I'm Graduated! (and i catered desserts for 30!)
And so i ask myself: how did i get here? Can this really all be over? College is all i have known for four years, and school, well i have been in school for seventeen years. I don't know how not to be in school. This is it? I have to be a real person now? No more excuses, no more holding my hand? No more head in the clouds? I have to...have to...have to be a grown up now? Well. At least come to my party please? A party you say? One of thirty plus people? But who catered? Why me of course. ME! on y va.
I know it's possible perhaps that you are a first time reader and therefore are perhaps thinking that i just graduated from pastry school. well, not exactly. My pastry school has been in my own kitchen, while in the classroom i've spent the past four years acquiring two bachelors of arts: one in history and one in the French language. and now i have them. i have them. what good will they do me? well i'm not sure. but what it came down to was that i decided i would study what i loved, no matter what practicality it would have on future job outcomes. Therefore i have spent my days in classrooms studying Alexander and the Hellenistic Kingdoms, the American Revolution, Louis and Clark, Thomas Jefferson, Ancient East Asian Empires, American Immigration, Civil wars, World Wars, revolutionary wars, the Mexican conquest through independence, America the Gilded Age, America in expansion, Medieval Europe, Tudor England, Ancient Rome, the Space Race,Russian Tsars, the Kingdoms of Islam, African colonization.......and of course, Portuguese colonization (my thesis. if you actually would like to read it, just ask. i'd be happy to share Portugal with you). But aside from all that fun stuff (oh, and all the French courses) Gonzaga has forced me (at the time forced was definitely my mind set) over the past four years to attend classes on.....a few other subjects. Philosophy, Ethics, human nature, study of the Old Testament, African Catholicism, Religious dialog, mathematical statistics and algebra, geological physics, Latin, psychology, political science and world politics, fine arts, American literature, English writing, oration, Western literature...does it ever end? Apparently yes. As i am done.Done!
Perhaps you would like to know about this party...so perhaps i should tell you. A graduation calls for a dinner party, with all the family? yes. F, S, A and I plus each of our family's comes to a total at about thirty. Ouch. What restaurant is going to attempt to seat that? well well well. party planning? i've found yet another guilty pleasure. Writing for a food magazine allows one to meet and befriend many restaurant owners and chefs, and as such if you happen to stumble into a place of love at first sight, befriending the owner becomes only logical. The venue for 224 Sinto's graduation party was at Chaps Restaurant, a Montana themed eclectic farm-house turned Dorothy-charm soul food sit down. Mason jars for water glasses, the walls lined in old newsprint and handed down recipes, sparkles, glittering belt buckles...the old tin lunch box for a bread basket--and i haven't even mentioned the food yet. But when i brought up the the proposition of a 30 manned graduation dinner to C, the mastermind behind it all, the number was a bit steep for the kitchen staff to turn out entrees for that many heads. So instead she suggested a party. a party? buffet style food set up, the entire farm house upper lever all to our selves, wine in ice buckets, dips and meats and cheeses--it would be a social gathering to mingle among our four families instead of a stuffy round table seated event, and i would do the desserts. me? i looked at her a little perplexed? me cater desserts for 30 people to be served in a real restaurant? me? C is one of my dearest readers here at the Salty Cod, and i am so grateful (and slightly undeserving) of her confidence in my pastry skills--she's offered me space in her restaurant kitchen to come in and well, bake! So that would be it; a standing room party for 30, i would come in to go over the menu with the chef (an absolute genius i must add) and work out the financial details, and i would do the desserts. But what? What could i do that's not too risky, could be done in my tiny little kitchen, on the the week following excruciatingly painful finals, a graduation, and the weekend of moving out of our house---does this sound fun?? hell yes it does!
While i should have been studying for my psych final, i was drawing up menu ideas in my cake journal. Bite size of course. The first thing to my mind: macarons. Macarons have become a special thing in this house, because as you all may or may not know, it is near impossible to find a macaron in the United States, as such after returning from my year in France, i made them for my house mates and they were sucked in as if hit by a hard drug. Make macarons? Are you going to make macarons? When will you make macarons again? I knew i had to make macarons. No question about it, it had to be done. But 100 macarons? Good god, what am i getting myself into. Besides macarons, what else? Well, there was this one cake i made last August for E, who along with my housemates, is my dearest Gonzaga friend. A coconut milk and ginger sponge cake rolled with white chocolate and coconut buttercream. S and E gave the cake a name that perhaps is a little inappropriate to state here, as my mom is in fact a reader of this chronicle (hi mom) so i knew for this party we had to bring it back, though not as a jelly roll, but the same cake, only as mini cup cakes. 30 cupcakes it is then. But there must be a center piece to it all, something a little more fancy...something with layers.
I have always eye goggled French entremet cakes. yes, something completely new and made up. but what...so everyone likes to make fun of my love for canned pickled beets which i eat at least a couple times a week, staining the sink neon fuchsia. hmmm that color must be in it. A dark cake and light cake, a mousse and a cream. I love Helen over at Tartelette, i stare at her professional French pastries not only with respect and ency, but as, well, a pusher--she taught me how to do macarons, perhaps i am ready for this. So. With her coconut and mango layer cake as an inspiration, mine came to the party as a vegetable tier: to honor the four of us in our graduation...though we are all meat eaters, we do love a bit of vegetables every now and then. The two cakes: chocolate and zucchini genoise and a carrot spice genoise. The cream: sweet corn cream inspired by a Brazilian sweet corn ice cream that i stumbled upon at a blog a few months ago. The mousse: pear and beet juice baby. Glaze on top: Baby blue white chocolate of course. Why? Just because i love baby blue. I apologize for the absolute lack of photo for this cake, it turned out quite pretty, but was in process of being made up to the last minute...so there was no time for a proper photo shoot...but take my word along with its consumers that it was...a success! When they were all told what was in it, not only were they shocked, but somewhat relieved; you see--vegetables make people think they are being healthy. oh lala.
After consulting a few professionals--Christy and Helen thank you very very much--i decided to stop thinking about it all and just go for it. hell yeah i could do it all in 24 hours. just watch. I never thought i would actually go through 42 eggs in 24 hours...but i have seen the light. the macarons were of two different shells: 50 strawberry and 40 lemon, both with various dyes. The cream inside the strawberry shells was a vanilla buttercream, and inside the lemon a buttercream mixed with a homemade lemon curd provided by my neighbor (a professional caterer) who also lent me the use of her baking pans (thank you C i couldn't have done it without you!) The cupcakes were fairly simple, the same recipe as the cake from last August, though tripled. And the entremet cake, well, that one was a little nerve wracking, but it came together. I'd like to mention here that this was all produced in one uneven oven, done without mixing bowls (one of the roommates jumped the gun and packed up a bit early...what did i mix with? Rice and pasta pots that's what.) No food processor again...well...time to get out the magic bullet to grind those almonds again. But it all came together. Somehow it did, and in between i started that ever-joyous task of packing up. ah yes, i am a masochist. but i thought you knew that.
E, A and I delivered all the desserts to the restaurant ahead of time, just so they could get in the hands of the waiting staff and, well, i never told my parents what i was up to. When we all arrived to our private restaurant loft, the room lit up, and the party got started. The place was a hit, the food phenomenal, plenty of wine, mingling family members--a perfect way to end it in celebration of the best housemates i could ever ask for. And i won't lie to you all, seeing my desserts brought up by the staff, plated and looking professional--i finally felt like i was doing something right. And when the room clapped for me, i thought i would have to hold back some tears. The macarons--a hit. Anywhere in the US you will always find a room full of macaron virgins, for they are always completely shocked at the first bite: their eyes light up and they gasp, it's chewy!
The graduation ceremony followed the next morning at 9:30...and lasted until 1:00. mmmm aren't you sad you missed it? afterward--a little celebration, and the beginning of a lot of cleaning, and a lot of packing. does anything ever stand still? apparently not.
The recipe for the coconut cream and ginger sponge with white chocolate coconut butter cream can be found in the Salty Cod archive here, macarons, should always be attempted from instructions over at Tartelette, and the vegetable entremet cake--well, i have a hard time imaging the sound of it will draw many replicators, but if you are interested, please email me and i will gladly share with you more recipe details.
So this is it. 17 years of education done up. my four years of college both drug on and escaped me in a flash. What have i accomplished, what have i earned from all of this besides a massive student loan monthly payment? Well, i suppose i could say that in the last four years i learned how to be me. I have made friendships here at Gonzaga that i know will last a lifetime. I was given the opportunity to study what i enjoyed, which led me--as strange as it sounds, to the cod fish, the inspiration behind this very blog. It was also in my college dorm room where i first began my little love affair with baking; the dorm mates would love the muffins and shoddy looking biscotti left out for the taking on the community table on weekends...mixed and shaped over a bath towel on my dorm room floor of course.
Through the Gonzaga French program i was given the opportunity to live abroad a year in France to not only study, but to actually live as i wanted to live. It was for my abandoning of the English language for a year that i began this blog, to maintain my drippy little passion for this written word. Salty was started the summer before my departure, and i had no idea that it would come to be one of the most darling, useful, loving, and right things in my life. While in europe i got to know myself, the self that always was there, but that i never wanted anyone to see. France also made possible the meeting of a dear friend, who more than anything or anyone else has supported my ridiculousness since the beginning, unwavering. I could not have survived the transition back to the states nor made it through this last year of over-credited semesters, financial stress, a new job, and life in general without him.
This blog grew up in Europe, it got me to Portugal, and Portugal got me to my senior thesis. Food writing through Europe pushed me into the magazine i work for here in Spokane, and has solidified for me what and where i want to take this little life of mine. Maybe i'm afraid of what people think, the risks of trying such a field; photographer, writer--oh yes, they make so much money don't they...and what does any of this have to do with history and French? Well everything has brought me to this point. everything. nothing happens without the momentum of the event before it. my morue (French word for Cod) has lead me to this point today of exactly who i am. and he is going to lead me somewhere else tomorrow. i know i am not perfect, and i know there are many faults to be fixed; but what i have gained in these four years, i would not give up or trade for anything. My family, i could not have done this without you. My friends--in particular S, A, F, and E; oh screw it Sierra, Anneke, Faye and Erik, there is no Gonzaga without you. My professors, my employers, my bloggers, readers, the many people i met in Europe, the chefs, the writers, the photographers--in other words everyone who has helped me be me. And my best friend, to whom i wish to say that no matter what, these last few years are ours, and you have been irreplaceable through it all. I guess what i have learned in college--finally, it took four years to do it--is that life is about the people that are in it. everything else is just filler.
So what's next? We are grown up now? We have to move on, no more excuses, no more fall backs? Well, yeah, we gotta grow up someday. But does that mean we have to take our head out of the clouds?
i think not!