I was undecided about the title of this post – The Child Within, Childish behaviour or Childish games – but the more I reflected on my behaviour today I knew what the title had to be.
As we grow up we’re reminded that childish behaviour is unacceptable and that it’s something we must outgrow. So by the time we hit adulthood we’re not stomping our feet in a tantrum because someone in the office took our pen. I don’t stomp my feet anymore but I’ll admit there’s still a child within. I like to watch ET. I wear bunny pyjamas and Hello Kitty underwear to bed. I eat dessert before dinner. I build snowmen and throw snowballs. And, I still want a puppy for Christmas. Mon Cheri says my “childlike spirit” is cute and innocent. Perhaps he’s right, but he still won’t buy me a puppy.
But, when does the childlike spirit stop being cute and start becoming childish behaviour? I had to ask myself this question after a little episode today in the lab. I perhaps sort-of maybe over-reacted over a cake I wasn’t willing to share with my comrades.
The class was divided, individually we had our own cakes to make as part of the French category of les gateaux de voyage, travel cakes. I chose a chocolate and raspberry cake, a classic. My recipe involved making two parts to the cake which I would at the end assemble into one. When the two parts were baked and cooled they were ready to be taken out of their square cake rings. Chef arrived at my workbench to demonstrate this and as he did he had an unfortunate case of butter fingers and as a result dropped one half of my cake onto the floor. We both stood staring down at the demolished cake, its baked interior now evidence of what showed to be a well baked sponge, but we both agreed, “Too much raspberry jam”. I now had only half a cake to work with.
The death of half my cake was not going to bring me down. I was looking forward to making the next part of my recipe. As I was setting up the ingredients to make chocolate ganache, a thick chocolate sauce, I heard Chef over my shoulder, “NO, NO, NO, it’s not necessary to make the ganache!”. Surprised, “But Chef, it’s part of the recipe.” As he walked away from me he insisted it’s not necessasary. I ran after him, “But, I want to make the ganache!”. You see, applying ganache is not easy. Ganache starts off as a liquid, and like a mason applying cement to a wall, you have few seconds to spread the liquid in a thin even layer before it starts to set leaving imprints of your movements. And, as it’s quite difficult, Chef tends to take over this part if the student is not speedy and accurate.
Despite Chef’s advice not to ganache, I ganached anyway, and to my surprise I ganached with perfection. I was a proud owner of a cake that had department store potential. I immediately Instagramed photos, and when everybody finished admiring my cake (even Chef) I was anxious to secure it in a white cake box. I was planning a perfect surprise for mon Cheri. The child in me gleamed.
As I carried my cake over to its intended white box, I was startled by the words, “We want to taste that one”. Another voice backed up the first, “Yeah, that’s the one I was waiting for”. I thought perhaps I could get rid of these enthusiastic voices and replied, “It’s only a chocolate cake”. To my reply I was told I wasn’t being fair not sharing my cake, and that if I don’t share my cake I can’t have anybody elses. Am I really having this conversation? Chef interrupted to referee, “Noh, noh, you must share.” The child in me stubborn as hell, “But, I don’t want to share, this is the best work I’ve done, and Chef, you dropped half my cake. This one is all I have!” Oooh la la! What’s this behaviour? Then, a classmate very reasonably and calmly said, “You know, we’re supposed to share and it’s only fair. Of course, if there was another one like it we wouldn’t ask, but, there is only one.” She was right. This is part of our job. We’re supposed to share, to taste test, to compare, to make notes – it’s all part of learning even in a professional kitchen. We each have equal rights to the work we produce.
My reaction was startling and it made me pay attention to the insecurities I’ve been harbouring since the beginning of the course. The insecurity of failing. The insecurity of loosing and the insecurity of not getting another chance. These insecurities I knew well as a child, but as an adult, I knew better. The adult in me quickly made sense of the situation and referred to the famous expression which could be taken almost literally, You can’t have your cake and eat it too. I wanted both things. The first was to keep and protect the achievements I made all to myself. The other, to keep and protect the comradeship of my classmates. I knew I had to choose the one I valued most. I chose to share my cake.