Under Duress

I have recently noticed that one of my missing family members is broadcasting to the internet her desire that I write more on this blog.  I suppose it is a sad sign of neglect when I have to look up my username and password because I don’t visit here often enough.  It’s amazing how quickly I can find other ways to while away my free time as well as the times when I should be working on homework or studying for tests.  The entire culinary arts course so far has been an odd concoction of trying to avoid overconfidence and feeling completely lost and bewildered.  If I was asked, I couldn’t even say how much I’ve learned, which could be a good sign or a bad.  Because the entire school experience is so new to me it can be difficult to tell how much of what I think I’ve learned is common to the entire college and how much is just the oddities of this program.   Much of the learning in the school can be done through osmosis, which I enjoy.  Every one learns from things around them, but I think that being taught at home has made me very comfortable with paying attention to those ahead of me in their studies and trying to learn what they’re learning, as well as what I’m supposed to be learning.  Sometimes, it seems that what they’re teaching is so basic that the time spent on it is pointless.  At other times, you wonder why they didn’t give you any instructions before tossing you into the melee of the work spaces.

The class that I will be finishing up with next week has been an odd mixture of learning and boredom.  Baking I is based heavily on a textbook entitled How Baking Works.  The book itself is fascinating, telling me all sorts of things I didn’t know about gluten and polyunsaturated fats.  The lab classes, which we have Tuesdays and Thursdays are very relaxed and enjoyable, even if it just feels like doing over and over the same thing that I’ve done for many years – that is, baking bread.  The experiment class a week ago was very enjoyable, as my lab partner and I got to explode cupcakes in the oven.  Or, more properly, we watched them collapse from lack of structure.   The test was more difficult than I thought it would be, with many good questions – not multiple choice.   Lecture days, though.  Perhaps it’s the nature of a lecture, something I’ve rarely had to use as a learning method.  Even when my siblings and I viewed taped lectures as part of our science studies, sitting around a table eating mac and cheese and discussing the video as it plays is much different from having to pay strict attention from a plastic chair for two hours.  Perhaps is the way the lectures seem to be turning out.  I know I enjoyed most of the lecture time in Culinary Foundations, the class that came just before this one.  Besides the fact that there were more in-class discussions, the information was orderly and thorough.

Maybe what is frustrating me the most right now is that I truly believe that the teacher is educated and knowledgeable about what she is teaching.   She’s good-natured, friendly, and always willing to answer questions.  Whether it’s the answer you wanted is another matter.   One of the advantages I’ve never realized about being taught by my mother is that it’s fairly easy to communicate what I’m asking.  So many times over the course of time I’ve been in classes here, I’ve heard students ask a question about what the teacher just said.  You can literally hear sighs from the people around you as the teacher launches into their reply, which consistently seems to be a near word-for-word repetition of what they just said.  At the end of this, they will ask the student if they understand.  The student will hesitate, the teacher will relaunch and I wonder how anyone learns if this is the common method of communication in public schools.  I can see now that I’ve been spoiled with clear concise answers to my questions.  Well, at least the important ones.  The not so vital ones have taught me many ways to twist people’s words.  Yes, I’m looking at you Daddy.

Back to the point of learning in college, though.  I have admitted that I think I could learn more and retain more information if I spent the two hours of lecture time reading through my textbook.  I think I would also have been more confident during the test last week as I stared at the questions that I knew I’d read the answers to briefly, but that hadn’t been gone over during class time.  Next test, I’m certainly studying harder for.   Not to worry, though, parents over there, who are frowning at the thought that I didn’t study hard enough.  Out of 52 points, I was given 51 1/2.  Normally I wouldn’t post this out here, but I do wish to make a point.  I knew most of the answers, even if only vaguely, or not even from the class or textbook.  There was more than one question, however, that I guessed on, or felt that I left partially unanswered.  I do know that it’s the teacher’s prerogative to grade however they see fit, but I feel that I was given more credit than I deserved.  She did give fair warning before the test, I suppose, that if you could give a logical guess as to the answer, she would give you credit.  I’m still confused, though.  One of the questions that I hesitated over asked which item would give better rise, shortening or margarine.  I took a guess from what I remembered and said shortening.  When I was allowed to look over the test Thursday, I saw that this had been marked incorrect.  In her notes, the teacher said ‘nice guess, but margarine actually gives better rise’.  Alright, so, out of two choices, I picked the wrong one.  Maybe you won’t agree with me, but how do you get 1/2 credit for the question off of that?  I think it’s just because I didn’t leave it blank.  And the fact that I’m willing to guess at things I don’t remember doesn’t seem to me to be a fair reflection of what I’ve learned or how I’m doing in the class.  If my guess is correct, all for the better, and I’ll remember it for the next time.   From this test, though, I think I’ve learned that I’ll learn more in this class if I police myself, rather than expecting the teacher to do it.  So, this weekend, I’m going to re-read that section on malt syrup that I don’t remember enough about.  And I’m going to go over the section where it talks about steam leavening and fats.   Even if all the students in class pass with A’s, I want to feel that I’ve earned what I’m being credited with.

So, yes, I’m learning in college.  I’ll try to share here with you specific things I’ve learned, such as the fact that teachers can be surprised by the fact that you turn in all your assignments on time and properly completed.  I’ll try to remember that everything I’m learning isn’t necessarily the best thing to learn.  And I’m learning how very grateful I am that my mother taught me how to teach myself.

A post for you, Gypsy.

Essay on College Life

Ah!  A new blog already and I’ve barely written anything on my other.  I must be fickle.  Why else, when I at last sit down to write something serious here, do I suddenly have an urge to write fiction?  In all honesty, my real life is interesting enough at this point, that I shouldn’t need to resort to fiction to entertain either myself or my readers.  It’s just that often, it’s hard to remember what in my life no one has any idea of and what they already know.  Once you fall into a routine, life becomes normal again, even though there are a million new little things you could share with people.  Of course, there are all the people I’ve met.   About twenty new classmates, along with the upper semesters and teachers, who are all at least slightly familiar to me at this point.  It’s a new experience for me to be dropping names and have my family and friends have no idea who I’m talking about.   Then there’s the rhythm of the days at school.  Biking in the half light that’s 7:20 a.m. right now in Boise with my new bike lights shining and my nose freezing off.  Arriving and slinging my backpack down as soon as possible, due to the weight of books and uniform.  Saying good morning to a dozen different people as we all try to digest the lecture and take appropriate notes.   Breaking from the first class and speed dressing in my chef’s coat and apron, while twisting my hair into a bun.  Reporting to lab with uniform, recipes, knives, and schedule to become immersed in the work for three hours.   Not realizing how quickly the time is flying by, as I assemble, chop, mix, and wrap.  Cleaning my cutting board and knives.  Helping the sweepers, so that I can mop the kitchen floor and then grabbing my knife case and heading to my locker.  Taking off my coat and being startled at all the new stains.  Deciding if it’s worth carting home and spot washing.  Bundling the knives and any clean uniform pieces into the locker until tomorrow and heading back out into the cool air – pleasant after mopping however many square feet of floor comprise the back kitchen.  The bike ride home, with the odd feeling of a morning having evaporated.  Homework typed out on the computer and printed for the next day.  Recipes converted to the proper size.  Deciding whether to cook dinner or risk reheating something on the stove.  The odd job refereeing or a trip to the grocery store or library.  Trying to fit in a chat with my Mummy, so that I can unload any new happenings or just for the brief feeling of being at home.  Calculating how late to stay up writing, reading or cooking so that at least eight hours of sleep are possible.  Crawling into bed and setting the alarm.  So strange for the first few days of college, but so rhythmic now.  Even the new classes already feel comfortable and this is only my second day. Even with all this, though, Thanksgiving break is something I’m looking forward to more than I ever looked forward to a vacation before.  I enjoy my classes, I’m learning new things, I’m more comfortable with everyone and every procedure every day and yet there’s still a slight feeling of unreality.  Every weekend, I’m waiting to go home and never feeling like I’ve quite gotten there.  I’m enjoying the new freedoms of my own car, setting my own hours and my own meals and schedule.  Underneath everything, though, I miss being completely immersed in the freedom of knowing where I am and who I’m with.  Knowing what the reactions to my opinions and actions will be, being able to stand and discuss what I learned with mother, as she prepares a meal.  Maybe that is why I prefer to write fiction, rather than discuss all the new things in my life.  Fiction, strangely enough, is a constant.  I create the same fiction no matter where I am staying, using the same methods – a keyboard and some melancholy music.  Real life, though.  I’m realizing, perhaps, why my siblings didn’t really discuss school at home.  Maybe they just didn’t think of it, but perhaps they were basking in the feeling and rhythm of home.

Apparently, I’m not in the most uplifted mood this evening.  Don’t be mistaken.  I can bask in the ability to cook and bake and create all day, read about cooks and bakers and creations all afternoon, write about cooking and baking and creating for my only homework.  This is precisely what I love to do.  But I’ll enjoy it more when someone invents a way for me to instantly ship my creations to Taiwan, so that I can cook for the people I most want to give back to and share my new abilities and lessons with.