A cooking and baking journal

A New Course

Throughout this blog's life I've focused on one thing: sharing recipes and the tricks I found useful when cooking. I used this blog half for myself (to keep records to help me later on), and to just share what I learned with whoever stops by to read. In retrospect, I have rarely touched on what was happening in my life. So much so that you all probably need to scroll to the top of the page every now and then to remember my name!

I would like to have this blog go beyond the new recipe I just found, or the old-favorite dish I just unearthed. I'm taking a new course in my life (career oriented), and I would like to write about it and hopefully you all will find it interesting, endearing, exciting, or just something that will rock your boat! OK, that sounded mysterious! Before I spill the beans, let me rewind a little bit and take you through the years leading up to this new endeavor of mine.

The blog, Sabbath Supper, was so named because when it first became public (March 1, 2009) I cooked one meal a week for the family: Sunday supper. I started cooking supper every Sunday in 2008 and didn't start the blog until the next year. I wanted to use the blog as a way to track all the new cooking skills I was learning. 

I didn't start to cook out of necessity (my step mom was an awesome home cook and have everything done like clock work), but to satisfy the urge to go in the kitchen, knock around a few spoons and measuring cups and create a meal that my large family would love. I remember when I was eleven or so, my two sisters and I acquired a set of pots and pans from a yard sale and started playing what we called "Experiments." Experiments usually was played out like this: we would gather various leaves, berries, bark, dirt, etc. and use them as we would ingredients in a kitchen. We would combine all or a few of these "naturally-sourced ingredients" in our set of pots and pans and stir them around with wooden spoons and serve them up on some old plastic plates, complete with fork and knife. We didn't eat a morsel, even though the choke berry "wine" looked tempting. But we had so much fun concocting these dishes, plating them up, and measuring out ingredients using our old pyrex measuring cup. Measuring must of been the best part, it always created the atmosphere of a true kitchen. 

So my first actual meal that I cooked for the family (besides the Cream of Mushroom Soup that I had done previously), was Chicken Argentina and Potato Parmesan. According to my blog post the chicken had lime and olives; it was good but, "...Not good enough for a repeat." The Potato Parmesan, which was technically mashed potatoes with parm thrown in, was the first time for me to use real potatoes when making mash. Overall, the meal turned out to be well received, even though it was 30 minutes late! I write a note about this: "Meat can take a lot longer than a recipe says." To this day, I agree.

Several weeks into this blog I joined the Food Network Challenge blog challenge. The members had to go through the long list of Food Network t.v. personalities, like Bobby Flay, Sunny Anderson, etc., and make one or more of their dishes each week. This challenge really got my cooking momentum going and made me go out and buy new ingredients that the family didn't typically eat, such as mushrooms, cream, fettucini, and so on. I remember this challenge to include some high, YES-I-CAN-COOK moments and some I-GIVE-UP moments. One very hard Sunday supper to prepare was oven baked chicken with homemade curly potato fries. Because I wanted to give myself a jump start on the supper that day, I prepared the curly fries in the morning and had them sit on a cookie sheet in the oven. Not a good idea. When I went back to turn on the oven, the fries had oxidized by then so they had an unappetizing brown color. I cooked them anyway, but only after having a good cry. Those potatoes were not the only thing. The chicken coating for the baked chicken was not adhering and whatever did stay on was so charred and hard by the time the chicken was cooked, it became almost inedible. I think that one brought the tears! My family is made up of troopers, and they ate every bite and told me they can't wait for next week. 

In 2010, cooking turned from hobby to necessity when my step mom started working again and someone needed to fill in for her. The first couple months were the hardest for me. I had to learn new recipes quickly and get two meals on the table each day. My family doesn't order in or go out to eat, so from-scratch meals are a daily occurrence and that means a lot of forethought. 2010 also brought grocery shopping. My step mom did all the shopping so I hadn't a clue about pricing, couponing, price-matching, and keeping everything stocked. Because if you do the food shopping you also do the paper towel, toothpaste, shampoo, and light bulb shopping that comes with it! You just can't get around that!

Even cooking every single day and doing the majority of the menu planning, grocery shopping, canning/freezing, etc., I felt like I wanted to cook more and learn more. Granted, I did feel burnt out at times, especially on Sundays (strangely enough!) but these moments didn't last for more than two days. I still enjoyed curling up with a good cook book, watching cooking shows on tv and youtube, and reading Cook's Country magazine.

The blog writing dwindled during this time because I just got way too busy with all the new things that had to be learned to run the house, to keep up with the farm and its never ending job list, and taking on side jobs like working at a summer camp. At this time I knew I had to seriously think about working towards a goal for myself as an individual, but I was unsure on what that goal was.

Then things took an unexpected turn when my stepmom became critically ill in 2013. She somewhat gained her health during the summer but fell ill once more in January 2014. She passed away the following month. My first mom, Susan, wasn't able to share with me her love of cooking before she passed when I was ten, but my stepmom, Annemarie, was happy to show me around the kitchen and share with me what she knew with her newly acquired home cooking skills. She cooked everyday and especially loved to bake. We're Catholic so she made sure to include a special dessert for every feast day of the year. I admit, I had to run to the calendar to find out what saint's feast it was that day when I saw that she was making a special cake or bread!

My step mom said that I had a lot of talents and I need to choose one of them and grow with it. A lot of different pursuits were floating in my head. I love to sew and knit so for a time I thought I should enter the field of design or fashion. I also like to help others on a physical level so humanitarian work entered my mind. Neither one of these I thought could work for me because, a.) I am more into the construction process of fashion design and not really the fashion scene, and b.) the humanitarian work would be for me very stressful and probably wouldn't be something I could do day after day.

But cooking was there. It had been there for such a long time and according to family, friends, and acquaintances, I was good at it. Could a career be made out of it? There is a demand for chefs, sous chefs, pastry chefs, personal chefs, caterers, and dietary chefs in almost every city in my area and throughout the state and beyond. Would a career in the food industry be something I can see myself doing? Yes. Technically, I've been in the food industry for a good long while because I've worked on my family's fruit and vegetable farm my entire life. I have a good grasp on what is fresh and what is in season. You can't help but be inspired to cook by growing your own food.

This long and drawn out story of mine brings me to what I wanted to state at the very beginning of this post. My entirely new life course is culinary school. Yes, I am going back to school! Its been awhile! I am twenty-five now and will be starting culinary school this coming January. I am going the Culinary Institute of Michigan (the CIM) located in downtown Muskegon. The CIM is connected with Baker College, which is right next door to Muskegon Community College. I am beyond excited to start!

I was able to take a tour of the campus earlier this month and visit both the Baker Campus as well as the CIM, which is located five minutes from the campus.

I would like to look at this post as a prelude to a series of posts. I am looking forward to writing about my experience through culinary school, from the weeks leading up to the first day to the final day of the final semester. There is so little information on the internet/literature about the culinary school experience; believe me I've looked. I wanted to know what I will be getting myself into! That is why I thought a series on this topic would help so many prospective students decide if a degree in such a field is something they want to do and can do. I know, of course, that the Culinary Institute of Michigan is not like all other culinary schools but I do believe it will be a good benchmark. Just gaining the "feel of the land" would be so helpful.

So in the upcoming posts I will be covering how I enrolled in the college, what degree I am shooting for, and all about the campus tour I took, which included free chocolate by the way! :) Hope to catch up with you all soon!

The Culinary Institute of Michigan building. Source.

Culinary school students at CIM observing a presentation given by visting chef, Sylvain Leroy. Source.

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