3.17.2011

Lesson Learned: Never Apologize in the Kitchen


I've read My Life in France, at least half a dozen times in the past couple of years. Written by Julia Child with the help of her grandnephew Alex Prud'Homme, this book chronicles the years that Julia spent living in Europe with her husband, Paul.  It details her time at Le Cordon Bleu as well as the 10 years that she spent composing the acclaimed and ever popular Mastering the Art of French Cooking. One of my favorite books, it tells the story of a true pioneer in the culinary world, from her standpoint and her voice and I can't get enough.



One thing that has always stuck with me from reading (and rereading) this book is how determined Julia is to never apologize for anything in kitchen. Regarding her time at Le Cordon Bleu she says, "..I made many boo-boos. At first this broke my heart, but then I came to understand that learning how to fix one's mistakes, or live with them, was an important part of becoming a cook." This week in school I learned this oh so important  lesson firsthand as I was making my assigned Moroccan-inspired millet salad.


Millet, if you've never cooked with it before, is a tiny little seed that looks like something that would be dinner for a bird but is actually something quite tasty.  It's also a refreshing change up from other more familiar grains and seeds.  Millet is a little finicky in the sense that like most grains, it requires a certain ratio of seed-to-water (1 part seed to 2 parts water in this case). However, once the water evaporates, the millet still might be a bit too tender and more water needs to be added. Now this is the tricky part, the key is to add just a tiny bit of water so that the millet will stay nice and fluffy. My hand got a little heavy with the water and my millet ended up melding together into a giant gooey mass. After adding other flavors to the salad (like little cubes of carrots, chickpeas and fresh mint, parley and cilantro) it tasted fine but it wasn't the intended texture - a total bummer (or "boo-boo") for a culinary school student.


Looking down at my pile of millet, I couldn't help but be a little bummed until Chef reminded me that I need to use this to my advantage. "Make individual cakes" he helpfully suggested. Realizing I still had a fair amount of time left before we were to have completed our dishes, I was itching to be more creative than that. The main focus of the day was a giant leg of lamb (glorious, delicious lamb..) and my millet was to accompany that. Thinking that a leg of lamb sounded a little rustic, I got the idea to hand-shape individual leaves out of the millet, just for something a little different.


While it wasn't the ideal, it still worked and to that I say, Julia, you are so right. Lesson learned. When life hand you over-saturated millet, make millet leaves. Or something like that.  Culinary school lesson for the day: never apologize in the kitchen, just make things work and learn to live with it.

14 comments:

Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane said...

Such a creative + beautiful idea!

I used to really beat myself up when something went wrong in the kitchen. Even worse was when it became irreparable. When I finally decided to let go of the need to have unrealistic control, things just seemed to flow. Sounds like you're really getting in your groove -- so inspiring to see!

The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Thank you so much, that's so sweet of you to say!

Hope said...

Those are so cute!

I remember an art teacher saying that the best works are sometimes the ones that we originally get "wrong." After you've already "ruined" a drawing, you're a lot more free to experiment. A good chunk of the time, you end up with something better than you had originally planned.

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

This is not just a great lesson for the kitchen but a great lesson for life. Thanks for sharing!

Genevieve said...

True statement.

Jen said...

That's a great lesson to learn.

Elizabeth said...

Love it! Since I never follow a recipe closely and often make substitutions, it would be silly of me to get too upset over a mistake, although I certainly do sometimes. Definitely a great attitude to have, and I think your millet leaves look delicious.

Megan said...

Very creative! I have only seen millet in multigrain breads and the granola bars at Flour and didn't realize you could cook it like that.

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

Very nice post Katie. So exciting to see read about your adventures and progress at school. And your millet leaves look beautiful!

Aimee said...

Katie, these pics are beautiful! So bright and warm! I love the theme of this post. Mistakes can turn out delicious, and we always learn something!

jennaseverythingblog said...

What a great post! First, your finished dish looks incredible--I love the little shapes you made. And second, I loved "My Life in France" and I also have been trying not to apologize in the kitchen. I still feel the need to say I'm sorry if I produce anything less than spectacular for dinner guests, but that just makes things awkward for everyone. Instead, I will try to learn from my mistakes while moving foward with unapologetic confidence! =)

A CopyCat Cooks said...

I love to throw uncooked millet into a lot of my muffins, loaves and breads. It gives such a great crunchy texture to them. They are the best in pumpkin muffins!! A must have in my house!

Megan said...

I actually JUST finished reading My Life in France for the first time! I absolutely loved it, and that was one of the biggest things I took away from the book--never apologize about your food. I've made lots of mistakes, too, but sometimes you have to get creative to patch them up, and you certainly did! Thanks for sharing, and as always, love reading about your adventures in culinary school :)

Alicia said...

Give yourself a break!! Especially with the millet.....that stuff is VERY finicky. I just started making it for breakfast cereal....and the first few times I ended up with millet risotto instead of fluffy millet cereal....

Remember, its artisanal! ;)

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