A part of me is still processing. Somehow, I really did just say my last goodbye to the Food of Course Cookery School. It wasn’t just a goodnight or parting ways for the weekend, it was an actual goodbye, until who knows when. It’s strange to be back on my own, and a little sad to not see the seven familiar faces that I have shared the last month with.
It really was an exceptional four weeks. I’ve always had a love for food, and as a younger child I had dreams of being a chef. That passion for food has certainly not faded in the years since, and although my professional desires may not place me in the kitchen, there is no question that my experience at the Cookery School will impact me greatly.
The final weeks of the course followed a very similar format to the first. While our culinary endeavors became more independent, challenging, and personalized, Lou was always by our sides, willing and able to help out when needed, but happy to step aside to let us succeed on our own. Our usual routine was broken on a couple of days for two amazing guest instructors. Anama, a sweet, soft spoken woman from Southern India, helped us explore the flavors of techniques of Indian cooking, and a Sicilian woman named Lauri brought us a taste of Italy. I enjoyed getting a glimpse at two vastly different cuisines, and it was a good reminder about the scale of the food world and how much is out there.
When we weren’t cooking (or cleaning), we continued to spend time together as a group, and grew closer and closer as the weeks went on. Our dinner conversation volume level was higher than ever, and our laughter echoed throughout the house constantly. The evenings usually ended with us all piled together watching a cooking movie or an episode of the Great British Bake Off. When we had a bit more free time, we did our best to see some of the local sights. One weekend we made some day trips to Welles (a nearby town with a beautiful cathedral and historic cobblestone streets), Glastonbury Tor (a mystic hill with an old stone structure on top), and the Jurassic Coast (the southern coast of England offering beautiful beaches and cliffs). It’s crazy to think how many breathtakingly beautiful places and structures there are all within an hours drive of the house. On the last weekend of the course, the we had a guys weekend as all of the girls were visiting friends, and we made our way into the historic city of Bath. This town is home to the Roman Baths and is probably the most important Roman religious site in England. Aside from the Roman ruins, we enjoyed checking out some of the stunning Georgian architecture and even treated ourselves to a bit of a spa day at a modern spa which utilizes the same hot springs that the Roman’s took advantage of.
Our final week was certainly a special one. After three weeks of cooking recipes from the Food of Course book, we were given free rein for our “own menus.” Instead of the usual on duty team preparing dinner, each one of us prepared our own four course meal individually, pulling and creating recipes from sources other than our book. The opportunity to create a menu, pairing flavors, textures, and colors together, ensuring courses flowed into the next, and doing so on my own was simply awesome. It went off without a hitch, and was a testament to how much I had learned. My canapé was corn pancake topped with mango salsa and garnished with creme fraiche and coriander. This was followed by a multi colored beet and goats cheese terrine served over a bed of arugula as a starter. For my main, I served filets of cod topped with grainy mustard, tomato purée, and a lemon parsley brioche crust over wilted spinach, served with crispy baby potatoes and a mustard cream sauce. Finally, the meal was capped off with one of my favorite desserts, mini banana cream pies. I believe one of the first things I actually made in a kitchen was a banana cream pie with my mom. I remember loving the process, and even more so loving eating the pie, so naturally loved being able to bring it all back to my first creation for my final dish.
Everybody’s own menus were incredibly impressive. We had everything from turkey dumplings to slow roasted lamb to ribs and more. After a week of pretty much a continual state of fullness, we finished the course with a massive, five course final lunch which we had been preparing in the days prior. It was a lovely way to celebrate ourselves and the last month together.
I have no doubt that I will continue to cook. I certainly didn’t become a world class chef in the last four weeks, but I gained a greater appreciation for food and for those who have fed me for the last 19 years. I won’t be able to make a meal without thinking back to my time here, and I can’t wait to refine and further my abilities in the kitchen.
Now I’m back on my own, and to be completely honest, not too thrilled about it. I have had my fair share of solo travel so far this year, and while I appreciate the freedom and ease that comes with being alone, I miss being able to share my experiences with friends and family. That being said, I’m extremely excited to explore Scotland, even if it is alone. The good news is I only have five days on my own before picking up a travel buddy in Copenhagen.
I’m continuously amazed at how time has seemingly sped up throughout the course of the year. Suddenly it’s May, and my gap year clock is ticking closer and closer to midnight. Luckily I still a few adventures left to come, and even more luckily, when the clock does strike 12:00, my “harsh” reality is heading off to college in Los Angeles. For now, however, I’m focused on soaking up every bit of my time left in Europe.