A New Kind of Uniform

10 Feb 2004, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in food

Tomorrow night I begin my first formal cooking class. I have spent the past month deep in thought, trying to decide what the next step of my journey will be. After ten years of looking from the outside in, I’ve decided to take a different kind of journey through the kitchen. I’ve enrolled in a 9-week course of fundamentals, from knife skills to braising and onward. I’m not sure where this path will lead; perhaps I will end up in culinary school, perhaps these nine weeks will suffice. I have very quickly realized that there are not vast fortunes to be made in food writing — it is truly a labor of love. Therefore I will need to supplement my income with other projects, and catering or personal chef-ing are appealing avenues.

Over the last 30 days I have spent most of my time in the kitchen, trying to gain a better understanding of food by going back to the beginning. I’m reading “On Food and Cooking” to understand the scientific properties of my ingredients. I am burying my nose in cookbooks trying to perfect everything from fruit tarts to fresh loaves of bread. Some days my kitchen smells like burnt butter, other days it has a magnificent aroma of garlic and sweet onions. This is a helluva lotta fun. :) Without realizing it, I managed to amass a personal food library of well over 100 books, so each time I have a question about a recipe I pull out four or five and compare the techniques and ingredients.

Best of all, I had the opportunity last month to teach a cooking class to a group of 3- and 4-year-old nursery schoolers. One of my best friends manages a day-care center that is very progressive in the depth of learning the children experience, so she agreed to let me incorporate gastronomy into this visit. It was “Shapes and Colors” week, so I decided to teach them the history of pizza, as its colors are a tribute to the Italian flag. They were rapt with attention as I told them the story of Queen Margherita, and we all pretended to make pizzas for the queen. They were very intense as they proceeded to build kiddie-sized pizzas with green broccoli, white mushrooms, red tomatoes and peppers, and of course lots of cheese. One of the boys, now nicknamed “The Stacker,” built a pie at least 3 inches high. Turns out he’s a big fan of broccoli. He and the others ate every bite of what they created, and put a huge smile on my face as they peeked up from their napping cots to wave goodbye and say “Bye, Miss Jen!” I can’t wait for the next lesson.

Did I mention that this is a helluva lotta fun? :)