Ah the drama this week. The drama.
So I realise I haven’t really been writing very much since I started at Leiths – last week’s round-up post was particularly appalling in terms of readability and even as I hit the ‘publish’ button I couldn’t help but think that I wasn’t doing the writer in me any justice. Part of the reason behind it was the fact that I wrote the post very late Monday night, the day before I returned to school and so was very tired (and still had homework to do), but the other reason is because I’ve really been glossing over the minute details because you know what? Culinary school is hard.
I never really expected it to be easy but my God, the amount of work I do outside of school? The long hours? The sheer exhaustion, frustration and tears? It is so very hard – I mean it when I say I’ve never worked this hard in my life, because every single hour of every day I am busting my ass on all things food. Whether it’s time planning for the following week, reading up on theory and notes from demonstrations, or practising skills at home, I am constantly working and I am exhausted, both physically and mentally. I’ve already gotten sick twice but I haven’t missed a single day because I just don’t feel that I can – you would be missing so much.
So this week when I ended up in hospital I have to admit that it was really no surprise – it was just something that was bound to happen sooner or later.
The ironic thing is that the food I’ve been making over the past 3 weeks has been pretty good. I’ve been getting consistent good feedback on everything I’ve made: my seasoning (which the teachers tell us is the hardest thing to get right) is always well balanced, presentation is good (something I really wanted to improve), jointing and filleting are very happy grounds for me (give me a dead animal & I can deal with it), and generally the dishes I’ve been turning out have been of a high quality. So what’s my beef then?
Well my problem has never been with the actual cooking – that’s why I’m there, to cook – my problem has been that I have been doing my usual thing of taking on far too much and, as a result, completely stressing myself out. The past couple of weeks we’ve had a buffet assignment to plan and a test to study for as well as all of the week’s cooking sessions to time plan, plus I’ve been doing some extra work at school which keeps me there until at least 10pm (yay for being poor!), which meant that by the time Thursday came around I was exhausted and emotionally all over the place.
After my first late morning into school (transport was not cooperating that morning) and a stressful buffet lunch meeting after which I didn’t have time to go buy any lunch, I burst into tears whilst washing up and had to leave the kitchen. There was just too much going on – I was running behind, there was no space at the grill to make my lamb dish, the washing up was piling up and because I couldn’t grill my lamb I was stuck doing all of it and it sounds ridiculous but I just broke down. I put a lot of pressure on myself for things to be perfect and when they aren’t or I feel that I’m failing myself in some way, I just break down. I know, I have to let it go, but when you see how the 15 other people in your class are managing to sail through and you feel like you’re barely staying afloat, it’s soul destroying. But I am a perfectionist – I know it, my teachers know it, everyone who meets me knows it – it was drummed into me from a young age that failure was just not an option and when it looks like it might be, I panic and just lose it.
So, cut to the end of class: I managed to serve both my lamb and pavlova, a little late but I did walk out for 5 minutes so understandable, I was putting my boning knife away into my knife wallet and through the stress, tears and exhaustion, my hand slipped and the knife cut through my left index finger like butter.
Having cried all afternoon, the moment I cut myself I actually stopped crying. At first I didn’t think it was too bad… until I saw my classmate Lara’s face as she was attempting to stop the bleeding, the face of one of the other teachers and heard the slight panic in Lara’s voice as she said, “oh God, you’ve really cut yourself” and at that point a voice in my head said, “well, serves you right for not eating anything today.” When one of my teachers told me that she’d called a cab to take me to the local hospital and that I would probably need stitches I just nodded – of course I did.
Lucky for me, the nurse at the hospital didn’t stitch me, instead she used a special surgical glue as the cut itself isn’t very big but quite deep (I was very lucky that I didn’t suffer any nerve ending damage, actually). I waited for about an hour to be seen (which is actually fairly decent for A&E) but even throughout that time I was still bleeding. At least my knife was quite sharp so the cut was clean which hopefully means it’ll heal faster and, on the plus side, I’m not allowed to get it wet so that means no washing up for a week!
Even luckier, I have a very wonderful, supportive boyfriend, whom, when I called in tears to let him know I was en route to the hospital, actually left work early to meet me at A&E (and, of course, I burst into tears again when I saw him) and for the past few days has been pretty much waiting on me hand and foot, making me food and cups of tea, helping me redress my wound and generally just being fantastic. But then that’s just the kind of guy he is and I am very lucky indeed to have him by my side.
And then on Friday I made this tasty coq au vin with one finger down (which slows you down quite a lot, actually, but jointing chickens are my happy place), and even though I was 6 minutes late for service, everything was cooked well and the flavour was “very well rounded and delicious”, according to my teacher; and even though I was 6 minutes late for service, I was okay with it – it happens and life goes on.
The next few weeks are bound to be stressful with our buffet assignments and mock exam next week, then the term’s final exam coming up 2 weeks after that but after this accident I think I just need to breathe, make time to eat and remember that there is no such thing as perfect so at a certain point I have to just let it go. Life is too short, eh? Best not lose a finger over it all.
And now I shall leave you with a fantastic cheese joke I heard on QI:
Q: What kind of cheese do you use to coax a bear down from a tree?
Until next time, peace and love,