Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bon Appetit! Une Histoire de Chapeaux.

A grandmother (whose ethnic background Karen will not let me mention, but probably not Lutheran) is walking on the beach with her six year-old grandson when, all of sudden, a huge wave comes in, scoops up the boy and he disappears into the sea.  The grandmother falls upon her knees, praying for the return of her boy, that she will give anything she has, her life, anything, to have the boy back.  Another huge wave comes in and gently places the boy, upright, dry and unharmed, on the beach.  The grandmother looks at the boy, looks at the sea, looks back at the boy and then up to the sky, saying "He had a hat."

We spent a wonderful day in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu!

We had been sitting around the apartment a couple of days before trying to think about "what are you supposed to do in Paris" looking at various websites labelled, the "the 10/20/15/143 top things to do in Paris," when I came across several favorable testimonials about spending the day taking a cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu.  I contacted them and they had room at one of their classes, "Cuisiner Pour Ses Amis" or "Cooking for Friends".

The next day, we awoke ridiculously early (it was still dark outside) for two people on vacation, grabbed a taxi to the school and went in.

On this trip, since it has been December and January, we have both been regularly sporting hats.

My "chapeaux" was purchased a few weeks ago at a Christmas market in Riquewihr when we were sailing on the Rhine River (I had to throw that in - I mean how often can you put a sentence together like that?).  Riquewihr is a lovely little village in the Alsace region of France which, due to numerous wine tastings,   Karen swears we have never visited.  I like to think the hat gives me a jaunty, European appearance, or at least the vague resemblance of an old Frenchman two-thirds of the way through a pub crawl.
Old French Man, Barnum

Karen in the meantime has a lovely knit cap which gives her the appearance of an innocent Swedish girl who can't quite remember the last town she was in.

Karen in her knit cap… with Claire & Jona in Venice.

Le Cordon Bleu is actually a busy school and the day of our arrival was also the first day for the students being back after Christmas.  The reception/registration desk was a mass of confusion, but we made our way to the morning class, which was a demonstration by our chef, Chef Patrick Terrien, accompanied by his translator (for those of us who prefer English to just sitting around and nodding, "oui, oui") and his two assistants.  The morning class was amazing, with Chef Terrien preparing an appetizer, main course and a dessert, while talking constantly about what he was doing, with the translator telling some of us what he was saying.

There are times when you're listening to a translation though, when the original speaker goes on for a couple of minutes and the translator laughs and then says a short sentence where you wonder what you're missing.  However,  before we knew it, the morning class was over and we were sampling the various items.

   Mousse de chou'fleur, chair de tourteau aux herbes et crème de betterave.

Marget de canard, gateau de champignons et pommes landaises.


  Verrine antillaise coco-ananas with coconut cookie crisps.

We enjoyed the morning session so much, we signed up for the afternoon session which was a "practical" hands-on session in one of their student kitchens.  They gave us each our own bag of stuff, including our own apron and tea towel.  We were herded into a separate changing room where we took off our coats and hats and put on our aprons and tea towels, ready for action.

Gary in apron!

We then were guided to the kitchen.  The kitchen was huge, with a dozen separate stations, each with its own cutting board/preparation area, sink/clean-up area, four-burner stove and refrigerator.

Canard wine reduction and sautéd mushrooms.

There were about ten of us day students, two of whom apparently did not speak French.  What followed was an amazing amount of chopping, dicing, tasting, sautéing, stirring and just a general wonderful bedlam of cookery!  We each prepared a mushroom mousse cake, duck breast with a wine reduction sauce and fried sliced potatoes.  It was a great experience!!!

We went back to the changing room, grabbed our coats and I grabbed my hat and we left Le Cordon Bleu, pumped and talking about going to cooking school on a full-time basis.
Karen receiving her course certificate from Chef.

We were able to take our meals back to the apartment.  That evening, we opened up a lovely bottle of French wine and enjoyed the meals we cooked.  It was outstanding!

The next day, getting ready to head out for another walking tour of Paris, Karen noticed that she could not find her cap.  We looked all around the apartment, went through all of our luggage, checked the camels in our caravan and asked our Sherpas, but we could not find it anywhere. Eventually, it occurred to us that the last time Karen had it was at Le Cordon Bleu.

We have sent them several emails, telling Le Cordon Bleu what a wonderful time we had at their school and reminding them as well that, "She had a hat."

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