Week Two – Pressed
Culinary Arts Student, Christine Gronseth, Shares Her Journey…
It’s still dark on Saturday morning and I’m awake.
Not the kind of awake where I wonder what day it is and crash back to sleep within the same breath. No, I’m awake like, get up and make coffee and a four course breakfast sort of awake.
The tiny piglet screensaver on my lock screen tells me it’s 7:00 a.m. — aha! no wonder I feel so alive — I slept in. On a weekday at 7:00 a.m. I would be halfway to school, sharing the road with a manageable amount of early morning commuters, with a fresh home-brewed cup of coffee in hand, listening to an audiobook about how chefs’ responsibilities intersect with ecological sustainability.
Wait. You have to understand this about me. In my deepest desires I am the Judy Hopps of morning routines (bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and always early) but somehow I am sucked into a negative time warp where I spend an hour as the sloth at the DMV. You know the inspiring woman reading Kinfolk in the sunny breakfast nook with the fresh pressed dress shirt drinking fresh pressed orange juice along with her perfectly Instagram-worthy avocado toast? That’s not me. I’m the one who cringes at the second hand of the clock, half dressed in crumpled carelessness, hairdryer at full blast, screaming profanities at my belt and shoes playing hide-and-seek while my keys and phone have seemingly eloped, gathering armfuls of loose paperwork and treacherously leaping down the front stairs while berating my empty stomach and addiction to caffeine. That’s me.
I’m the one who arrives late, short of breath, and muttering something about traffic and alarm clocks. I am the one who, despite near-perfect attendance and pleasing grades as a high school senior, was completely kicked out of my first class of the day for too many tardies. In order to graduate on time, I attended “alternative school” for that one class — along with the other characters of the Breakfast Club. Learn my lesson? Meh, no. I just made friends with the misfits in my reality after-school special and kept sneaking in late to everything for the next 15 years.
Still, I didn’t simply come up with a terrible morning routine on my own. Growing up, my family earned our reputation fair. My little sister, with her Shirley Temple ringlets bobbing, once said “If there’s one thing this family is good at, it’s being late.” She was 5 years old.
Now why is it that I’m awake and refreshed on a weekend of all days?
Possibly, for the first time in my life there’s a force pulling me out of bed that is greater than the soothing gravity of my puffy down comforter and soft sheets, my peacefully sleeping hubby and a few more moments of shuteye. Formal education! Yes, I see the irony of “me the student” now versus “me the student” at 18. But now the syllabus is chock full of my favorite material! The stuff that really makes sense to me. The stuff that explains and enhances my understanding of why and how we respond to flavor the way we do; why growing, harvesting, and presenting food is integral to our environment (not only our natural environment but our cultural one as well); how the tiniest microbe from unwashed celery can cause a slew of illnesses and damage industries.
I’m pretty pumped that my actual curriculum is navigating the bureaucracy and economics of slapping an organic sticker on a Fuji apple, understanding the similarity between a sautoir and a sauteuse (I know! I know! Both are sauté pans), pushing my writing hand to speeds bordering combustion in the hopes of catching the “must know” details erupting from our first quarter chef instructor (he was not messing around when he warned us that all of it would be on the test), and then watching him fold a one-foot square of parchment paper into a perfectly formed empanada shape displaying a cooking technique called “en papillote”. It’s an overwhelming bounty of challenge bombs! Chef discusses tarragon and salt-crusted, the difference between seasoning and flavoring, using acids to cleanse the palate — my stomach is usually rumbling an hour into the lecture.
Our daily agenda is far too grand for me to arrive late, half-dressed, red-faced, and cursing the California drivers who have blessed our highways. Also, too many tardies equals a swift kick out of the program. Oh right — there’s that! There’s no alternative school for a culinary academy. This school’s got punctuality standards unlike anything I’ve encountered scholastically or professionally. It undeniably works for them; they’re training us to be time sensitive and commercial grade.
A few weeks into my first quarter, I’m definitely feeling the high standards hit my morning routine. Arriving on time for my 7:30 a.m. class, uniform pressed, and caffeine in hand means I’m not panting and shuffling papers, distracting myself and others. It means I’m primed (in my front row seat) to answer questions Chef launches our way, hand at the ready. I’m not cursing my belt, socks, shoes, and uniform when I responsibly position them together the night before. I’m not red-faced when I set my alarm to get up and reserve 3x the actual travel time, in case of black Google map traffic or an “out of coffee” disaster.
A few weeks ago, this wasn’t me. And now, that darn imaginary sunshiny woman in her fresh pressed shirt is looking a little more like me, but with a green protein smoothie instead of avocado toast.