The story of the Tortoise and the Hare – Le lievre et la tortue – has been playing on my mind lately. The story which aims to reassure children – that being slow or slower than the others doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll finish last – is one I’m using to reassure my current state in adulthood.
Let’s just say, I’m a little slow and overall steady in class. It’s been just over a month since I started the pastry program and since the beginning I can’t help but feel I’ve been running one big race and that I’ve even missed the starting line. The international program is designed for beginners but as I’m discovering the reality does not equal the intention. In my class alone there is an impressive international resume of experience in the field of pastry and cusine. There is, a Masterchef finalist, an owner of 7 successful patisseries, a winner of a cake making competition and she was only 14 when she won, a previous cake decorator, an amateur pastry maker and the other worked for a MOF in the States. The other students have made the odd cake as a hobby and seem to know the basic about basic ingredients. For example, knowing that egg yolk is a fat. I didn’t know that. So, what I thought would be a program of, ‘this is an egg’, and ‘we’ll spend all day showing you how to roll dough’, is in fact not. Now, that’s not to say that’s what I want. In fact, the speed at which we go we cover an enormous amount.
But, for now it seems I’m in a state of confusion almost everyday. A day for example can be 2 or 3 recipe demonstrations. I try to put to memory every step, follow techniques, associate French names to English ones. Then, as memory backup, I take photos and write notes. If Chef is improvising, then the recipe may need changing. Proceeding demonstrations we are given instructions to measure out ingredients and recreate the demonstration. But, not everyone does everything. Between students we must work out whose doing what recipe and who’s measuring and calculate the quantities. Before, I’ve finished my first task, some of the others are already finished theirs which means Chef moves onto another demonstration. I’m back to another demo. My unfinished task sits lonely on a big granite bench waiting to be finished. My eyes dart from the demonstration to my unfinished work and then to the dishwasher, I’m on dishwasher duty. Am I still breathing?
One day, I just couldn’t understand how to do or what it means to do ‘the turns’ or tours for the feuilletage. The chef explained a few times in a way that was cryptic to me and while I was still deciphering his message, he asked me if I was blond. Like Hiroshima from the sky, my tears bombarded my unturned pate feuilletee and with big snobs I replied, ‘Yes, I think I’m blond because I just don’t seem to understand anything that’s going on’.
The first week of the course, I was convinced. On the metro home, I Googled, ‘Learning difficulties for adults’. How could such a logical, confident and all grown up person who survived the asse kickings of France, not comprehend a subject matter that she was passionate about. Shouldn’t the thing we’re most passionate about come more easily to us? Or, is this a test?
Perhaps this is a test. For some amazing miracle I’m still running the race – there just might be a chance.