And the outside world's food trends of awareness and information regarding foods organic-ness and sustainability have barely made an appearance in my classroom.

Why aren't we using Connecticut ingredients? Every little bit of food we serve our elected officials should come from our state. Eggs, bacon, potatoes...every thing we need is grown in state. And isn't this a great opportunity to show our legislators the bounty that our farmers provide for us all? I wanted to suggest a "Connecticut Muffin" with winter squash and applesauce and nutmeg, but when we got to the baked goods column it was revealed we'd be using leftovers from other classes that had been in the freezer since October.

Not exactly seasonal eating.

Opportunity lost.

I'm disappointed.



Natalie said...

Oh baby, baby. How can the word Locavore not have made it's way into a culinary school?!!??! I find that so sad and baffling, quite frankly. My passion for food goes way beyond preparation, and it seems that it should be taught in schools that way! Just my opinion though. I say go for it, girl; educate them! I'm sure if you presented the idea, your professor/teacher would jump on it. How couldn't they?! There's nothing more satisfying (well, to me anyway) than being able to say, "I got my at at this farm". Not only would you have the chance to display your state's bounty to your legislators, but you'd be stimulating the local economy of that great state of yours. Besides that, the relationships that you foster with local farms are so fulfilling. I love visiting my egg guy every week at the farmer's market! They become your friends. Big businesses have too much of a strong-hold these days. We have got to start giving power back to the people.

Natalie said...

Ahh! this sentence got messed up: "I got my [insert food item] at this farm."*

Headbanging Hostess said...

You are so right, Natalie! I'm a farmers market groupie.

I should say we did have a garden at the school, and we do compost. So all is not lost. I suppose it'd be cool if the school year mirrored the growing season...but good luck with that, right?

Part of my disappointment is in myself. I should have spoken up. Too late and learn.

Natalie said...

Yay for farmer's market groupies!! At least we, as individuals, are making a difference. Good luck, lady. I'm rootin' for ya! <3

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