Monday, September 22, 2008

Overheard in the kitchen...

We're Chinese, we don't have time to be polite!!
We got shit to do, like procreate and take over the world dammit!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Today was the first test.

In true black box fashion, we walked into the lab
and he stood at his table smiling.

We had a choice of only what
was available
an hour and a half to create in

and a large mark to achieve.

I've never been good at these tests-
my friend
who knows me well
too well-
would tell you the evenings before them i would transform
become all thorny and bristled

so today, without time for that-
i was left to scour the pantry
and try to think of something
that would portray to him
the art i knew i was capable
of creating.

i tempered the dark chocolate
not as he had taught
but as my grandmother had taught me
so many summers ago

hot dark lava
on cold stone
stirred, manipulated
until that moment that it firms

"you can feel the change"
she would say
her gold bangles slipping
over her delicate wrist

"and when the change comes child,
when it comes it must go back to the pot"
in her lilt
that patois that fascinated me so

as i stirred and and smoothed
i felt that moment
and for a second
just a second
i reached for my thermometer-
my safety.

but no.
i just "put it in the pot child"
and "made it all so"
as she would say
make it all so
just so
and it will be ready.

and as the rest of the class
took their pristine palate knives
to test their temper
i dipped my finger
just as she had
into the bowl and
smeared it on the marble

as it set almost instantly
i felt an inner glow
on my terms dammit
that old woman knew
just as much as you do
in your white uniform
with your tall paper hat

and i made the ganache
with melted chocolate and
warm cream
just as she had-
"it must be two likes, child"
she said-
"why put warm cream
to cold chocolate?"

and so i put two likes together

and i added the sour apples
that I "brought down"
just so-
and the liquor
and the pepper that you would taste last
much later
after you had judged me
the taste that I hoped
would make you think
what is that-
was that-
did she-

and i painted the molds with my brush
with greens and golds
and made that chocolate

and put it on the tray

and in silence he ate it
and i cast my spell
and his eyes closed
and he thought about it a second

and then he said


Tuesday, September 16, 2008


if only for a moment I
closed my eyes
to think of you-

the blue flame

if only for a moment
I closed my eyes...

and felt the burn.

not on my skin
(that was only physical)
not on my skin...
it is only where it appeared-

from the pit of my gut
up to my throat
the burn-
breaking off

if only for a moment
the air was gone-
and I was left

as I held
it under,
under the rushing water

i forced breath
and out-

as I held

the silence was louder
than any thought of you-


the white light
tearing through my eyes,


falling to my knees i thought-

so this is how it feels


to have the burn on your skin.

so this is how it feels


to have
a physical reminder
of what is


she told me that i lost my voice.

i laughed at her,
she was always a strange chick-
all lace and beads and dandelion petals...

she said
you'll see, you lost it-
somewhere between the meadow
and the back gate

somewhere in the stampede
of moving bodies
and stomping feet

somewhere along the way
you let it slip free from your lips-
perhaps when you were trying to be
all things
to all men?

perhaps when you were trying to fit in amongst the fleet?
perhaps when you decided that
being you
was just too hard
and being them
looked easier?

I realize its lost now-
as i stand blinded in the storms
as my good turns against me
and i wait for each approaching wind-

i try to roar against it-
and nothing comes
nothing comes
now I bear the damage
of its lashing tongue;

And so i comb the meadow
get trampled by the stomping feet
overturning this
upsetting that-
hoping i will find it.

I need to find it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

So the question that has been posed to me is:

What does the name of this blog mean?

The name came to me in a moment of reflection and boredom; I was sitting in the basement of the library at school between the stacks, participating in a frosh activity against my better judgement.

The faculty head, in her wisdom, decided that the members of the baking school needed to bond and arranged a scavenger hunt of sorts. I was chosen to hide out at the library, fittingly, and had taken a chair and perched in the two small sections of ancient baking books that are supposed to inspire us and guide our careers.

I had a pocket full of clues, a head full of confusion and a heart full of anger.

While there, bored, with no cell reception, trapped in my starched uniform I began to browse.

Amongst the ancient tomes my mind began to spin, as it usually does-forming thoughts and pondering my feelings.

As I flipped through the meagre selection I reflected on what the base of baking is...what gives baking life.

Why I am so passionate about it.

Simply put, flour and sugar are the bases for most everything. One could argue there are five elements I suppose- flour, sugar, eggs, butter and cream. A bread baker would tell you he could live with only flour, salt, water and yeast. A purist would tell you there is no life without vanilla and salt.

As I pondered the basis of baking, I thought about the base elements that give life.

We can live a long time without food-but can survive only a short time without water.

Without blood, there is nothing.

And so, as I sat and thought about how crazy it was that at 35 I was in my second year of college, my third career and as confused about everything as I was at 17, I decided I needed to write again. I had to express some of the parallels I had noted over the last year between baking and life.

It is all one big metaphor.

Baking is a solitary venture. We bakers are often stuck in corners or basements, trusted to make the bread and pastry that everyone desires. We are considered the neurosurgeons of the kitchen-cautious, rigid, picky...crazy-and not in the romantic way people adore chefs.

Our lives are dictated by rules, tradition and lists.

Not many people think about where they would be without the bread we make every day. They don't understand that unlike cooking we spend hours nursing "the bitch", (bread starter) talking to her, assessing her health, murmuring nurturing words.

It is not about throwing things together to make beautiful taste, its not a quickfire line with a screaming Chef and a service that ends with a fag and a beer.

It is hours of thought,
a deep understanding of chemistry,
a steady hand
and a passionate heart.

Bakers are loners.
Bakers are thinkers.
Bakers are defective.

Even the craziest of cooks works in a brigade-no matter how dysfunctional the relationships are, they need relationships, partnership, teamwork to succeed.

A team of bakers can work independently and only meet to assemble the final product.

The chocolatier works alone in the cool room. The patisserie works near the fridge where the icing is kept. The bread baker is over by the oven, watching the racks rotate, flipping hot bread out of the pans. The Chef is in the back hall, under the stairs making a sugar piece. Some of us work in silence, others have the radio playing softly.

We spend hours not speaking.

An apprentice cook in a kitchen I work in told me that he could never be a baker because he could never be so alone, so silent.


He loved to come to the bakery to enjoy the silence-and watch all the things he just didn't understand.

Funny enough, it is to the bakery that the desperate cooks wander...tired, tearful, wanting. I have observed that the bakers tend to be the bartenders of the kitchen: our space is quiet, warm and smells like love. The sad, the angry and the frustrated find our corners under stairs, in the basement, in the back room and come to talk, rest, get away.

You'll find many a Chef crying in the bakery, poor laundry workers and dishwashers come daily knowing we have saved bags of day old bread and croissant for their families, the servers come for cookies and a chance to air frustrations. In all of this we knead the bread, bake the cake, make the chocolate and listen.

I find it comforting, that on a Sunday morning the stock boy will come to see if I'm ok if he doesn't smell chocolate chip cookies by 6am.

I know that the delivery drivers will arrive at 7 for muffins.

The Executive Chef likes a little whipped cream in his coffee. I also give him a few pieces of chocolate. He always eats them in silence and watches me ice cakes.

The dishwasher doesn't speak English, but loves a fresh bun with butter.

The maintenance men wait patiently at the door for napkins full of warm bread sticks.

I've been writing for years, on scraps of paper, in long lost diaries--in my head...this medium is an effort to push out the things that are building inside of me, see them written and real and:

move on.

Its not chronological, it doesn't always make sense, its just the things I think about that need to be sorted. I seriously considered turning off comments, because visits and comments are not the goal. Of course, I left them, because I always want to know what you think.

Flaw #1.

So again, I find myself at the precipice of change and rather than let it drive me crazy perhaps this will allow me the time and space to reflect rather than obsess.

Who knows.

So as I work amid the flour and the sugar I will reflect on my days: the water and the blood.

I thank you for your interest.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My day in a nutshell...a true story

Ok in the fridge there are berries.
They are round and red, they in box- I forget what you call them
No matter! Just get them, cut them in quarters. Hurry up!!!

(yes Chef!)

But only cut the big ones in quarters-
cut the small ones in half..understand?

(yes Chef!)

Wait! but not the really small ones
those you should not cut..they wrinkly and so ugly, bleck!!

(yes Chef!)

Wait! Wait!
(I stop in my tracks again)
The really big ones are ugly too... all thorny with the things like knobs on them...maybe don't cut those either...
(yes Chef- waiting)
And when you cut them with the knife, you cut them with LOVE, you are its LOVER
(yes... Chef)
They deeeserve love, when you cut them nice, they loooook like love...they OPEN like love, they
SHINE like love...
(yes Chef)
You know when you cut them right because they look like vaginas!!! What is more like love than VAGINAS???



i have to remember
all the things that
were bad
are bad
i need strength to
move on from here
i have to consider
that i am not in
your thoughts
in any way
i need to be resolute
to sit on my hands
to bite my tongue
i have to decide
to accept the fact that
you will continue to use me
if i let you

Friday, September 12, 2008

On sympathetic friends


Tell him you have the AIDS


Ok, ok, crabs then

That's not funny.

I dunno, I'm laughing....


I think I peed on my sweater.

As opposed to...?

The toilet??

Well. It's absorbent, right??

Yogging, anyone?

I'm thinking of trying this new fad called jogging. I believe it's jogging or yogging. It might be a soft j, I'm not sure

THAT I have to see. Do you jog in heels with a fag in your mouth???

I actually haven't picked my outfit out yet....

The Electoral Disease...

It's kind of like a bad rash...

like the Quebec Nationalists

no, thats like herpes. You think it's gone then IT COMES BACK


I wake.

It's a quarter before the alarm
breaks fitful sleep.

I stretch-
then remember that
I'm not alone here.

I wriggle from tether
and creep to the bathroom...

this floor creaks.

I laid it all out there
the blubber
the penchant for
unmatched socks-
the scars
the lined up vials on the counter...

the space mask
the unwashed dishes
the magazines under the chair...

the book was found and unmentioned even.

I stood with arms crossed-defiant
door slightly ajar-waiting

and yet...

I declined to talk about it-
tired of talk-
of introspection-

so instead we laughed
and ate the ice cream I made
and listened to that awful crackle
his shoulder makes when he turns it just so--

and the light turned to dark
and the dark turned to light
and I remembered all the things I thought I forgot...

and the note was scribbled on a scrap of paper
and I went out into the morning without a thought

32 Celcius

Other than the occasional jostle of the cooks

as they reach around my legs for tools,

I stand in my corner alone.

Melted chocolate pools shiny on my cold marble. I massage and stir it with my palette, watching it firm, be controlled into temper.

I can tell now

(without my thermometer)

that it has given up-

been tamed

is ready.

We speak the same language.

It goes back to the bowl to rewarm, in anticipation of what it will become.


Note to self:

Check the speed on the mixer


I can smell the fig before I even touch it.

A dusky purple blue.

Not too soft.

Full of fertile seed.

I am pleased and he knows so.

I split it into quarters so we can share.

He’s never had one before.

He wants praise.

I don’t want to talk while I eat it.

I suspect the offering.


I should know better, than to pour the melted butter to the cream-
though through trickery
I have made them change their state...

the cream- like butter was-
is now cold cold and unyielding,
the butter as cream,
warm and wanting-

I should know better....

Yes it is possible
to make these two unlikes meet--

and with the right amount of variables
create beauty.


but it is oh so brief
and the process
it tires you-

all the stirring-

It needs so much attention.

And the cream can only tame the butter for so long-
butter always pulls away-

and is true to its original form.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


(He must have had a hard day again today, I can hear his footfalls on the pavement. Sometimes he runs harder, panting. Other days he passes silently.)

It is dark.

We are the only ones up at this hour. Us and the man with the key to the city. He always opens the door for me. He won't take my money.

He will take a danish. Without the glaze.

I flip the switch on the ancient oven before I turn on the light. The extra seconds count. It whines in protest. I scold it gently.

Be good to me today.

I am hypnotized by the slapping of the dough. It hits the sides of the mixer, a violent sound in all this quiet.

I flour my bench.

Today I shall think about the things I don’t want to think about-its easier when my hands are busy.

I pinch a piece of dough out of the mixer. Kneed it in my fingers.

Intention vs Intent.

I make the window pane. What lies beyond is hazy.

She sits in the bucket behind me, protesting. She is hungry.

I'll feed the bitch later.

Later, later.

The dough is perfect today.

I knead with purpose, make the round, and as I cover her to rest I list my mistakes.

Intention vs Action.

Now I know the recipe by heart. I understand the cryptic code of those before me. The water may not be enough, it may be too much, you must watch, you must trust.


I still don't trust my own power, my alchemy. For now he still comes to watch.

Soon I will be left alone, with the oven and the bitch.

Soon they will line up to get whatever they can, as much as I can make.

Soon they will marvel at my crust, speak of my hand and how only I can make that taste.

The one that reminds them.

For now, he stands beside me and we work in comfortable silence, broken only by the slap and skid of dough on flour.

As you sleep, the yeast gives life.

As you sleep, I make the rounds.

As you sleep, I shape the bread.

As you sleep

I list my mistakes and think as only busy hands can.