Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta pastries. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta pastries. Mostrar todas las entradas

domingo, 12 de octubre de 2014

Beneath The Habit

Sister Gwendoline loved desserts. From her first years on this world, she had adored anything sweet that you could share with friends and family. Her favorites were éclairs, any kind, as her grandmother always made them when she visited.

Many years had passed and, instead of baking, she would spend her days in the convent, taking care of the elderly nuns and helping with a day care center the church had established in town, to help single mothers with their children.

Let's not misunderstand the situation: Sister Gwendoline loved to help and it was this calling that made her take the habit when she was eighteen. Her mother encouraged her to do i and her father would have preferred to see her become a great cook. But when her grandmother died, she new she wanted the world to be a better place and becoming a nun was her choice to do so.

She had asked Sister Eloise to talk to the Mother Superior, in order for her to have duties in the kitchen but she wouldn't listen or care. She thought Sister Gwendoline was suited for her current duties and sending her to the kitchen would not be in the best interest of the congregation.

But, as they say, God works in mysterious ways. Mother Superior had been called to a reunion in Italy and decided to leave Sister Mary in charge. Sister Mary was just past seventy years old. She was a bit deaf and forgetful. But dedicated 100% to our Lord. She was always first in mass and last to leave.

Sister Gwendoline had also noticed Sister Mary was also first in the dining hall and last to leave, after repeating dessert, something only the most elderly members of the convent could do. So the younger woman took advantage of the situation and directly asked Sister Mary to have duties in the kitchen.

But Sister Mary knew about Gwendoline's requests and said no, like Mother Superior. But knowing about her predilection for sweets, Sister Gwendoline asked for a trial period or a test to be in the kitchen. She said she would bake éclairs for every single nun in the convent as a proof she was suited for the duties she was looking for.

And Mary, number one fan of pastries, accepted. Sister Gwendoline was thrilled and immediately when to the kitchen and asked for a time in which she could do her creation: only after dinner, said Sister Ruby. She was a big, older woman, happy in her duties as a chef and taking care of everyone's health. To her, she was even more important than a doctor as she relieved not only the body but also the soul of her patients.

Sister Gwendoline cooked the pastries the same night she asked Sister Ruby and took special attention to detail. Everything was there, in that big and old kitchen that had seen so many groups of religious women come and go.

She did one for every single sister, using three different types of filling (pistachio, rum and vanilla) and decorating with edible pearls, nuts, fruit and chocolates. When they were done, they looked as if one had entered a french shop. They look perfect, maybe too perfect to even eat.

On breakfast, the morning after, she stood besides Sister Ruby as she served oatmeal and gave aways juices and fruit. She put an éclair on every tray and she told every nun to eat it last, so everyone could taste it at the same time. It wasn't very common to have dessert this early but no one said a word.

They ate the oatmeal plates faster than usual, even the elderly nuns. Sister Clara, who was over ninety years old, kept watching her éclair with the same eyes a mother sees a baby. She thought it was adorable and that she should thank Mother Superior for this delicacy.

Then the moment came and everyone ate in silence. Sisters Ruby, Gwendoline, Clara, Eloise, Mary and everyone else enjoyed it in silence, as if this was another one of the masses. When they finished, they cleared the tables and went on to their duties, without any word been spoken.

Sister Gwendoline was summoned to Sister Mary's office two hours later. She was nervous but overall happy. She had done what she liked best and that was a great accomplishment.
In the office, Sister Ruby sat in front on a large desk, on the other side Sister Mary smiling. They had agreed that Gwendoline should spend two hours each day in the kitchen, getting familiar with every single aspect of cooking. She would keep her duties with the children and the elderly until they had seen she could handle kitchen work.

All the rest of that day, of the week actually, Sister Gwendoline walked on air. She was thrilled to serve her congregation with her real talents. She was on the kitchen on time everyday and, although tired at night, she would fulfill her other duties as she had always done.

Then, Mother Superior came back. Sister Mary told Gwendoline she would speak about their arrangement with her but apparently that wasn't necessary.
Unknown to anyone, Sister Clara had taken Sister Romilda's éclair, as she had an upset stomach. Instead of eating it, the elderly nun had kept it in a cloth napkin for the last few days in order to give it to Mother Superior, as a thank you, thinking she had been the one to authorize dessert on breakfast.

Gwendoline thought she would be summoned to Mother Superior's quarters but that didn't happen. Instead, she summoned all nuns to the chapel and there she talked about what the congregation had gathered to talk about in Italy: tolerance and understanding.

She said these teaching didn't only apply to their relationship with people outside the convent but also inside, and that an example of this not being handled correctly was her denial to let Sister Gwendoline cook, as it was her desire.
Mother Superior said understanding was basic in their way of life and that they should respect each other's tastes and preferences, as the Lord intended them to be individual beautiful creatures.

So from that day on, Gwendoline moved full time to the kitchen and the sisters enjoyed her creations for many years, as she had always wanted to do.

martes, 16 de septiembre de 2014


Chef Michel Jacquet was the best in his craft and there was overwhelming evidence of this all over his prized restaurant, the Austerlitz. Medals, cups, plaques and ribbons were displayed all over the dining hall, for every client to see.

This, of course, had not happened out of miracle. No. Michel was born a chef. From age five, he enjoyed staying at home with his mother and grandmother and see them planning breakfast, lunch and dinner. He was particularly fond of grand feasts that his family held every once in a while to celebrate important days as July 14th, every family member birthday or a town gathering which his family was always asked to cater.

He lived all of his childhood and teenage years in the small town of Vaite, relatively close to Germany and Switzerland. And during all those years he watched his mother do hundreds of dishes, as well as his grandmother and the baker, Monsieur Grand.

From Mr. Grand, he learned the art of pastries and by the age of fifteen he did the best éclairs Vaite could offer its few visitors and residents.

Encouraged by his mother, he left Vaite for Paris at age seventeen, to live with an uncle and learn the craft of the best teachers he could get. They were a middle class family but Michel had the advantage of being an only child so there was some money to spare on his education.

It was his dream to be on the Cordon Bleu school but the tuition was prohibitive and they only selected the best in all fields and Michel was only a skilled pastry maker. He had no idea of meat or fish or how to cook grandiose meals as his mother used to do.

The solution? Learn by himself. His uncle was a postman and left early and got in late. This time was used by Michel to watch all kinds of cooking shows on TV. He would also look for high cuisine books in a nearby library and would even come in the butcher's store to ask him to teach Michel how to cut pork, veal and lamb.

Believing to be ready, he went through the hard test in the Cordon Bleu. He was denied entrance and that put him in a severe depression that lasted for a couple of months. It was a hot summer but he wouldn't come out of bed. His uncle begged him to go out, meet girls and go dancing but Michel wasn't interested.

In order to stretch our of his misery, he looked for more schools and found Mrs. Villette school for cooking. True, it was a modest place to learn but according to many older students, Juliette Villette was among the best cooks in France but some bad reviews of her restaurant brought the place down and she decide to teach instead of fighting and ever demanding crowd.

Be that as it may, Michel excelled in all classes and soon got his diploma with the highest honors. Then, again, he applied for Cordon Bleu and failed once more. This time, however, he wasn't sad or disappointed. He had decided to be the best french cook to have ever lived and nothing would be able to stop him.

That was his turning point. He became obsessed with success and recognition. He went from loving cooking and food to just use them to surprise people and be loved as he had always wanted to be loved.

Although no one ever knew it, Michel had never really been physically attracted to anyone. He had never had the need for romantic love or sexual intercourse. But he was obsessed with people knowing who he was. This was likely to be a result of people never really believing in him, except his mother. He did not trusted people and had a passive aggressive behavior, that rarely bursted out.

He visited her only after he got his first restaurant job. He was sous-chef for Gaston Bisset, a respected chef in the city of Lyon. The man had seen Michel's talent and decided to hire him for his restaurante, the Licorne. When Michel told his mother the news, she just hugged him and kissed his cheek. It was all she wanted. After all, the father had died when Michel was very young and she had always regretted not giving him a sister or brother to share with.

In the Licorne, Michel excelled. He was fast, thorough and clean. His cuts were precise and his deserts found a place in the restaurant's menu. Everyone in Lyon knew of this young man that made the most delicious deserts.

Bisset soon became annoyed because everyone came to eat Michel's deserts and not his more recent creations such as lamb in tangerine sauce or his version of the popular ratatouille. No, everyone wanted an éclair or millefeuille from Michel.

The situation became tense. People saw them quarreling, yelling at each other and not talking to one another for days. It all ended one day when Bisset didn't show up and Michel had to take care of everything. Bisset was said to be very sick and Michel took this to his advantage: the Licorne was his. In one week, he created the most splendid dishes: salmon in lychee sauce, passion fruit chicken and macadamia nut ice cream on chia seed cake.

Bisset died. Officially it was a stroke. Some wanted Michel to stay in the Licorne but he decided to leave as he needed to create his own place and did so in the city of Quimper.

Not really known for its cuisine, Michel made the city renowned with the creation of Austerlitz, his restaurant. And that was how he got all the prizes and awards and how France and the world fell in love with his creations, in special his pastries.

Bu then, when all was great, Justine Bisset arrived went to Paris. She had seen her father in his last days and believed in her heart the stroke was just the final part of his death. She proceeded to sue Michel of killing her father.

Soon, the necessary evidence was gathered and, sure enough, the Austerlitz was lost, as Napoleon did many years ago. Justine cried in the court and explained how Michel poisoned her father in a moment of weakness and then proceeded to take over the Licorne. Michel always denied it all but the evidence was hard to overlook.

But he wasn't surrendering. In a stroke of genius, he escaped the police and the country. He grew a beard, started to exercise and opened a small pub in Scotland. Every now and again he made his amazing pastries for the townsfolk. And when someone was too disrespectful or didn't like his creations, he simply added a thin extra layer cream on his sweet works of art.