I'm in Paris now, learning to make pastries. Every pastry class is like a match for me. I read the recipe like I'm sizing up the competition, examining my challenger's components so I can pick the exact techniques that will exploit his or her (or, actually, its) weaknesses and lead to my ultimate triumph.
First were the diamants, or diamonds. An easy opener. It is hard to go wrong with sugar, butter, flour, and orange zest. The diamonds were beautiful and simple and, like their stony counterparts, last forever. I'm still nibbling away at my stash, several weeks later.Saint-Honoré, who is less of a saint and more of a Chantilly cream-covered devil, waiting for you to burn yourself on the piping-hot caramel which beckons innocently to your choux puff-dipping fingers until you make contact and discover its wily tricks. I got burned, blistered with pain, but triumphed in the end with a wobbly version of the pastry that was saint enough for me. Tarte aux pommes. I sailed through the first two sets-- pastry crust, done. Apple filling, easy as pie. But the final set gave me trouble, and as I piled too-thickly-sliced apples atop my beautiful base, I realized woefully that it was all over. And we hadn't even reached the oven. I wrote it off as a loss and gave it away to a friend who made it disappear with big scoops of vanilla ice cream. cake aux fruits came in as a solid win. Even the Chef was impressed ("pas mal"). feuilletage or calamity with a caramel?
I genuinely don't know. But I know that I'm working towards something, and that it's a little bit strange and a little bit off-track, but entirely worth it. At least I hope so.
And if Andre has taught me one thing, it's that you don't judge a career by a win or a loss, or even a match. Because a career is made up of dozens of matches, each one a life in miniature, and each one worth living to the fullest.