Also known as Culinary Foundations. CulArt102 is the start of my day, Monday through Friday and lasts three hours. This will last for eight weeks, until the class ends and CulArt111 begins. This class is a lecture class of sorts. For the first week, it was a true lecture class, with us sitting in the classroom (which doubles as the student-run deli from 11:00 to 1:00) for three hours, taking notes and reading aloud. This week, however, we have entered the realm of knife skills. Excepting today, in which most of our time was consumed by studying for tomorrows unit test, we spend the last hour in the kitchen, chopping vegetables. The first day, we batonned potatoes, diced onions, and minced garlic. In case you haven’t read your French lessons, the batonne is also the french fry cut, in dimensions 1/4″ x 1/4″ x 2″. Diced onions are supposed to be cubes with equal sides, but mincing is defined as a very fine chop of no particular dimensions. Wednesday we cut carrots in obliques and rondelles, as well as mincing shallots and making tournes out of potatoes. Next time we have knife skills practice, we are first going to go over spices, in preparation for the spice test at the end of class.
In Foundations class, we have so far studied chapters 1,4,5,6,7, & 9 of the 1400 page book that is our main textbook. Chapter One – Professionalism, also dealt with culinary history, which figures largely in the coming test. Pop quiz for my readers. What event of culinary note occurred 1475? I will be generous and give the answer at the bottom of the post. Chapters Two & Three deal with nutrition and sanitation, both of which are entire classes in the program and therefore not included in Foundations class. Chapter Four deals with types of menu, recipe conversions, and types of service. Recipe conversions are very fun. First, you convert your ingredients to ounces. Then, you add all the ounces for total yield. To obtain a conversion factor, divide your desired yield by the current yield. Finally, to get your new recipe, multiply all the ingredients by your conversions factor. Yes, we do get to use calculators – even though I am capable of doing the math without one. Chapter Five is kitchen equipment. I now know what spider, salamander, and bird’s beak mean when used in the kitchen. A spider is a flat, fine mesh strainer, a salamander is a small overhead broiler, used to brown the top of certain foods and a bird’s beak is a special knife, about the size of a paring knife, used specifically for making tournes. Just to make things more confusing, in the Culinary Arts kitchen, stove tops are referred to as spider tops. Chapter Six is mostly vocabulary, with some technique, as it explains the most widespread cuts, their French names, and methods of creating them. These first chapters, along with Culinary History, are the material from which the test questions will be taken.
Chapter Seven is titled flavors and flavorings. It catalogs all the herbs and spices common and sometimes uncommon to be found in the kitchen or bakery. It also lists wines, beers, and liquors and describes which foods or baking styles they best compliment. Condiments, spice mixes and oils are also discussed, while salt has its own page. Perhaps most interesting to read about is what different cultures over the years have labeled the tastes. The Chinese have a group of five tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and pungent. The Indians developed the same group, with the addition of astringent. These cultures attempt to create meals that balance all of these recognized flavors. Currently in America, there are five recognized flavors: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. Umami is a word plagiarized from the Japanese language and means something along the lines of ‘delicious’. Perhaps the best translation for umami would be ‘savory’. I am personally fond of Aristotle’s method of classifying tastes. He ranged his flavors along a scale, beginning with sweet, followed by succulent, pungent, harsh, astringent, and bitter. The scale ended with salty. The chapter also discusses the fact that while most foods have stronger flavors the warmer they are, salt can have a stronger taste in cold foods than in cool or warm foods. Finally, we come to the end of my newfound knowledge, at least that pertainig to Foundations. When I discuss baking lab, we will talk about chapters 30, 31, 32, & 33.
Homework for Foundations has so far consisted of the questions at the end of each chapter in the book, a synopsis of a movie in which a main theme was food and a current assignment, which is to get into a group of four or five and create a meal together. My group consists of Trevor the elder, Julie, Tyler, Morgan and myself. So far, our planned menu is Kaiser rolls, pasta with alfredo sauce and a zucchini dish. We also plan on a dessert and a meat dish.
Today in class, we watched excerpts from Ratatouille and French Kiss, after we had the technician in to explain why there was no sound and fix the difficulty.
Foundations class is the largest class I am in, as the labs divide us into smaller groups. Sanitation would be as large, but if the student has a food handlers license issued to them within the past few years, they can skip Sanitation. For everyone else, it is a pre or co-requisite for all the culinary arts classes. There are eight guys in the class, the other fourteen of us are girls. The only double name is Trevor, hence my needing to describe one as Trevor the elder and the other as Trevor the younger. Trevor the younger is my baking lab partner. And as I find my thoughts leaving Foundations class and drifting through interesting descriptions of baking lab, I shall leave off until another post, in which I shall deal with CulArt110 – Baking Lab.
Bonus! As promised, the answer to our trivia/pop quiz. In 1475, a cookbook was published for the first time. The author was Bartholomew Platina, from Italy. The cookbook was called <span style=”text-decoration:underline;”>On Honest Pleasure and Good Health</span>.