Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reflections on a Feast

So, it's been a while since Fall Coronation. Usually I try and write quickly after an event to capture my mind and my thoughts, but this event led me to sit and ponder a great deal. I learned a lot of things, both in skills as well as personally, and my emotions were a roller-coaster the entire time. Perhaps at a later date I'll share my "No shit there I was..." story for you all to enjoy, but maybe after some more time has past to protect the innocents (and me) from angry wrath :p. In between paragraphs I'll post pictures of my feast, because I'm pretty proud of it.

I never truly understood how good of a cook I was until this weekend. I know that sounds egotistical as shit, but anyone who honestly knows me is aware I am my own worst critic and am the last person to praise my work. Even after hearing my feast had sold out before the event even started wasn't enough to make me feel pride in my work, Jake can attest to my panic and concern at disappointing over 100 people with my "just ok" food. I just don't compliment myself well, so when things start to go tits up I know in my gut that I'm going to be a failure. Its an issue I struggle with during every creative work, but I've heard most artists suffer from the same so I'm not too stressed about it. But after this weekend...I dunno, something changed.

I was in a terrible space on Saturday, mentally as well as with my feast preparation. Things were going wrong everywhere, ingredients were not working and to me it felt like I had clearly not practiced enough. At one point I had a breakdown, needing to call Andi to get some kind of help through the woods I was clearly losing myself into. We were both struggling over the phone to figure out a way to solve it, when a single piece of information sank into my brain and suddenly I had it. It was a moment of clarity, where there wasn't sound or dark or loss...I just understood what I had to do.

From that point on, I was running on instinct. I've never butchered an animal before, but I knew how to do it. I don't know how I knew, I just knew what knife to use and where to cut to get my desired outcome. Thank goodness Squeaky gave me some tips on presentation for cutting purposes, and James Collins helped me make life a lot easier when my brain was acting stupid near the 2am mark. But I just knew what to do. And that happened for me all day Sunday. Problems rolled in, and I knew the answers before I had even thought about them. We had a problem, Andi or an of my other horde of Laurels would toss them at me and we were able to bounce ideas off each other until the problem was solved. It was like a dance, it was just a perfect swell and crest of music.

I learned I was a pretty good cook. Not just in actual knowledge, I knew enough about the processes instinctively through training to know how to fix problems or roll with any punch that got thrown at me. I knew when to ask for help, I knew when to take hints and to follow the advice of my peers. More importantly, I learned I could trust myself. When the chips were down, when I was forced in the corner...I found out I could trust myself to handle the pressure as best as any human can and produce a pretty excellent product. That's a pretty valuable lesson right there.

Besides all that fun stuff, I really did learn a lot of great things this event. Finding out you chose the right people to be friends and family with was nice, especially when they let me scream and stomp then give me booze and push me back into the kitchen. I also learned how to butcher a whole animal, the joys of that I cannot begin to describe, and how to remove eyeballs (far less joyous, more...curious). I learned that no matter how much you prepare, shit will go down and you have to deal with it. I also learned you cannot please everyone, and one person not properly reading your menu and thus complaining about allergies is totally not my problem. It also seems that I say unintentionally hilarious things in the kitchen when I am focused ("The 19th chicken rides the pig!") and many people will believe that I will serve eel for dessert.

Tomorrow I'll finish my what went right and wrong posts, until then thank you for your support. Yes even you, the one on the left.