Tuesday, 11 November 2014

What This Chef Likes

After coming home having just finished another exhausting day at school, I opened the door and stumbled into the house, relieved to be back in my natural surroundings. Instead of greeting one of my four cats or even having a quick bite to eat, I was desperate to relieve myself of a hefty weight that I'd been carrying during my five minute walk home. In one of my hands was a pink Forever 21 which, when opened, revealed a plastic container. Inside of it contained a treat that I absolutely adored and could not bear to wait a second longer to try - fruit soda bread.

Having prepared and baked it at school several hours beforehand, I was itching to delve into one of the capacious kitchen drawers, find a knife nearly as long as the bread itself and cut a few slices, being transported to days gone by of home baking, winter evenings and sunny breakfasts which were defined by buttermilk-enriched bread. Typically made by my mum, soda bread had been left off the breakfast menu - or, indeed when I think about it, the lunch and just-arrived-home-from-frantic-outing-to-the-supermarket cravings - for quite a while, which justified my making it in school today.

Due to selecting Catering - better known as food technology or simply cooking for those unfamiliar with the rather vague term - as one of my GCSE options several months ago, the course requires participating in practicals on a weekly basis, in order to develop my cookery skills in various areas. Since the school year began in September, I've tried my hand at beef curry, chicken stir frys, herb-crusted fish and, of course, the horrendous deep-fried samosas which, to this day, are the only dish that have been photographed (and showered me in shame).

All of this work - getting to grips with different kinds of meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and savoury foods - contributes to a coursework assignment that I'll start shortly after Christmas which, when juggling millions of plastic bags whilst racing to the bus stop in the rain, somewhat makes this enormous effort worthwhile.

In such a short space of time, I've gained confidence (and hopefully not weight from testing the finished product) in successfully cooking dishes without poisoning neither myself nor my family which, after cooking a cod-themed dish last week, was eagerly consumed by all my cats! By the time that coursework begins next year, I won't have any worries about getting good grades: seeing my skills soar each week is absolutely reward and, undoubtedly, a perfect confidence booster.

Although I had an opportunity to study other subjects, I was drawn to Catering because of my ambitions to develop cookery skills that would remain with me throughout my entire life: the same certainly could not be said about creating a programme in computer science, could it? Though the course leans further towards the aims of a future caterer, I've nonetheless learnt plenty of skills and facts that will hopefully have not slipped from my memory come results day in less than two years' time; considering that I didn't know how to cook meat (without being gripped with the fear of giving myself food poisoning) several months, producing a beef curry simply shows how far I have come!

Besides, standing in front of a stove or oven makes a decent change from being stuck on a table and uncomfortable chair for hours on end, as is typical in 90% of my other lessons; during such an important time when focus is crucial to achieving exam success, variety could be the key to keeping me partially sane. Some pupils discover their reprieve when running around a field in P.E. (though I seriously wonder why). playing an instrument or sketching a detailed picture: I instantly forget about stress the moment that I walk into a kitchen. Obviously, I experience moments when I feel very little different from a contestant on Masterchef as the teacher roars over loud buzzings of chatter to remind us of the time we have left or I'm racing to save my dish before it turns into a burnt, unappetizing mess. Overall, I've found peace in what you might consider to be such a crowded, chaotic place which, wherever I am, instills a sense of calm within me: the kitchen is my safe haven.

As much as I enjoy every single second that is spent on preparing and cooking dishes, there is absolutely no doubt that I get a kick out of trying the finished product - after all, doesn't food taste a hundred times better when you've made it yourself! Teenagers have a well-known reputation for woofing down food quicker than an Olympic-winning athlete at the best of times, and I'm no exception; waiting until I got home to try my soda bread was agonizing, so I'll gobbled it down literally as soon as it was placed on a plate!

When I cook at home, I tend to lean towards sweeter dishes, such as cakes and biscuits. Yes, the WeightWatchers police would most certainly disapprove of this practice, but I find these recipes rather easy and less time-consuming than an actual meal; easiness and speed is important, is it not? Old favourites include chocolate chip brownies (the ultimate mood-lifter), gingersnap cookies and coffee and walnut cupcakes, yet I often try new recipes - once again, variety keeps the excitement of cooking alive! As long as something - sweet or savoury - has been made, I'm happy. The hit that I get after cooking is what I crave the most, though I wouldn't turn down a (homemade) fairy cake if offered to me!

Whether I'm at school or home, I love cooking in every form and am so pleased that I'll slowly progressing from the status of an amateur to an intermediate cook - at this rate, I'll land myself a job in a restaurant! The pleasure it gives me is priceless, along with the lovely-tasting goodies that it leaves behind. At times, I wonder if I'm luckiest girl in the world... or have just woken up on Christmas Day!

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