Over the last two Fridays I had a couple more unusual lessons. My teacher asked me if, since another class where off on a training period, I could come into a couple of extra lessons on Fridays. I could barely refuse, but these were no normal lessons either. Since the school where I work as assistant is a “Lycée Hôtelier”, my students can specialise in either being a waiter or a chef (and later even do a special year either as a patissier, a barman or a sommelier!) so the teacher asked if I could go into their practical class, to talk some ‘practical English’ with them.
I arrived quite nervously, in a bustling kitchen. This wasn’t in fact one of the teaching kitchens, nor the brasserie kitchen, it was the kitchen for the school’s gastronomic restaurant, which has to be booked months in advance if you want to eat there. So the students where really in their element! And I think they quite enjoyed having me there, standing awkwardly, for once the person who didn’t quite know what they were supposed to be doing! It was get-their-own-back-time. In the nicest possible way.
I’m really quite fond of this class, and will be sad to leave in 3 and a half weeks time. I get students and teachers alike saying hello to me in the corridors or in town, making special arrangements for me if there’s no room to eat in the restaurant, or spoiling me by not charging for drinks, and I know that some students are planning something involving popcorn (which they discovered I had a weakness for in a lesson about dieting!!) for the end of term.
That particular Friday, the teacher M. Drouet (who you can see in the pictures above), was adamant that I should return to taste what they had been cooking at midday. So after my next lesson, I returned to the kitchen, in the middle of which a lone table stood set perfectly with tablecloth, plates and two sets of knives and forks. I sat there, extremely awkwardly and less aware that dining in the kitchen is quite an honour in France, than aware of the slight “moment de solitude” I was having on my own, watched out of the corner of their eyes by 24 students busy waiting on and cooking for their restaurant guests.
I was served with some incredibly delicious dishes. “Mises en bouche” first, ‘vol au vents’ filled with delicately sliced mushrooms in a beautiful sauce, buttered & grilled flower-shaped toast topped with a salmon-puree, then a salad scattered with balls made from a combination of soft cheese, herbs & amazing flavours, rolled & fried in breadcrumbs, and then the fish soup. A fish soup which was a wonderful flavour, but I really felt the joke was on me. A waiter flew past shouting “Enjoy your meal!”, at which point I had just taken a spoon of the stuff, with large drapes of seaweed-like vegetables not quite making it into my mouth and hanging down either side… I covered my mouth with one hand, giggled, and gave the thumbs up sign. There was no way to eat that dish in a lady-like way.
Still, it was an experience I’ll never forget. And so despite the fact that I have had to put my own cooking on hold for a few months, I have certainly eaten well during my stay. And gathered a few ideas too…