Chapter 20: Week 18 – I don’t punk out

Per Bourdain’s advice, although still tired after my recent illness I manage to keep up with this morning’s recipe, “Appareil à Bavarois aux oeufs”. The English for ‘Bavarois’ appears to be ‘Bavarois’ – I’m already largely losing my ability to talk in English much of the time. Well, you can call it a ‘Bavarian cream’ if you like, but that probably means less to most people than ‘Bavarois’. Although officially the French acknowledge it as a Swiss – not Bavarian – invention, it was a famous part of the repertoire of Marie-Antoine Carème, the world’s first celebrity chef. Escoffier, the world’s second celebrity chef, reckoned it should more properly be called a Muscovite since after the mixture was poured into a hermetically-sealed mould it was set by being plunged into a container of ice and salt. Nowadays it’s easy to make such things, but a hundred years ago unmoulding such an item before one’s guests must have been an impressive sight.

You can make two sorts of Bavarois, set either with gelatine or with fruit pulp; frankly, to my inexperienced mind the idea of setting anything vaguely jelly-like with fruit pulp sounds beyond unlikely and our school chef is in agreement; we’re going to be belt-and-bracing with both fruit pulp and gelatine.

We also get into a discussion about pineapple; apparently you can’t set pineapple anything into a jelly because, well, pineapple jelly doesn’t set. Chef doesn’t know why, it just doesn’t. Later I check this out in the new edition of the magnificent Harold McGee’s ‘On Food and Cooking: The science and lore of the kitchen‘ and it turns out that pineapple contains an enzyme that breaks down gelatine’s setting molecules. Use agar agar if you need to set pineapple jelly (or Bavarois).

We make almond tuiles to go with the Bavarois; these I know already, I’ve been making them by the hundred at the restaurant for the patissier, and having lots of fun with them too. We sometimes make them slightly larger than the standard ‘decoration’ size and slip the burning-hot tuiles straight from the oven into champagne flutes to make them into cornets, which we use to serve the ‘cornucopia de sorbets’ and other desserts. Very pretty.

Lunch is another unremarkable experience in the student-catered canteen until the return walk across the car park; some complete asshole of a girl careers across the pavement loaded down with a chum riding sidesaddle on the rear of her scooter and smacks straight into me from behind. Smack into my bad leg, in fact, and I go down heavily.

She’s hurt my leg, which is painful, but has also managed to push my whole foot about two centimetres forward in my shoe, crushing my toes against the internal steel toe cap. My foot was already swollen and painful, now I can barely get my shoe off and, when I do, it keeps on swelling.

Good grief.

The school receptionist takes an injury statement while a taxi arrives and ferries me to the doctor and then on home; more bed rest is prescribed. Huh. I need to work tomorrow and the two days after that, so I load my injured limb down with bags of ice and frozen peas and manage to sleep not at all. Brilliant.

Tuesday morning and Delphine drops me off at work. I can walk OK now and my swollen foot has gone down enough to allow me to at least get a shoe on. I don’t say anything to Chef, if I did he’d try to make me go home and end up trying to do 30 covers all on his own, so that’s not on obviously.

It’s not as bad as it could be, anyway; the party coming in are a cheap bunch of English tourists who are eating for €15 a head. Wine included. Considering that our cheapest such menu for three courses is €25, we’re not serving them the full gastronomic experience so, while it’s good (we even get a couple of ‘Compliments to the Chef’ messages via the Maitre d’) it’s not what we normally do.

I get a bus home after lunch and another back in the evening, and again the same for the next couple of days before just collapsing back into bed. When I’ve had this illness before it’s laid me up for weeks at a time, so it’s lucky that the restaurant is, mostly, closed at the moment and I can save my energy for going to school.

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