I go through spurts of restless sleep. I used to blame this on my former job in corporate high technology. That world ended seven months ago, so I can't very well use that excuse anymore. Today, I'm not sure what causes it. Maybe it's the combination of attending culinary school five nights a week and finding time to study late into the evening or during the day; working a 15 - 20 hour a week internship for a local editing firm; trying to dedicate time to grow Savor Communications; networking in the community with fellow freelance writers, chefs, foodies, and wine makers; researching articles for my school's quarterly newsletter to draft and submit my articles by this month's deadline; and still getting up the nerve to craft a perfect pitch to a local food magazine for a published article (no, I have not done that yet). When I look at the list it seems like a lot, though I'm not complaining. I really love everything I'm doing right now and only wish there were more than 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week to do it all. If I didn't need any sleep I would be in a constant flurry of reading, writing, eating, and savoring every moment of my day!
In a constant flurry. That's what if felt like. Last night's restless sleep was like any other. I never really slept, actually. I'd say I was 75% sleeping, 25% awake as I lay in my perfectly cozy, foam-topped mattress. As I partially drifted off I began to compile a list of foods that I wanted to make in my head. First there was the hummus (10 wonderful years dating a Lebanese man and I never learned how to make it; odd, huh?). What would I put in my hummus? Drained chickpeas, tahini, garlic? Olive oil, of course. As I began to think about the contents of the hummus in my head I began seeing myself in the kitchen putting it together. But no measuring spoons were aloud. No measuring cups or scales were there. It was all just me and the ingredients and my tasting spoon; getting it to the perfect consistency and flavor. I didn't stop at the hummus, I went on in a flurry creating random dishes that popped in my head, as well as some inspired by my past nine weeks of culinary school. I was dismantling whole chickens to make my own chicken stock for the most delicious chicken soup. I stacked homemade ciabatta with mozzarella, homemade salami and fresh basil from my garden for a classic Italian ciabatta sandwich. I was making Veloute sauce for a heavenly cream of mushroom soup, Hollandaise sauce for my eggs Benedict, and tomato sauce for my fresh, goat-cheese stuffed ravioli with pine nuts. I was pounding out my chicken breasts for a sausage, sun-dried tomato, spinach and feta-stuffed roulade. I marinaded thin strips of beef in a sauce of honey, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, minced ginger, chives and red pepper flakes for an Asian saute. And I just kept going. As each dish finished I moved on to the next, chopping and whisking and shredding and mincing and grating and slicing and dicing my way through what I've learned during my past weeks of culinary school and years of loving good food. I felt like the caricature of Michael Ruhlman on his blog; like a chemist in a lab, books flying and hands and feet in the air.
When I fully awoke my first thought was that I was dreaming in culinaria. Culinaria isn't actually a word, but if I could make it a word and create a definition that's what it would be. It would be a world where all culinary creativity unfolds, where all the best cooking techniques are on display, and where the tastes of the best ingredients meld together in dishes that are divine and savored by those who create them.
As I'm in my ninth week of culinary school, I've looked back lately and have wondered if I'm really getting it all. Am I retaining the endless list of French culinary terms? Can I make a Bechemal sauce without looking in my book? Can I clearly identify 80 herbs and spices, or specific cuts of meat? For me, my dream was sort of my answer. It's all in there. It's being retained and it is all in my head. Although at times it feels like it's all a jumbled mess, it is there, waiting to come out of my head, down through my hands and onto many plates for total enjoyment.