Wednesday, November 14, 2007

L'Ecole des Pains

Bread school! It is constant scaling, mixing, proofing, pre-shaping, shaping, scoring, loading, unloading, and then start all over again. Hours on the feet, which is not what I'm best at. Is anyone good at standing? Walking, sure, no problem, but standing wrecks me.My six classmates are varied and sundry and from all over, from the Orthodox Jew who is interested in opening a new business but has no baking experience to the burned-out former sous chef who worked for a time in the Arctic Circle. It's a good bunch, and we are divided into three teams that change weekly and each have different production responsibilities in addition to the new doughs we learn each day. I've been on Team 3 this week, responsible for PM baguettes, which are for dinner service at L'Ecole. Other teams do AM baguettes for L'Ecole's lunch service, Pain Bordelais, and refill our stock of liquid levain (sourdough starter) daily.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

So Long, Sweet Farm!

The best thing about my last day working at Sweet Farm (which followed a late night during the course of which a puppy who shall remain nameless peed on two different comforters, so that I ended up sleeping in warm clothing and socks under a sheet) is that I am expected to spend most of it sitting down. Jodie, our new baker, whom I have been training for the last week or so, is making everything in order to convince Manager Patty that she can. Fine by me. Patty asked me to just watch her and not say anything. Well...okay. I'll see if I can manage that. Jodie's doing fine, by the way, for those of you who were concerned for the future of the Sweet Farm weekday-afternoon-all-day-Sunday shift. In fact, she's brushing milk on top of the cheddar scones before popping them in the oven as I type this...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Things that Mystify Me and Make Me Merry in Mitalian, Part I

These are things I think are true. Given my beginner level, I may actually be wrong, but as far as I can tell, here are some strange and interesting* facts about the Italian language:

1. The words for "why" and "because" are the same: perchè. They are close in Spanish (por qué and porque), but not identical.
*UPDATE* This just got extra fascinating, because Rosetta Stone tells me that both "why" and "because" are perch
é, with what Frenchies call an accent aigu. But BabelFish, my translator of choice, tells me that "because" is perché, but "why" is perchè (accent grave). This is going to require further research.

2. There is only one word for "they": loro. Whether you're talking about men, women, or both, it's loro. Nice.

3. The formal, singular form of "you" is the same as the word for "she": lei. I am accustomed to these words' taking the same form of a verb, as Usted,
él, and ella do in Spanish. I think what is most surprising to me is that it isn't the word for "he" that doubles with another meaning. In French and Spanish, when you are referring to a group of men and women--even one man and 100 women--you use the same word for "they" that you use for a group of men only (ils and ellos, respectively). I have had to explain to my French and Spanish classes that sometimes language is sexist and unfair. True, that coed room full of kids would still be bambini in Italian, just as if they were all boys, but I am nonetheless impressed and a little confused at a language that appears less male-words-dominated than some of its Romance brethren (and sistren).

*by which I mean interesting to me, the dorky linguaphile who's learning it

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Il Progresso (not the canned soup)

Buon giorno. Io sono seduta nell soggiorno. Porto una maglietta nera e bianca e dei jeans, ma non delle scarpe. Io ho i capelli castani. Il mio gatto, Hemingway, è grigio e bianco. Lui beve acqua in una ciotola. Noi viviamo a Brooklyn, una città negli Stati Uniti. Io lavoro di pomeriggio e di sera, ma non di mattina. Oggi è mercoledì. La tavola nell soggiorno è marrone. Io ho sete.

Hello. I am sitting in the living room. I am wearing a black and white tee shirt (I still lack the vocabulary to say "a black and off-white tank top"; forgive me) and jeans, but no shoes. I have brown hair. My cat, Hemingway, is grey and white (again, don't know how to say "and currently biting my arm"). He is drinking water in a bowl (the in isn't quite right). We live in Brooklyn, a city in the United States. I work in the afternoon and in the evening, but not in the morning. Today is Wednesday. The table in the living room is brown. I am thirsty.

I can actually say a lot more, like: "How old are you? I am 17." (Tu quanti anni hai? Io ho diciassette anni.) I haven't learned numbers above 20 yet, but I would guess that my age is something like ventinove; I'll keep you posted. Also things like "We eat breakfast outside." (Noi facciamo colazione fuori.) Maybe in the next update, I'll write a little story, rather than just sticking to what I know how to say about myself. Let's hear it for Rosetta Stone.

Hot, Hot, Hot

I was on fire at Amy's tonight. In fact, I'd say I got as close as I ever have there to literally bursting into flame, since I burned a knuckle on the outside of one of the ovens...But figuratively, also, I feel as though I am finally finding my groove. I unloaded a whole bunch of bread from the deck ovens, using one of those long-handled wooden paddles you might have seen at pizzerias and a technique one of my baker buddies refers to as "fulcroming." Yeah, okay, so I dropped a few loaves, but I'm learning and improving bigtime and it makes me feel like I might see some arm muscles one of these days, if I don't throw out my back first. Navel to spine, my Pilates teacher would say. My scoring is getting a lot better, too, and I feel all-around less confused and less like I'm following the grownups around. If they want me to do something, they tell me. The situation was helped a great deal last week, when I discovered that one of the guys I'm assisting is from French-speaking Africa. To have two people calling out to tell me what to do in a language that is supposedly my own, but that is so heavily accented as to be difficult for me to understand, is tremendously frustrating. The French has helped, not only in giving us something in common, but also in making some instructions easier for me to understand. I also like that I am actually making things easier for the people I'm working with. Now, I am trusted to complete tasks on my own, like scoring tray upon tray of rolls (I want to say they're challah rolls, but I'm not 100% sure), which involves a series of long strokes across several of them at a time, and then a second pass of strokes perpendicular to the first. They come out looking somewhat like these guys over here on the right, except that they're softer on the inside than those look and don't have the grain action on top. I think I'm ready not to dread going in to Amy's on Tuesday evenings. I've always known that's it's good for me to be working there, like eating my vegetables and exercising are good for me. But it's getting to feel more mine, and that's a gratifying step.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mr. Wright

Just wanted to say a quick hooray! for a certain Tony Wright, who bakes with me at Sweet Farm (he makes all the really pretty, professional-looking stuff), because one of his wedding cake designs is being photographed for Brides magazine! So exciting! Here's hoping that it gets published and that, regardless, he'll send me a picture of it and/or him to put up here instead of this cover shot I stole from Yay for Tony!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Eleven Days' Notice: Parting Is Such Sweet [Farm] Sorrow

Scene: Wednesday October 17, shortly after 2pm, a goodies bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Me: I have some news. I'm going to school to learn to bake bread.
Manager Patty: Wow, great!
M: So I'll be here this week and next week, but not after that. I might be able to come occasionally on Sundays, but not every week.
MP: Okay. (Pause.) You'll have to teach someone how to make the cinnamon buns before you leave.
M: Okay.
MP leaves the kitchen and comes back a few minutes later with a schedule for the upcoming week.
MP: So you're here next week and the week after that?
M: No, October 28 is my last day.
MP: Okay.

And this, my friends, is the benefit of jobs that don't offer any. Truth be told, school starts on November 12, but orientation is on the 7th and I wanted to have a few days to frolic before classes start.