Authors: Jenna Weber
A CULINARY COMING-OF-AGE STORY
AUTHOR OF THE BLOG
Eat, Live, Run
STERLING EPICURE is a trademark of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
The distinctive Sterling logo is a registered trademark of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Â© 2012 by Jenna Weber
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
White jacket required : a culinary coming-of-age story / Jenna Weber.
ISBN 978-1-4027-7777-6 (hardback) â ISBN 978-1-4027-9378-3 (ebook)
1. Weber, Jenna. 2. Food writersâUnited StatesâBiography. 3. Cooking, American. 4. Cordon Bleu Cookery School. I. Title.
For information about custom editions, special sales, and premium and corporate purchases, please contact Sterling Special Sales at 800-805-5489 or [email protected]
2Â Â 4Â Â 6Â Â 8Â Â 10Â Â 9Â Â 7Â Â 5Â Â 3Â Â 1
To my brother
I miss you more than
you could ever know.
N DECEMBER OF 2007, I STARTED A BLOG TO SHARE MY PASSION
for food and my experiences as a new culinary student. In addition to the blog, I began keeping a detailed journal of interesting conversations with chef-instructors and fellow students, dreaming that someday these might become part of an actual book.
For as long as I can remember, all I really wanted to do in life was write about food, and I figured culinary school was the best place to start. After much debate, I decided to name my blog “Eat, Live, Run” to depict a healthy balance of food, life, and play. In the beginning, I only had three readers: my mom, my dad, and my roommate. However, as time went by and I kept at it, I was shocked to discover that people loved reading my blog as much as I loved writing it. Soon, my three readers multiplied into three hundred, and then into the thousands. As the years went by, I transitioned from blogging about culinary school to blogging about life in general, until I finally found my passion and niche for writing tasty, family-friendly recipes.
When I was given the opportunity to write a book, I couldn't wait to dive in. As much as I loved writing the blog, I was so excited to show my readers a deeper side of my life and share my experiences from culinary school and the year that followed. This book aims to do just that.
ESPITE IT BEING MID-JULY, THE AIR WAS CHILLY IN PARIS AS
I made my way to a travel-writing workshop. The walk was a little over a mile and scenic, with pastry shops,
, and crumbling buildings scattering the streets on the Left Bank. Usually I would just eat a cold bowl of muesli in my apartment before starting my walk, but I was out of milk and hadn't had time yet to stop at the store. Hunger knotted my stomach, and I decided to stop at my favorite bakery just past Rue Mouffetard, on the way to the Paris American Academy campus on Rue St. Jacques.
The shop, called Pain au Naturel, was known for its organic and natural breads. I loved the small hazelnut rolls most of all. They were only about the size of my fist, hard and crusty on the outside, with a chewy interior studded with raw hazelnuts. The nuts gave the rolls an almost lavender color. I liked mine best torn apart and dunked in a frothy cappuccino.
I shifted my backpack on my shoulder and got in line outside the bakery. It was only 8:30 a.m., but the shelves behind the register were quickly emptying as people grabbed their morning croissants and rolls. Although I had taken five years of French in school prior to coming to Paris, I was still very much a rookie in the language and only knew a few food-related phrases that I felt confident using. I often found myself in large crowds, not having any real idea what was being said around me.
When at last I made it inside, I smelled yeast, fire, and toast. A short, heavyset woman behind the register was taking people's money and handing them loaves at an astounding pace. When it was finally my turn, I spoke in slow, broken French.
J'aimerais un rouleau aux noisettes, s'il vous plaÃ®t
,” I said, the syllables feeling thick and twisted on my tongue. I handed the woman my two euros in exchange for a roll and thanked her before hustling back through the line and out of the shop.
As I continued to walk toward school, nibbling on my roll, I couldn't help but wonder about the life the woman in the bakery led. The idea of it was so strange to me, coming from a family where everyone worked in PR and marketing. It was always assumed that after I finished college I would move home and get a job at an agency, perhaps as a copywriter. I dreamed of someday writing my own books, maybe even a cookbook, but had no idea how to get there.
An ad for Le Cordon Bleu hung in the entrance to the next MÃ©tro stop, depicting a smiling woman wearing a tall chef's hat.
How cool that would be,
to go to Le Cordon Bleu just like Julia Child did
. I could only imagine what life for the students would be like as they baked bread and learned classical French cooking techniques day in and day out. Of course I could never go. I hadn't heard much about culinary school, except that it was ridiculously expensive. Plus, I was just about to graduate from college. It would be silly to jump back into school now, without getting a bit of job experience first.
I thought back to the time two years before when I had practically begged my parents to let me drop out of college and go to culinary school instead. I had sunk into some late-teenage funk, and had grown bored of lecture halls and fraternity row. I had called my parents from a school psychologist's office in tears, telling them I wasn't cut out for this and that my heart told me culinary school was a much better option. They talked me out of it, and I was glad they did. Instead of dropping out of college altogether, I ended up taking a leave of absence before transferring to a different school. I found happiness at the College of Charleston, on the shores of South Carolina, and absolutely loved my time there.
The idea of culinary school still intrigued me, though. It was like an itch I couldn't scratch, especially here, where I was surrounded by beautiful Parisian bakeries and
. I envied the bakers, who would probably never have to work in a drab cubicle or write copy for real estate agencies. As I ate the last crumbs of my hazelnut roll, in a foreign city an ocean away from home, I wondered if there was some way I could make the baker's life my own.
HEN I WAS GROWING UP, THE KITCHEN WAS A PLACE
of comfort to me. My mom tells me that when I was little, my favorite seat in the house was a large wicker basket that I would place on the kitchen floor and sit in as she prepared dinner. She would toss me strips of bell pepper and chunks of baked potato, and I would happily sit and munch away. When I was five years old, my parents took me out to my first fancy meal at the Williamsburg Inn, in Williamsburg, Virginia, where we lived. I was given a high chair and a children's menu but vehemently beat my spoon against the table until I was given what I really wanted: the wild mushroom soup. From that moment on, I was officially classified as a foodie by the grown-ups around me. I was a child who was always eager to try anything on my parents' plates. When normal children were eating peanut butter on white bread, I was nibbling on risotto and Brie. I ate frozen peas straight from the bag as if they were candy.
When I officially outgrew the basket, I started to create my first culinary masterpieces straight out of
Little House on the Prairie.
I threw my eight-year-old efforts into producing hardtack (a flat, hard cracker eaten by soldiers during the Civil War), white bread (I was still unsure of the role of yeast), and rock-hard biscuits. My favorite thing to do in the kitchen was experiment, and it was not uncommon for me to add drops of green food coloring to my baked goods or create new forms of edible playdough or homemade glue (simply flour and water). My mom acted in the role of
and followed me around with a sponge and water, scrubbing at dried spots of pea-green dough and dustings of flour.