Saturday, January 11, 2014

Piano lessons and pies and sausage gravy and technique and doing what you love versus not

My parents started me in piano lessons when I was five. I am learning now that that age was ridiculously young to start piano lessons. Here I thought that starting Leif at age nine was ridiculously late and that he would spend his life lamenting - "well I could have been a piano prodigy, but you never listened to me". He has been asking for lessons since he was four or five. And yes, it took me four to five years to buy a piano and find a teacher.

Anyways, when my mom interviewed my piano teacher she told my mom "I do this as an avocation, not a vocation." Or I might have reversed this... whatever - basically she told my mom that she does this to make money, not because she particularly enjoys it.

Lately, as Leif has started lessons with Mr. Hopkins, I wonder about Mrs. Connoly. She was a funny French woman. She only drank "fresh" juice - if "fresh" is defined as coming from the can in the frozen aisle. Her husband sat in his recliner daily smoking a pipe.

Anyways, I thought about this phrase - doing something for money and not for the love of it - recently. I think a lot of people do this in many forms. For many, they work their current jobs because they have to, not because they love it. I am lucky, I am in a spot right now where I really love what I am doing. I haven't always had that and I don't have any expectations that I will always have it in the future.

So if you know me or my blog, you know I got my degrees in chemistry. I admit it - shhh - I don't love chemistry. But it enables me to do what I love to do in my job. I know this seems like a weird dichotomy to some. But molecular equations don't drive me. Applications of science in general, that drives me.

Many chemists also love to cook. It makes complete sense. If you enjoy building stuff from the elements, then you might also enjoy building your food from scratch. I do. Lots.

I love to cook. I love hearty, winter foods. Short ribs, gravies, roasts, ducks, chickens... I actually like cooking more than I like chemistry and I sometimes think I could have made a career being a chef. Except that I don't smoke. And I can't seem to stay up after 9pm. And I am not tattooed.

I also have my list of things I love to eat... pie, pot pie, breads, scones, muffins... pastry based items of all types. But here is my downfall (aside from the fattening aspect)... I love eating them but I turn into an evil beast when making them. I have a keen understanding that it is all about technique. And I get the technique and well understand that there are no substitutes for cold butter, cream, and getting  your hands dirty. And that the rub method (cited by CIA - that's the CULINARY Institute of America, not the other org) is the only way to go and that a food processor turns good butter and flour to a warm meal. Blah blah blah.

I can do it. I can make an amazing pie because I understand the technique and I can execute it. And I love to eat pies, but a real treat is one produced from people who understand the technique as well, that it isn't always all about the filling, because I am a snob like that. (But I never turn down pie as a general rule.) It wasn't until I embraced the technique and quit looking for work arounds to getting my hands dirty that my baking world changed. So I can do it. But man I don't love doing it.

I like doing it ok most of the time because I love the results. But I could NOT make my life as a pastry chef.

Every year (or so) AB and I do pot pies. They are freaking amazing. And I know why they are amazing. They take a few days. Rubbed pastry. Cooked carcasses. A perfect roux. And veggies cooked just right. Results are amazing. And every year we do a bigger and bigger batch. Except last year. Because I was pregnant and unwilling to do what I really really don't like. Make double pie crust after double pie crust after double pie crust. This year I was a little more pliable and looked forward to the deliciousness. But last Saturday night I went into a spiral. Four pot pies down and filling for at least another four (I was thinking about them as gifts or for donation to the church to give to families after a life event). And I raged. A little.

Result is that now I have four pies in the freezer and four bags of filling in the freezer.

So anyways. That's my lesson. Vocation vs. avocation. One you love, one you do because you have to. I make pastry because I have to eat it. It is a must. But I don't love doing it.

As an aside and what got me thinking about this, this morning, particularly in concert with Leif's piano lessons (which he did his second last night) - was my need for biscuits and gravy. WTF? I don't eat biscuits and gravy. I have never made freaking biscuits and gravy. Ok - I made biscuits in Home Ec. But not something I make at home regularly. But I embraced the challenge this morning.

Biscuits in a classic method - a-freaking-mazing. And no, I have never actually made sausage gravy. But I know the technique quite well and have sausage that has never seen a store. Came straight from the butcher.

Finished and my husband fell at my feet. I rock. But don't ask me to do it again for at least a few months.

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