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Mpls, MN, United States

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Friday, July 25, 2008


Current boniness notwithstanding, I am a good eater. I've been a good eater since I was a baby; family legend has it that I would cry at the end of mealtimes when the food was taken away. I shared my lima beans with my aunt and uncle's cat, not because I didn't like the lima beans, but because they were my favorite and I thought the cat would like them too. (I think she did.)

A parable

Let's say that I started feeding myself when I was three, and that I started inventing my own dishes shortly thereafter, substituting ingredients I could reach for those I couldn't. Let's say I ate when I was happy, sad, bored, and generally whenever I could. I was a really good eater and passable cook, and everyone thought I'd major in Food in college. I didn't, although college is pretty much about eating, whatever you study, and I did a lot of eating and cooking--more and more challenging dishes.

Then, let's say I did... oh, FOUR... years of graduate study in which eating, and particularly cooking, were even more important. I tried foods I had never even known existed! I created elaborate meals with multiple courses, occasionally in just a few hours and without any sleep while trying to grade my own students' foods.

Now, let's say that in order to continue with my graduate work, I had to pass a test, and the test was this: for my primary, secondary, and outside areas of study, I would prepare lists of the most important dishes in each area--ones I'd already eaten in classes, as well as quite a few I'd never eaten before. I would eat all the new ones, and review the ones I'd already tried.

Then, I would be given two weeks in which to construct three massive, elaborate meals, assigned by three of the chefs whom I respected and admired most, and based on all the dishes on my lists--as well, probably, as anything I'd ever eaten. I would have to be intimately familiar with all of the flavors in the foods on my lists and how they worked with other flavors, and would have to use the chef's constructions of their own dishes to structure my own--breaking down and attempting to understand their own processes of creation so that I could critique and enhance them in my own meals.

Let's say that I had to serve those three massive and elaborate meals to the three chefs, one of whom specializes in each of my three areas. My results would determine whether I would be allowed to... spend the next few years writing my own cookbook. If I messed up, I would get dropped from the program. If the meals themselves were okay, the second part of the exam would be to present a detailed proposal for what the cookbook would look like.

So let's say I have been stuffing my face pretty much non-stop for the past two months and I am both exhausted and so full I can hardly walk. I am sick of food and don't feel like cooking. All the meals I've eaten are beginning to blur a bit in my memory (not to mention give me indigestion). I am starting to wonder whether food is really the game for me and why anyone would ever want to write a cookbook, let alone whether I have what it takes. I'm anxious about what the chefs will assign, and whether what I serve them will make them ill. But at this point, I'm so sick of eating that I'm about ready to start cooking--just to get this over with.

It starts one week from today!


Ellen said...

But this means I get to visit you soon.

K L said...

If you become a teacher then it would all come back out and that will feel nice, now won't it.

Curly Sue said...

Imagine if your two weeks of examinating (yes, I made that up) were compressed into three days of feverish writing in eight-hour blocks, locked into a study room in the library. That was my doctoral prelim exam. I've never been so tired.

It's a good feeling when you finish, though.

CëRïSë said...

Ellen, I can't wait to see you!

Kuyler, that visual image made me laugh out loud. Such a graphic extension of the metaphor!

And Leah, I had the option to take my exams that way; because they just switched the format over, those of us who came in under the old system could choose which option we wanted. I am definitely glad to have the two-week, open-book option, and don't envy your format at all.

Larissa said...

It is sad when what you are most passionate about becomes associated with a chore. I hope your test is over soon so that you can turn art history back into your passion as opposed to being worried about a test. Good Luck! You will do great!

CëRïSë said...

Awww, thanks Larissa. My advisor jokes that hating your discipline is one of the steps in the process. If that's true, I'm definitely on my way...