Monday, June 15, 2009

the hands remember

It was one of those remarks that sticks with you. I was considering leaving my job with Monsieur Le Chef, and I wanted to consult with him first about the position I had been offered. (He was starting up a new venture himself and although he had given me the chance to tag along, there just wasn't enough work. That is how it goes sometimes.) He said yes I should take it, they would be lucky to have me but, and he meant this in the best possible way, "You need to watch your judgement, baby." And then proceeded to list examples. Sometimes, I hate examples.

What I am learning as my career progresses is that judgement is not in the head, it is in the hands. This is a tough lesson for me. I spend a lot of time hashing things out in my brain. I think and rethink. I create scenarios. I have an inexhaustible need to learn the hows, whys and wherefores. You ask me how something is made and I don't know, it is going to really bother me until I go and look up the answer.

And that is the problem.

Cooking is not about "looking up the answer". Sure that can help, but it comes down to those wiggly parts at the end of your arms, and your nose, and your ears, and all those other things not made from grey matter. I'm still learning to trust my senses. I'm not quite good at it yet. There was an incident at work, not long ago, when I looked at some bread dough and said, a la Miss Clavel, "Something is not right!" But my brain whispered sweet excuses in my ear. I went with my brain and paid for it the next day.

But I am improving. All of my recipes from Monsieur Le Chef are simply ingredient lists. No technique, maybe an occasional note. I have to trust that ethereal judgement will shape it. I made the chocolate mousse cake for the first time in over a year this weekend, and as I laid out my mise, I had no idea how it went together. I intended to just do part of the recipe, to be safe, to give myself time to think and remember. I was half way through the recipe when I realized that without any thought I had gone past my stopping point and set up everything to finish the whole shebang. And I knew what needed to happen next.

It came out lovely. The hands remember.


Adena said...

I was looking for another marshmallow recipe using gelatin sheets rather than the envelopes and found your blog. My daughter is going thru culinary school now and is interning with a fabulous pastry chef. He let her borrow his collection of recipes to convert into an attractive binder and the same deal with his recipes - they are all just measurements of ingredients, and on a HUGE scale. Like one gallon of eggs!! It's driving me crazy because I really need those steps. Best of luck to you in your venture and hats off for changing careers to something you love!!

queenofsheba said...

Thanks for the good wishes! Did you find your marshmallow recipe?