Well, spring has sprung, so I guess I can return from my hibernation. Not that a change in the weather necessarily improves blog content, but it does provide a few nice pictures. We had a burst of warm this weekend, followed by a few days’ return to chilly, dreary, rainy weather…but it turns out that those April showers were just what the plants needed to burst out in blooms.
I’ll be back for another update soon.
I’m not in Paris anymore, and I won’t be again for the foreseeable future, which makes me think maybe I should change my blog name from theFrench word for a charming little thatched roof cottage to something a bit more East Tennessean—–perhaps instead of La Petite Chaumiere, it’ll be my Little Log Cabin or The Ol’ Deer Stand or This Here Pickup Truck.
And then I remind myself that even in East Tennessee not everyone lives in cabins and sits in deer stands and drives pickups (just most of them), and people can still have snotty french blog names if they want. So I will.
OK. All joking aside (and I promise, I am joking!) I really love my new home. Imean, after 6 months of city life, it’s amazing to be able to open your windows and see a little creek and hear a little frog, rather than looking straight into the room across the street (and meeting the glaring eyes of the chain-smoking French teenagers that come with it). I like that I can get a whole apartment including utilities for what I paid for one little room in Paris. And as much as I honestly wanted to appreciate the opportunity to use public transportation, I wouldn’t trade my peaceful ride to work in my little blue chevy for all the crowded, smelly metros Paris has to offer. Not even for Ligne 14. I like speaking English, I like flopping on the couch and watching American tv, I like having modern, American-size appliances, I like my quiet neighborhood with every fast-food restaurant ever within a half mile drive, and I like my work. I like wandering out to visit the baby sheep who live next door to my workplace and waving at the goats I pass every day on my way in. I like my city, which happens to be kinda like a better version of my hometown. I like this view ahead of me every morning:
And I like coming home to a quiet apartment and being able to do whatever I want without any crazy landladies to yell at me. Even if it includes making brownies in the middle of the night. I can keep my computer on if i want to. I can take showers whenever I want, keep whatever I want in the refrigerator and have no worry of potentially breaking anything by touching it wrong.
I do miss my French patisseries though. I’ve tried to cope by spending most of last week baking. I’ve now got enough dinner rolls, biscuits, and cookies stocked in my freezer to last me months. I’m dying to make croissants, but as of yet I haven’t really had the patience for that kind of endeavor.
Anyway. since people keep asking me what I’m doing now, I guess I’ll tell you 🙂 However, in a feeble attempt to hide from google, I’m simply going to refer to my workplace simply as “The Farm”–which, despite not being it’s full, proper name, isn’t at all inaccurate. The best thing about work is driving up to this idyllic setting every day, and being surrounded by people who sincerely care about the land and its fruit, and who find in themselves a personal responsibility to protect it, respect it, and make the most of it. This extends from the kitchen and butcher shop using every single part of the animal in some way, to creating land trusts that will preserve the sides of the mountains from ever being defaced by future development.The garden is still a little bare, but the master gardeners are working hard to get it ready for the swiftly-approaching planting season. They fly all around the world collecting rare seeds to nurture and preserve for future generations…and if we’re lucky, we in the kitchen get to collect from their bounty and enjoy a taste of something special. Even now, as we all anxiously wait for the first signs of spring to emerge from the cool dirt, we still ride out there every day or two to gather fresh greens from the hoop house.my new favorite thing is miner’s lettuce, which sprouts delicate little flowers right in the center of its leaves. It’s native to the western mountains of America, where, supposedly, miners ate it to ward off scurvy. Today, it’s a beautiful finishing touch to any salad, and I love using it.
In reality, these gardens and farmlands are really just a small part of a much larger property, operating as an exclusive resort hotel. There are animals too, and creeks for fishing, trails for hiking, a spa for relaxing…along with just about anything else you might want to do. I work in the main on-site restaurants, where we serve a multi-course dinner menu (or 7 course tasting menu, for an extra charge) to all the guests on the property.
I mostly work in the Garde Manger, which basically means I deal with cold plates, charcuterie, salads, and the like. It’s an entry level position that everyone in the kitchen starts out in before being entrusted with bigger (and more expensive) responsibilities. Basically, no one is going to let the new kid cook a filet mignon over an open flame until they’ve definitely put in the time to prove that they are capable of cooking it well and not burning down the restaurant. Despite being the bottom of the kitchen totem pole, I’m pretty ok with staying in the Garde for a while, mostly because it means i get to go to the garden regularly and I don’t have to gut fish. None of the food I make is particularly difficult, but they all have many different components that need to be individually prepped and ready to go before service starts.
And no matter what station you’re on, you’re guaranteed to be learning a lot and creating beautiful, elegant, and delicious dishes. Everyone arrives at two, and service starts at six. That gives us four hours to prepare everything we’ll need–usually enough time. We all take a break around four to enjoy a quick meal together before picking up the pace and heading into service time.
During service, there are usually two cooks on each station (meat side, fish side, Garde, and Pastry), along with the chef and sous chef who keep an eye on the line and help finish the plates before they are sent out to the tables. The way it works is that once the servers collect the order, they send us each a ticket. Once the guest is ready for the food, we get another ticket to fire. This cuts out all the yelling and confusion that I experienced during restaurant service at Ferrandi….everyone knows exactly what is going on and exactly when they need to send. If you get lost, it’s easy to look back and see exactly where you’re at. Once I get a ticket in, I immediately start building all the dishes, getting as much done on the plate as I can. Then, when we get the order to fire, I pass it to my colleague who cleans it up, adds the finishing touches, and sends it. This keeps us moving in an efficient assembly line type manner. However, a couple weeks in, I’m getting much closer to mastering the dishes and can occasionally hold down the fort by myself if my partner needs to step out or concentrate on something else. the kitchen is actually housed in a “real” red barn…apparently it was originally in Pennsylvania or somewhere, but moved down here to save it from destruction. I don’t have a picture of the dining room, but it still retains its barn-like qualities. If you pay attention, you can still catch a whiff of the old wood smell.
Anyway, I’m really just writing to show you that I’m alright here 🙂 It’s not Paris, but that doesn’t mean there will be any less to write about—especially as spring draws near on the farm. Obviously some blog content will change, but actually, I still have quite a lot of things to post about Paris too! I’ll probably write less frequently, but it should be a good mix of subject matter and photos. I hope everyone who started reading my blog when I was in Paris will continue to follow me into this next phase of life 🙂