Saturday 26th January 2013
I fancied a sleep in today, but the wife and I were enrolled on a posh cookery course at the Ealing and Hammersmith College. I was going back to school and was hoping it would be entertaining as the sitcom Community.
In reality I was a little apprehensive: I am not a great cook and in a group situation like this there was a good chance of humiliating myself and have them all laugh at me. There is nothing more terrifying to a comedian than a room full of people laughing at him. Seriously. That's why we all make it our job to have a room full of people laughing at us, with ourselves in control, because we hate the idea of people laughing at us in a situation where we weren't intending that. We can pretend we are Gods with dominion over laughter. But only if we avoid situations where a room full of people will laugh at us and we're not in control.
Once there my fears were not assuaged (is that a word? Seems a bit odd now I have written it down), although I was relieved that about half the people supposed to attend had not made it in. There were only eight of us in total. We were taken into a big kitchen where two professional chefs were going to show us how to make a three course meal from scratch. We would all be mucking in on various jobs to complete the task. The problem with there being so few of us was that it was very hard to hide at the back and not get involved. The chef showed us how to divide a whole chicken into choice cuts and then how to cut carrots and potatoes into small seven-sided shapes and also how to slice an onion into tiny pieces. The techniques looked tricky and the knives looked sharp and as much as my brain wanted to recall what had just happened I knew it wouldn't help my clumsy seven-year-old girl hands do what they were supposed to. I was quite relieved when all the work stations filled up and my wife and I had to go somewhere else to peel pears for the pudding. This I could cope with.
But then everyone was rotated and we were charged with chopping up a chicken. I thought I remembered what the chef had done, but it turned out I hadn't really. And even when he showed me again I still largely failed to create the correct cuts of meat. I hoped I wouldn't end up eating the breast that I had managed to hack off the cadaver, with two tiny ribs still attached. If this had been serial killer class I might have done better. But I was even worse at carving carrots into the shape of jewels. The other chef (who hadn't seen the chicken fiasco) told me I might make a good butcher. I preferred to see my carrots as an abstract satire of the perfection of the ones that everyone else was managing. So I just chopped the ends off some beans instead, which was about my level.
Somehow I then got co-opted into the starters, crumbling up feta cheese and then mixing it together with raisins and onion, being asked to season it, with little idea of the amount of salt that was required for eight people. I figured it was best to put in less rather than more. People would probably notice if their filo parcel was 80% salt. I might even kill everyone.
But I surprised myself when I proved reasonably adept at taking sheets of thin pastry, brushing them with butter and sticking them together. My wife and I then made a little production line where we wrapped up the cheesy mixture in the pastry making little samosas. Which I was quite pleased with. But it meant we didn't get to see how the main course or the pudding was actually made. I didn't mind as I was just happy not to have ruined everyone's lunch by accidentally filling all the parcels with my own pubic hair. It's not something I would have wanted to do on purpose you understand - just because I have urinated on one cat doesn't make me a pervert - I just might have got flustered and confused and due to an unlikely sequence of events it might have happened. But it seemed a pity for my wife, who is more interested in cooking than I am (as it should be, am I right fellas? Is this thing on?) not to get to see any of the other bits and bobs being created. We made 27 parcels and the chef sent us back to make 6 more, which seemed weird as there were only eight of us eating. And it turned out we all only got one each. So either he had recognised me as the pubic hair wielding menace that I was and was trying to keep me out of the edged of his kitchen or the chefs had come up with a lucrative sideline, making loads of samosas that they could then sell to football fans out of a van in the afternoon. As it was they were in the weird position of having some middle-class people paying them good money to come into their kitchen to work for them. Our society is clearly screwed.
It was all over surprisingly quickly (and I was amazed to see we'd been working for over two hours), and then we got the fun part of eating the food and also doing a wine tasting. I've never had much time for wine being anything other than a special kind of squash drink that gets you pissed, but it was genuinely interesting to be made to taste a few wines, give our opinion and see how differently they tasted on their own and with food. The wine that nearly everyone liked best on its own was noticeably not as nice with the starter, whilst the other one was complimented by my (non-pubic hair filled) samosas. Also by oxygenating the wine by holding it at the front of your mouth and breathing bubbling air through it really did intensify the flavours, whilst simultaneously making everyone look like idiots. We might well have been filming a Channel 4 hidden-camera show. But probably not. There would definitely have been pubic hair in the samosas is we were.
The potatoes and carrots looked OK, but you would never have known how difficult they had been to prepare and I think if I did that at a dinner party for my friends none of them would even notice (or be aware of how tricky the technique was if they did). I don't think I will be doing that again.
We got a bit lightly pissed and had learned but immediately forgotten how to cut up a chicken. In the end I was glad that I had tried something different, though not overwhelmed by the experience. My default setting is to not try new things and to stay at home doing nothing. It's probably good to force myself out of my comfort zone occasionally and risk the unwanted laughter of strangers. Obviously they were all so nervous about putting clumps of their pubic hair in the dishes that they were never going to laugh at or notice anyone else's mistakes. And I tell you, no one can cut the end off a green bean like I can - though annoyingly the chef left those on the stove and forgot about them and they were inedible. That's what he said anyway. Thinking back I may have accidentally chopped off my pubic hair at that point. I don't have any left. So someone did.
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