06 October 2005

Another very busy week almost over. Still feeling exhausted at the end of each day, but I'm starting to settle down into the routine of it all.

I arrive early in the morning to try to beat the changing room scrum. There are as many as 30 of us in a space smaller than my bedroom at home, with no chairs or benches, and lockers stacked 3 high along two walls. Everyone's trying to juggle bags, uniforms, books, food containers, electric scales and knife rolls without bumping into each other and without losing track of their keys, egg whisks or piping bags. Needless to say, there's no door to the ladies changing area, so there are always a few unfortunates who have to can only change just inside the doorway, in full view of any one passing through the corridor. Anyone on their way to the toilet at around 9.20 in the morning would see as much thigh meat on display as a Kentucky Fried Chicken counter. Madness!

Tuesday night I had the first of two food hygiene classes from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. I now know far more about bacteria than can be shared in polite company. (I'll spare you discussion of the symptoms of staphylococcus aureus.) Some of the presentation was boring common sense. (Wash your hands.) More enlightening was the contaminants bit. Turns out one of the major UK supermarket chains has on 6 separate occasions had complaints about pen caps found in ready meals.

However, the real gross-out story came not from the environmental health officer, but from one of our instructors, who was emphasizing the importance of boiling your frozen raspberries before using them in a coulis. She knew of a catering organization that had served a dessert with raspberry coulis, only to find out that the guests who had eaten it all fell sick. Naturally, the caterers investigated thoroughly to try to find the source of the contamination. After testing the coulis ingredients, it turned out that the frozen raspberries -- which had been picked in Bulgaria -- had been urinated on. Ugh.

Cooking-wise, the only things to have caused me headaches this week were pastry and meringues. With pastry, I can rub butter into the flour beautifully, but can never seem to figure out the right amount of water to add. Meringues today were also slightly disheartening. Everyone at my table managed to get stiff, beautifully piped white rosettes with the merest blush of pale biscuit colouring. Mine looked like soggy blonde dog turds in comparison! Fortunately, I've had a good shepherd's pie, a delicious mushroom soup and a beautiful quiche lorraine this week, so all is not lost.

Wish Chet-ette luck with her meringue remake tomorrow.

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