Saturday, May 8, 2010


It's Saturday night. That means I have two whole days before my big exciting scary adventure at the Culinary Institute of America.

For our anniversary this year, P gave me a class - excuse me, "Boot Camp" - at the CIA. It was a great gift; I've been in love with the idea of going to the CIA for a long time. In fact, I first started fantasizing about it when I was about 14 and a CIA graduate opened a takeout lunch place right next to the coffeehouse where I worked. She made incredible pasta salad. Seriously. The class I'm signed up for is "Healthy Cooking" and I'm going with my trusty companion, C.

Honestly, I'm a little scared.

For one thing, I have no idea how I'll measure up to the other people in the class. I know I'm an advanced home cook -- but what does that even mean? Apparently a lot of the people who attend the Boot Camp sessions, and they have many varieties ranging from pastry making to Italian dishes, are professionals seeking continuing education. It's not going to be like one of those awesome "culinary vacations" you read about in the advertisements section of Food and Wine, where between sleeping late and touring the wineries you get to listen to a famous chef explain the secrets of his specialty ravioli and then get all dressed up for dinner by the pool.

No, this is for real. I'm just praying nobody yells at me.

What if I get there only to find out I'm not a good cook? What if I get there and find out that I'm so amateur that the whole class has to wait to learn souffles while I slowly process how to properly boil an egg?

Last night was a sort of a test for me, in that it was the first time since my marriage that I made and served dinner to non-relatives in my own home. Of course, I was tempted to throw everything I had into it and make some crazy, creative, mind-blowingly awesome dinner. Then, I reminded myself to stop watching so much Top Chef and decided to just make a yummy family dinner, using slightly nicer table settings.

In the end, my menu consisted of watermelon cubes dipped in Campari for P and the guests while I finished up in the kitchen, butter lettuce salad with marinated beets and hearts of palm, beef strogonoff, lemon pepper asparagus and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. P and HC tell me it was delicious. I have no idea because I over analyze everything.

On the one hand, the meat was wonderfully tender. On the other, the sauce was a little thin.

On the one hand, nothing was as hot as I wanted when I served it. On the other, it wasn't cold either.

On the one hand, one of the guests added both salt and pepper to her strogonoff. On the other, she also added salt and pepper to her salad before she tasted it.

On the one hand, HC is in love with my strogonoff -- and refers to it simply as "The 'Noff". On the other, my family tends to have simple, comfort-food tastes.

All I can do now is take the compliments I received at face value and prepare myself for Boot Camp. Sure, I'm six and a half months pregnant! No, I've never taken a formal cooking class in my life! Of course I can wake up at 6am every morning and be ready for a full day in the kitchen!

Tomorrow I'll be stocking my home fridge with vittles for the left-behind family members who'd rather not fend for themselves.

A vat of chicken and rice soup, plus a shepherd's pie, coming right up! (Did I say simple, comfort food taste?)

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