These are the ramblings of my new discoveries about food, crafts, fashion and nonsense.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Minor Interlude

A minor interlude from my St. Lucia recounting. Also, apologies for falling behind on updating about the trip, I've been so busy and tired recently!

I just finished perusing the Maclean's magazine's school edition. The rankings are always interesting to look at. At the end of the magazine there is an article about women chefs. Right up my alley so, of course, I decided to read it to see what others are saying. The article is pretty good to start with. It talks about the percentages of women entering culinary school vs the percentage of women who are in the industry. The numbers are staggering for those not in the industry. Those of us in the industry see it first hand everyday and are aware of the numbers. Needless to say it was reaffirming to see the actual numbers to know that I'm not crazy and we really are a giant minority. The article also talks to a male chef about why this might be. Luckily he's one of the chefs that believes that women are fabulous and really should be hired more. I've had a chef like that - it was great. He preferred to hire women because we work harder and care more about the food. This article does say that as well which is great.
The article then goes on to speculate about why women leave the industry. Their reason? Pregnancy.


Granted, yes, some women do leave the industry for that reason because maternity leave isn't the same in the food industry. A lot of the time if you go on leave, you loose your position in the kitchen (if you aren't an owner/head chef) or you loose your job all together.

But the real reason that the majority of my graduating class left the culinary industry, as well as the women that I've worked with, is due to the fact that the kitchen is a boy's club. The men in the kitchen, for the most part, don't want women there. They either feel that they're better than we are or they're old fashioned and believe we have no place there or they feel threatened because we're more determined and make them look bad, at least in their mind. Remembering that I'm speaking in a generality here - there's been a lot of guys I've worked with that are pretty great people but for the most part they act like this. The men in the kitchen do everything in their power to push us out of the kitchen. They harass us sexually - usually verbally more than physically although there is the occasional bum slap - or they're downright discriminate. They're rude, crude, irritating and sometimes incompetent to the point that we have to clean up after them and they get the promotion because of it. You know the movie "Waiting"? That's really what the kitchen is like. Granted we don't spit in your food or drop it on the floor, but the whole "game" they refer to. I've seen more male genitalia out of the bedroom than I'd care to admit. They make jokes at our expense. They make their mistakes look like ours when a supervisor is present. A lot of the time they get promoted over us. It just becomes too much to handle and women drop out of the industry. A lot of the time during our practicum. In Culinary school we have to do a 150 hour practicum in the industry. For the majority of the girls in my class that's what made up their minds not to continue in the industry after graduation. All of the girls graduated the program because they didn't want to quit half way through but they didn't go into the industry at the end. Out of my graduating class of 50 - I think 60% were women - 4 of us stayed in the industry. As of last year 2 of us remained. I'm out now due to injury not due to idiots. I was lucky and learned quickly how to fight back. The only good thing to have come out of my childhood being filled with bullies.
 For the most part any of the women that I know that have been in the kitchen for decades don't get pregnant. Women chefs are head strong and focused on their careers. We're hell bent on proving the stereotype wrong. We're concentrated on creating the best food we possibly can. We really don't have an interest in family. We have siblings for that. Most women chefs, there are exceptions to every rule after all, really just want to cook. That's all we want to do, that's all we think about. Executive chefs are so busy all of the time, we're on a 24 hour shift for the most part, that we don't even have time to think about children. There are people who want to have a life outside of the kitchen and so many do. It's just that the majority of women chefs don't think about anything but food. When they do it's usually later in life when they're ready to retire from 24 hour days and settle into a more stable work life. Either that or it's when they've discussed it with their husbands and it's paternity leave not maternity leave. Women do have lives outside the kitchen but it's not the reason we leave the industry. We leave because we get tired of the politics, harassment, long hours, and instability of the industry.

Thank you for listening, I'm much calmer now. ^.^

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ready for a day on the beach!
Day Three, St. Lucia
January 24, 2012

Woke up to beauty surrounding us once again. We ate breakfast and suited up for a day on the beach. While we ate breakfast we had asked Roger to set up a beach cabana for us. When we'd finished breakfast and were slathered in sunscreen Roger arrived to escort us down to the beach. He'd set up two lovely chairs, a cooler filled with beer, juice and ice cold water, we had towels and a pristine view. We laid down to enjoy a day at the beach. The flag was yellow so we planned on floating about in the water once the day warmed a bit more. As we waited we dipped our toes in the surf. Well dipped is a relative term. As we stood there the surf engulfed our feet and tore the sand out from beneath it. I didn't fall as I stood there but slowly sunk. Mom came back from a brief jaunt along the beach to find herself 4" taller than I - normally she's 3" shorter! We had a good laugh and laid down to enjoy the shade our cabana provided us and the warm breeze blowing.
Failed sandcastle
We played with the sand beside our chairs, raking our fingers through the soft grain. It was very zen and relaxing. Sure enough I drifted off for a brief nap. A gentleman of the resort came by and offered us drinks, we happily accepted them and continued to enjoy our bliss.
No more feet!
Then it was time to enjoy the surf for real. Mom ventured out first, laughing it up the whole time. It looked like so much fun I just had to join in. Sure enough, it was! The waves were gentle enough and the salt water buoyant. Just lift your feet and enjoy the ride. The tide wasn't very heavy that day so we didn't get moved very much in or out from shore but stayed in the same place just relaxing. It was really a lot of fun! Then when the surf got a little chilly, I exited leaving Mom giggling away to enjoy some more of the sunshine. Man did that sun shine! It was warm and soothing and I kept having to tell myself that this was January! August warmth and it's the middle of winter!

 We decided to enjoy the buffet for lunch, this day's theme was Chinese. *laugh* "Chinese." Caribbean folk should stick to their own cuisine, after all it's so tasty! The buffet wasn't half bad actually, the shrimp crisps on it were really addictive! Over indulged, of course, I mean an open dessert table and a sundae bar?! They were really trying to kill my waistline! I forgot! Last night we attended the beach party and sampled some local fare. We only tasted as most of the buffet for that really wasn't what we enjoy. But that was our first taste of the choux-paste swans, lemon meringue tarts and festivals. So of course on the lunch buffet we had to have more!

After lunch, it was a late lunch - just before they shut it down at 3 actually, we decided to take it easy and relax in our pool. Around 5 we went back up to our room to enjoy our balcony for a while. We returned to the room to find a wonderful cheese plate! We snacked and drank champagne. At 6:30 we went to meet our butler for our escort to the Piton restaurant. It is the Caribbean fare restaurant at this resort. Our butler sat us at a table adorned with flower petals.

Our drinks arrived. I had asked for something with banana. It was devine! Smooth, creamy... oh so perfect. We later learned that this was called "The BBC" standing for Bananas, Baileys and Coconut. It's made by pureeing 1 banana with a shot of baileys, a little ice and coconut cream. I'm excited to get some coconut milk and start making them at home!
Enjoying Mom's Champagne

Oh BBC how I love thee.
 We ordered our meal. I started with the ackee (the national fruit of Jamaica: a mix between a squash and a melon, very very lovely!) and chicken puff pastry. It. Was. Amazing. Such a great mix of sweet and savory. We shared a bowl of the pea and bacon soup. I learned in Jamaica that peas in the Caribbean are actually what we call beans. They're like a mix between red kidney beans and black beans, I love them. I ordered jerk chicken for my main, mom had pulled pork. This jerk chicken is the way it should have tasted in Jamaica. It was spicy and savory. Oh the flavour indescribable! I ordered the trio of desserts: a fruit cake, coconut ball (pictured, I don't like dried coconut so I left it), and a piece of spice bread pudding. All very good. So far that had been far superior to our meal the previous night at Armando's. Although the risotto was perfectly cooked it needed some flare. Overall this day was perfect: relaxing, calming, zenful and fulfilling. It was off to another night of sweet dreams. ♥
Soooooo full!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 3 Delays

My apologies, there will not be a day three posting today. Google's [insert copious amounts of swears here] blog system doesn't want to cooperate. Apparently it doesn't listen when you attempt to place formatting in. It doesn't listen when you attempt to move pictures around and won't let you do a [insert more swears here] thing with it. [insert a very large amount of expletives here]! Google once again proves how it was conceived by the minds of technical [and here] who have obviously grown up with the user unfriendly winblows and continue to want to make everyone else's life a living hell.

Sincerely and pissed off,

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Breakfast ♥

January 23, 2012
Day 2 - Official First Morning

Anticipating breakfast
We wake up to surf and sun! Last night when we checked in we were told to call our butlers on this cute little cell phone they gave us. We do so and meet our daytime butler: Roger. Silly me, never did get a photo of either of our butlers. He comes to the room so we can meet him and he is SO cheerful! Especially for first thing in the morning. He introduces himself and we start to get to know one another. He's so nice. He asks us if we enjoyed the crickets last night. We mention that yes we did and the frogs so much more! "Those aren't frogs." Oh? "That's Jim the frog." We laugh. This is very important - my dad's name was Jim. A very poignant coincidence. He asks us our plan for breakfast and offers to bring us breakfast on our patio. We think that's a great idea. We ask for assorted pastries and local fruit expecting mango, pineapple and assorted tropical fruit. After breakfast he promises us a private tour of the resort. When breakfast arrives, Roger runs off to get us some fresh coffee as the stuff room service sent us was not good enough for us. We were disappointed that fruit meant melon, which I'm not the biggest fan of. Turns out that all the melons were local and super fresh. I've never had watermelon or honeydew that tasty! Goes to show what it means for fruit being picked off of the bush when fully ripe.
Mmm... Breakfast
We enjoy breakfast - which was actually a lot of food. Oh, the Banana Bread was AMAZING. They do not undersell the bananas of St. Lucia. Let me tell you - a banana that's been fully ripened on the tree is like no other. They were one of the best parts of our trip!
The beach with a view of the bluffs - where our room was
Viewing the resort in style
Roger takes us on a tour of our resort. We see another group of people on a tour - but ours was private! Way cool. We explore the property, see the gifts shoppes, the spa, the different restaurants and most importantly: the beach. It's a beautiful stretch of pristine sand with waves crashing to it. We learn about the three flag system for the ocean: red - don't go in the water, it's too dangerous (a fact we learned about later but that's another day, another entry) yellow - only strong swimmers should go in & green - safe for all. The entire time we were there we never saw it green. It's not like Jamaica [where I went last year] the beach here isn't protected by a reef. Then again the whole resort is nothing like Jamaica. It's just so much more elegant. I felt the whole trip that the staff were just that much nicer and there wasn't as large a difference between the resorts and the rest of the island. In Jamaica you didn't feel safe leaving the resort. It's so desolate. Beautiful, but very poor. All in all I just enjoyed my stay with Sandals La Toc so much more.

 We settle in next to the main pool while Roger goes and fetches us some drinks. He brings Mom a Piton beer and Chu something pink in a martini glass. It was luscious! The flavour was strawberry and something with rum. It went down so smoothly! I asked for another one later in the day and asked about the name so I could ask for it at lunch. Roger wouldn't tell me. He said that it was a bad word and felt terrible saying it to a lady. Mom and I then nicknamed the drink the blushing bride. Felt it was fitting.

Mmm... so good.
While we enjoyed ourselves by the pool for a little while Roger went up to our room to unpack our bags for us. Yes, that's right. Unpack. ^.^ We return to our room to change into swimwear so we can walk the beach and get wet. We enjoy ourselves for the day finally wanting lunch at 3:30pm - well after the restaurants have closed. We call our butler and he brings us lunch in our room. We enjoy local mahi-mahi in a spicy hollandaise; with local fresh zucchini. Oh it was great. Again, so much better than the food in Jamaica. The food there really felt like it was shipped in frozen from Florida. Here everything was local and fresh. It was like night and day; making the food just that much better.

We then settle in at the pool near our room for after the peak sun to enjoy the outdoors. We dip our toes in the pool and decide it's too cold. So when the pool bar closes we're not sure where to get our drinks. We test out what our butlers and do for us. Sure enough our butler brings us drinks! By this time it's our other butler, Ficus. He's just as bubbly and fun as Roger. He's our evening butler. We have them from 7am to 10pm.
Smoothie Bar
Our first sunset
Getting ready for a night out
For the night we decide to visit the Italian restaurant: Armando's. It had a decent menu. The seafood risotto I had was actually amazing. It had shrimp, mussels and baby scallops (baby as in small) it was really tasty. I wrote in my journal that night that if I were writing on a computer my "!" button would break. The whole day was just bliss! It was the perfect temperature all day long, and all night. Perfection is being able to wear a light sweater and never sweat. Of course for my Mom it was being able to wear no sleeves at all. We have very different temperature zones. We fell asleep to another chorus of crickets, surf and Jim-the-frog. ♥

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Day 1

☆Heads-up: Long, picture heavy post.☆

Saying goodbye to friends!
Meet Miss Chu (pronounced "shoe" short for Takochu): My travel companion. She is planning on accompanying me on every trip that I take from here on out.

January 21, 2012
Packing Day
I spend the day packing my long list of sunscreens and summer dresses. Miss Chu helps out by bringing up my suitcase and making sure everything was there.

January 22, 2012 - St. Lucia
Travel Day
Mom with passports all ready to go
Excited to go!

Checking In
Miss Chu impatiently wating
 We leave Edmonton WaaaaaaY to early. I manage to sleep on the plane a little bit and Miss Chu does too. 

Arriving in TO
Petrie & Miss Chu
We arrive in Toronto for a 2 hour lay over.  This isn't a bad thing as we meet up with my best friend Petrie for lunch! The lunch at Swiss Chalet was so gross but the company was well worth it. He even said hello and had a wonderful welcome for Miss Chu.

The plane ride from Toronto to St. Lucia was awful. It was long, cramped...
ugh, I don't travel well without room. I'm not a compact person. Unlike Miss Chu. Mom brought her iPad with her and we watched the movie "No Reservations". A very good movie even if it did send me into tears a few times. The worst? They wouldn't turn out the cabin lights.

In flight entertainment
Are we there yet?
Arrival Bouquet
Hors D'oeurves
We arrive to lovely, friendly people. We check in at the Sandals waiting area and Aaron comes to take our bags to the shuttle. We pop off quickly to visit the loo - as I said, it was a long flight from Toronto. We return to see that no one else's bags had been taken yet. Aaron asks if we are ready to go as we were about to settle in and wait for the rest of the bags to be loaded. We say that we are and he escorts us to a private car! A surprise from out butlers.
Rum punch
After an exciting, twisty road, car ride - complete with cold, local beer (Piton) & cold water we check in privately at the butler's lounge. While we wait for everything to be placed in order we are served hors d'oeuvres and rum cocktails. The shock of the evening? Mom admits that she enjoyed the rum cocktails! She hates, I mean HATES rum.

We decide to forego room service and enjoy the food that I had prepared for the plane ride but didn't end up eating, as well as our welcome food! We eat on our private balcony to a symphony of crickets and little frogs. The frog's croak sounds more like a bird - like the red and black birds I used to hear at the boat. I said to Mom as we ate dinner that the frogs are like our Caribbean Dad. Allow me to clarify, at home mom and I characterize my dad's spirit in the form of a crow. Crows seem to accompany us on all of our trips, ensuring we make it home safely. The first sound we heard upon arrival at the hotel was these little frogs. Thus my reasoning that the frogs are our Caribbean version of Dad. We watch the stars from the balcony and decide that the brightest star in the sky is my Gran.

We decide to enjoy a lovely walk of our end of the resort. Our rooms are up on a bluff, separate from the rest of the resort - which is quite nice. There's a pool, complete with swim-up bar, the Italian restaurant Armando's, and villas that all have their own plunge pools. During our walk we meet an adorable kitten, probably only about 6 months. I name him Patches. He has orange and black patches on white fur.

 We return to our suite and enter our bedroom to find welcoming towel swans along with an itinery for our week. We'd planned to go to the special butler service restaurant on Friday, January 27th for my Dad's birthday and our butlers had made reservations at the "Japanese" restaurant and La Toc, a special French restaurant.

We return to our room ready for bed and hunker down for the night serenaded by a chorus of wildlife. Onto dream land and further adventures. ♥

A bed just for Chu

Friday, February 03, 2012

Home again home again, jiggity jig.

Aaaaannnnnndddd.... I'm back. I've been exhausted for the last few days. Going to the gym really takes it out of you. >.<' My trip was amazing. If I were to place it in to words that last amazing would be in 900pt and have about a billion "!" after it. I don't think there are many ways that it could have been better.
As for this precise moment I'm off to the gym again. Although I plan to download my photos and transpose my journal from the trip very soon! I promise! I'm just too lazy right now to go all the way to the basement, find my camera cord, download the 500+ photos and organize them. I'm just too darned lazy!
I'm back in the swing of things though. I'm taking my role as my Mom's personal Chef very seriously. The only meal I don't prepare is usually breakfast as we get up at different times. Usually within a half hour of each other but she's already started eating. The whole personal chef thing came about as I'm taking a year off to screw my head back on and find a new career path that doesn't have me on my feet for 9+ hours a day - thus avoiding permanent and more serious damage to my feet. My Mom in the meantime is supporting me with wages. She's funding my year and therefore I need to do something so that I feel employed by her, not just a worthless bum like so many my age. This whole year off is actually her idea, so please don't think of me as a mooch! As an offer to earn my keep I said that I would cook gourmet meals for her everyday. There's been a few days where I'm just pooped and she's cooked but they're few and far between - or on days we both want spaghetti and my pales in comparison to hers. There's always one dish that a chef just can't duplicate; usually one of our mothers.
On the plane ride home I got the chance to watch Food Network, a channel we don't get at home ($7/month for one channel in a package that I would watch, I don't think so.). I watched the recent installment of Top Chef: Texas. This weeks' challenge was to create a dish that honours those who inspire us. I thought long and hard about what I would make to honour my Dad, who fanned the flame of my passion for cooking.
Last night I made my dish:
Fennel and cranberry braised red cabbage - German style; pork schnitzel; lemon herb spatzle; red-curry butter sauce
A twist on the dish I felt my dad was famous for. The other option would be to do a twist on rouladen, another dish only my dad made for us. I miss him so much. Especially when I get new recipes I want to try. Mom makes a great guinea pig tho! She eats everything and usually enjoys it. The best is that if she doesn't, she tells me! Something a lot of people are scared to do. I like constructive criticism when I'm cooking - not much any other time tho - it helps me improve.

This week: sketching drawings for my best friend's made-of-honour dress (for me); finishing a few crochet patterns

Oh yeah! I got my earrings from Pei Li: the miniature patisserie chef! I bought pain-au-chocolate and pink macaron earrings - they are SO CUTE! I love them so much. The took a bit to get here, but that's the hazard of shipping overseas. You should check out her etsy shoppe, she has some amazing things.