culinary school- week 8 (141lbs)

Well, there sure wasn't much standing around this week....what with all the midterm madness. There was lots of studying and preparation for Thursday's written exam, followed by Friday's practical and then this morning I woke up with the flu....think I'll go back to bed now. Catch you later.


culinary school- week 7 (140 lbs)

Monday was the first of 2 seafood days. We began by killing and processing a live crab (done by plunging the tip of a cleaver down into the centre of its head, then swiftly chopping through its body, severing it in half lengthwise). Next came the demo showing us how we were to kill a lobster (these are smart, social creatures who know what 'up; not to mention that they can keep twitching for up to 20 minutes after they are killed, even if they have been cut up into pieces). As the tip of the instructor’s* chef knife sliced into its skull and he skillfully twisted its head in reverse to its body.... without warning, out of nowhere; I lost it. I was crying for about half an hour- had to sit out of class and the whole lobster slaughter. I suspect it was an accumulative response not only to all of the animals we have been working with so far this term….cows, pigs, fish, poultry and game, but also a deep sorrow for all animals that have ever suffered and lost their lives in order to be our food, our scientific research, our shoes & handbags, our livelihood, and our sport- so very often without the respect, awareness and gratitude that they deserve.

*It is important to note that our instructor, Chef Ian, was teaching us the quickest and most humane way to kill these creatures. Both crabs and lobsters are often killed by plunging them into boiling water, and crabs often have the shells ripped from their backs when they are still alive. We were shown how to kill as swiftly and efficiently as possible, in order to minimize their suffering.

I finally composed myself and returned to class. The (lobster) bisque was delicious. I don’t at all mind being a cry baby, but am rather uncomfortable realizing what a hypocrite I am.

Mid terms are coming up for 2 days of next week….so I’m off to study. Here is a list of what we made in week 7:

Killed & Processed Crab and Lobster
Crab & Corn Chowder
Lobster Bisque
Seared Tuna Carpaccio

Restaurant Day (Seafood….)
Lobster Salad
Prawn Seviche
Seared Scallop w. Tamarind-Orange Sauce
Crab Cake w. Salsa & Chili Sauce
Crab Salad ‘Sandwich’ (w. Salmon Gravlax)

Stuffed Quail w. Cherry Red Wine Sauce & Yam Puree
Fried Escalopes of Sweetbreads w. Potato Anna & Bernaise
Crepes Forestiere (w. Duxelles & Morney Sauce)

Mussels & Venison….
Venison Steak w. Garlic Flan, Blueberry Sauce & Parsnip Garnish
Mussels & Frites (w. Garlic Mayonnaise)
Cheese & Pepper Biscuits

Lemon & Basil Scones
Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cookies
Orange Almond Lace Cookies
Morning Glory Muffins
Poached Pear Tart w. Crème Patissiere & Red Wine Glaze


culinary school- week 6 (143 lbs)

During a four-month break in filming Raging Bull, Robert De Niro ate his way from 160 to 215 pounds, loading up at some of the best restaurants in France. All this to play the older 'Jake La Motta'. Renee Zellweger had to really apply herself to plump it up, acquiring some 20 extra pounds in preparation for her starring role in Bridget Jones Diary. As I see my own weight continue to climb (3 pounds since week 3), I can’t help but think that I'm destined for the same rotund reality….less the starring film role and the accompanying large sums of cash....

This week started with 2 days of vegetarian; for me a welcome reprive from butchering and eating all those animals. On Tuesday we had our first day of menu development, an excercise I thoroughly enjoyed. We were assigned some set ingredient and technique parameters, but were otherwise given the autonomy to create as we wished. Jorge, my stove partner for the week, proved to be both a very capable and delightful collaborator.

The latter 3 days were spent working with fish....another complex, morally challenging subject. Farmed (environment, parasites, dyes in feed, over crowded pens, poorly regulated operations...) vs. Wild (sustainability, by catch, toxins, poorly regulated operations...). Some days, it's just really hard to be a human (though I guess that it is also really hard to be a fish). We de-boned 4 fish this week, the wild ones being the sole and the snapper. The farmed trout had an especially curious and unnatural pinky orange hue to them; due to the fact that their feed had been tinted with dye. Farmed fish can actually be ordered by colour, just as if you were to walk into a paint store (if dye is not added, their flesh will be grey and visually unappealing to the consumer). I'm pretty sure that our trout was Benjamin Moore- col. 3007 'Navajo Sunset'.

Smoked Trout w. Ginger-Tomato Consomme & Japanese Spinach Salad

Pita Bread
Romesco, Baba Ganoush, Humus & Tapenade

Menu Development…. By Diane & Jorge
Appetizer- Zucchini Basil Pancakes w. Romesco Cream Sauce. Roasted Red Pepper Garnish.
Main- Puy Lentil Terrine w. Roasted Portobello Mushroom & Spinach. Served w. Roasted Fennel & Squash Quinoa and a Carrot Ginger Coulis.

De-boned a Salmon, Trout, Sole and Snapper
Gravlax (Salmon)

Poached Salmon w. Ginger Beurre Blanc
(Wok Smoked) Trout w. Ginger-Tomato Consomme & Japanese Spinach Salad
Seafood Chowder.
Trout Meuniere

? (I was absent)

Trout Meuniere

Gravlax (Salmon)


culinary school- week 6 (mid point)

Rebecca Robbins

The fabulous, lovely and very missed Rebecca Robbins
(February 18, 1968 - February 4, 2007)

I have chosen to dedicate week 6 to the loving memory of a dear friend, Rebecca Robbins. Never one to put off following her desires or her dreams…. an exhibited ceramic artist, devoted mother of two, world adventurer and creative spirit, she was also a tireless cheerleader to friends and family. In fact, I believe that my decision to attend culinary school was largely influenced by knowing that she would have encouraged me to do so. Wholeheartedly. There I was, still able to choose to pursue something when all of her choices had been taken away. Diagnosed with cancer in the early summer of 2006, her challenging journey that followed was one full of more beauty and richness than I ever would have thought possible. She was a gracious, wise, inspiring, brave and truly generous human being, one whose great qualities only shone brighter as the days passed.

rebecca robbins artwork
A preliminary drawing for one of her art pieces.

rebecca robbins

One of her exhibited pieces.

Losing Rebecca continues to be a profound and challenging journey. This week’s tribute (and one year anniversary) is an opportunity to grieve and to celebrate....just how wonderful it is to have known her and to have had her for a friend. Somehow I am able to miss her less when I hold her near. She is survived by sons Sol (7), Louis (3) and her partner, Len. Blessed am I to know them and love them as family.


culinary school- week 5 (still 141lbs.)

Dib-dib-dib-dib-did you see what North West Culinary is doing in class for week 5??!!!!! ….Theyb-theyb-theyb-theyb-they are butchering a whole pig!!!”

It has been quite a week. On Monday we butchered two pigs. This collective task proved to not be for the faint of heart (think lots of sharp knives and a saw) . After one classmate's mishap with his boning knife, he was rushed to the clinic where he received 8 stitches in his right hand. I tried to console myself by focusing on the fact that these were organic pigs from Sloping Hill Farm on Vancouver Island. Surely they had enjoyed a good life; one full of buttery corn cobs, golden sunshine, friendships with talking spiders, and plenty of free range frolicking. By midday we had transformed these two animals into bacon, tenderloin, ribs, pork roasts, chops, ham roast, prosciutto, pork stock, pork lard, head cheese, hocks, trotters and more. The rest of the week was pretty much a pork fest.

Many of the physical characteristics of human beings are quite similar to those of pigs (no offense to pigs).... During a vacation to Croatia's Adriatic coast two summers ago, I spent some time at a few of their nude beaches. I swear to God that I saw (human) tourists who, from the back, looked very much like the swines you see below....right down to the pork- I mean port stains. Switch out the slop trough for a concession / beer stand and the sawdust for sand, throw in a few tattoos and body piercings....and you pretty much have yourself a match. And pigs are smart. Don't believe me? Where do you think Pig Latin came from?

Butchered Two Pigs (From Sloping Hill Farm)
Belgium Endive, Braised w. Corn & Cream
Eggplant w. Panko, Prosciutto, Mozzarella & Tomato Sauce

Celeriac & Cheddar Souffle
Stuffed Brined Pork Chops w. Braised Cabbage, Mustard Spaetzle & Beer Jus
Bread Pretzels
Pork Sausage

Head Cheese (Terrine)
Tortiere (w. flaky dough)
De-boned a Duck

Duck Confit
Duck Stock
Smoked Bacon
Duck Cracklings
Cassoulet (w. Duck Confit, Pork Sausage, Smoked Bacon, Duck Cracklings & Bacon)
De-boned a Cornish Game Hen
Duck, Asparagus and Portobello Terrine
Duck Rillettes
Vanilla Ice Cream

Ballottines of Cornish Game Hen (Baked)
Galantines of Cornish Game Hen (Poached)
Tarte Tatin (Apple)
Grissini (Italian Bread Sticks)
Salmon Roulade
Chutney (of our own creation)

Thank God next week is vegetarian and then seafood. Click here to see more photos from week 5.... That's all folks.