Lesson #8 : Coq au Shiraz

A Shiraz will tarry on your tongue—even after your palate has been cleansed with water.

The only coq au vin recipe I’d known was the one so dearly hailed by Julia Child. Its origins begin in Bourgogne, and its base ingredient: a swig (or three) of Burgundy.

I buy a $5 bottle of Australian Shiraz.
First notes: chocolate, cherry, and coconut.
Second notes: vanilla, berry, and spice. It is like the pain d’épices of wine—which is as close as a wine which is not Burgundy can get to a bottle of full-bodied Burgundy.

             My heart bleeds like wine,
             although I never drink it,
             dripping blithely;
             the slow-cooked chicken
             under a smoky oven
             drunk-tender with
             pearl onions.

Lesson #7 : How to eat chocolate

I am told that I have been eating chocolate the wrong way all my life. This is a revelation for me.

I
You need to suck on it.
Let it melt on your tongue; the sooner
the taste disappears, the cheaper
the quality of the
Chocolate.

She places a thin shaving of dark chocolate
On her already wet and salty tongue–
her eyes roll back into the
whiteness of silicone
paper.

II
It isn’t like truffles;
It has nothing to do with aroma
— Once infused
with other ingredients the
Textures melt and disintegrate
Into particles of mixed flavours.

A faint hum
of the electric mixers
resonate throughout the kitchen
and slowly fade from her
Mind
now calm, and focused on one thing:
the eating of
Chocolate.

III
Love was once described
by the Greek poet Sappho
as being sweet first,
then bitter.

The chocolate is semi-sweet:
it has hints of both
milk and cocoa.
She swallows and it
lingers in her mouth.
Moments later, there is still
Sweetness.

Sweetness, and then
Nothing.

Lesson #6 : You’ll never gain weight

There’s this hopelessly gorgeous song
by Tori Amos
called
“The Doughnut Song”,
which tells you that you’ll
Never
Gain weight
from a doughnut hole.

I am convinced that this song is
about
Sex and
stuffing vaginas with
Dicks (and/or dildos).

I feel a constant need to stuff
My mouth with
Things—
usually food, and
Occasionally dicks.
For a while
that thing was my fist
but now I’m back to
Eating just food and dicks.

This interchangeability
keeps me thin
and I never
need to go on a
diet.

Lesson #5 : In search of lost tastes

For ten years I had wondered what a madeleine would taste like.
I knew that they were like cakes
and
I knew that they were like biscuits.

 I also knew that they were supposed to be dipped in tea
and that         Proust adored them.

             Pretty shell shaped sponges;                                                                                       they
reveal hints of honey, lemon and butter
             and fail to trigger memories.

             I am a madeleine virgin. And I am searching for lost tastes.

Lesson #4: Escoffier’s Toque

It is said that the folds of a toque blanche (chef’s hat) is indicative of how many different ways the chef can cook eggs.

If that is the case, then I deserve no less than ten folds.

I crack three eggs and whisk them with a fork:
they form into a yellow pool
and coagulate                                                                                                                                       on a hot
pan of melted butter.
I eat them in my underwear and singlet.

Omelettes should be eaten bra-less
On a Sunday
Or Monday morning —
Whichever you consider to be the beginning or the end of the week.

A crisp asparagus breaks the lining of an under-cooked yoke and makes it runny.

I cannot poach an egg without the aid of cling wrap;
it’s like using a condom, in a way.

Lesson #3: An educated woman…

 

                You admit that your first love has nothing to do with baking;
                that you wanted to be
                like Louise Bourgeois, like Tracey Emin,
                like Virginia Woolf, like Sylvia Plath
                before you wanted to be like Julia Child, like Nigella Lawson.

People ask you why you quit University                                                                                           In order to slave away at a hot oven.

                Didn’t you learn about feminism?
                Why do you choose to wear an apron?

As far as I know, a chef is predominantly a “man’s job”, and the professional kitchen is no place for a woman.
As far as I’m concerned, a man who insists that cooking is a man’s job
is the sort of man I am only too willingly happy to accept.

Lesson #2: Let them eat brioche

 

How does one describe bread made with butter and eggs?
One mistakes it for a cake.
If you happen to be a French philosopher called
Rousseau, you crave it with wine                                                                                                and
write all about it in your autobiography.

Revolutionaries read Confessions (1769), and presume the “great princess”—who advises those who have no bread to instead eat brioche—to be the last Queen of France.

The hairdresser of Marie-Antoinette powders her extravagant bouffant with wheat flour.
The flour is supposed to add volume to the hair, in the same way proofing the dough makes it more capacious before baking it.
            The people of Paris are starving.                                                                                            An
uprising known as “The Flour War” begins.

            I make a Croque Monsieur out of brioche. I do not treat it like a cake.

Lesson #1 : How (not) to tie a tie

 

        The only iron that I own is a hair straightening iron.
        It sits on top of a plastic storage box, next to some rose-scented pink garbage bags.

My first lesson in Pâtisserie is how to tie a cravat. It must first be folded into creases in a manner which is not dissimilar to the process of lamination. Butter is used to laminate puff pastry and croissant dough.
                My neckerchief of cobalt blue is steam-pressed into five tapering folds.

According to Zola, French laundresses in the late nineteenth century were pretty, coquettish labourers. Her linens were always freshly ironed to mask her weakness for dancing and alcohol.

        A pâtissier is no less a whore than a laundress, I learn quickly: we tempt with beauty; and we sell decadent and empty pleasures.

        My boyfriend does my laundry.
        He irons and folds my chef whites like thin Origami paper.