Hazards In The Kitchen - Or...Its Probably Best Not To Think About It - Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist Blog at Allrecipes.com - 239300

Kitchen Ramblings and Other Things My Mother Taught Me...With a Twist

Hazards in the Kitchen - Or...its probably best not to think about it 
Jun. 10, 2011 2:17 pm 
Updated: Jun. 13, 2011 5:59 pm
I’ve just completed the fourth week of culinary school and have yet to actually cook anything…unless you count mayonnaise, which I don’t.  The first six week block is all about learning classic French cooking terms, methods, mother sauces, basic soups, commercial kitchen equipment and we practice our knife skills, knife skills, knife skills.  Lots and lots of reading, tests, quizzes, homework, individual projects, groups projects, lectures, more reading and chef instructor demonstrations but, to date, no actual cooking…by me anyway. 
I always dreamed that culinary school would be exciting and magical and that I would rush home after class and want to cook up a storm.  And for that matter…blog about my day.  Not so much…
I aced my knife skills practical, got a perfect score on my first food safety and sanitation project and have learned to properly fill a three compartment sink for dishwashing.  And…I’ve washed A LOT of dishes.  In this block, the chef instructors do the cooking and we learn by demonstration of technique so despite the lack of actual cooking by me, we’ve tasted a lot of food.  The other morning, I had braised lamb shank, veal stew and coconut shrimp for breakfast.  As I was tasting the lamb at 7:30 am…I wondered if this was the new “breakfast of champions” for me, but the coconut shrimp at 8:15 convinced me otherwise.  It was perfectly good and mighty tasty, but deep fried anything before noon is just too much for me.  I think I will stick with more traditional breakfast foods. 
Despite the lack of cooking, there is a lot of learning going on.  Also in the first six week block, we are required to take and pass a Food Safety and Sanitation class along with passing a certification exam for the state regarding safe food practices and how to avoid foodborne illnesses (either getting or giving them).  Given the situation in Germany over the last couple of weeks, the course is pretty timely and I’ve learned A LOT (maybe too much) about all the things that can go wrong with your food.  Being the slight germophobe that I am, I am very aware of washing hands and using fresh and correctly washed and stored ingredients, but this class takes thing to a whole new level…as in…I may never ever eat in a restaurant again.  I have never been a big fan of buffets (all those people touching the food I am going to eat) or pot luck dinners or places that don’t pay their employees enough to care about keeping food safe, but the things I am learning and the things I see going on in restaurants all over makes me not only want to cook at home even more than I do now, but it also makes me want to grow my own veggies, raise my own chickens for eggs and cows for milk and cream (you KNOW how much I love my cream), grind my own flour to make my own breads, etc etc.  Maybe the whole PEACE, LOVE and COMMUNE thing from the 60’s and 70’s really wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
But you still need to wash your hands…with soap…and running water…hot running water and dry them…with a towel…a single use paper towel.  I chuckle as I write this because its pretty much verbatim what I used to ask my step-daughter years and years ago when she was just a little girl and was coming out of the bathroom. 
Me (the evil stepmom):  “Did you wash your hands?”
“With soap?”
“And hot water?”
“And don’t wipe your hands on your pants to dry them either”
“Try it again”
I know we all think about food safety in our kitchens without having to have it be “in your face” every day, but spending as much time as I have over the last several weeks learning everything that can go wrong, I truly wonder how we don’t get more sick from our food. 
Now, you know by reading my previous blog posts that I pretty much cook and eat what I want and I don’t worry too much about how many calories something has in it.  I enjoy cooking and I enjoy eating and I don’t  eat as many veggies as I should and I probably eat too many sweets…well…not probably, that’s a definite there.  But I think food is not simply to consume to give you enough energy for your body to make it to the next day, but that there should be a true enjoyment in the process and for me, that’s usually the less “healthy” version of things. 
So when I get into the kitchen, I like to simply enjoy.  Enjoy the planning, the shopping, the slicing and dicing, the prepping, the roasting, mixing, toasting, frying, shaping, cooking and I enjoy the eating.  But I have to say that a lot of the “joy of cooking” is being taken away by knowing TOO MUCH about what can happen to our food before it comes into our homes and what can happen once its there.  Learning TOO MUCH about food safety and sanitation has been a real buzzkill for me. 
So…my plan to revive the joy?  Control what I can and don’t think too much about it.  Bury my head in the sand.  Survive the food safety learning for the next two weeks, take the test and never look back!  I’m kidding, of course. 
In all honesty, the things we are learning aren’t really anything new for anyone, but taking something from “common sense” to the “specific knowledge” definitely has impacted the way I cook in my own kitchen. 
Our group project for this block at school is to take a recipe and analyze all the potential hazards in safely prepping and serving that recipe then to document methods to keep the food safe throughout from purchase to service.  My group is getting together tomorrow to begin writing our project.  We are using spaghetti and meatballs as our dish.  Our job is to analyze each of the components of the recipe, along with the preparation steps and identify potential bacterial hazards throughout the “life” of the recipe.  This is probably NOT a good recipe for us to have chosen as spaghetti is one of my favorites and I have a feeling that by the end of the project we will have analyzed the hazards so significantly that I may never want to see another meatball.   Maybe we should have selected liver and onions as our recipe.  I would be totally OK with not ever eating liver and onions again. 
Before we begin our project tomorrow, I’m making brunch for my fellow students. 
On the menu:
Salmon and Asparagus Frittata (with PIC’s famous Hollandaise Sauce)
Fresh Fruit – the berries are looking really good
Danish Pastries (the PIC’s “world famous” passed down from generation to generation version, not my modified recipe)
Juices and Coffee…lots and lots of coffee
I will post pics if the salmon doesn’t poison me, or I don’t get salmonella from the eggs, or the fruit doesn’t contain e.coli or … OMG…I can’t stop. 
Jun. 10, 2011 2:22 pm
Got to get together soon......
Jun. 10, 2011 6:46 pm
So, no sushi then, when I come out next month...? You'll have to tell me some of the really wicked sanitation stories so I can use them on my mother-in-law when she grumbles about my cat being on the counter.
Jun. 10, 2011 7:16 pm
Can't wait to hear more, great blog!
Jun. 10, 2011 8:45 pm
I think you're my "germaphobic twin" Jan. I'm just this side of "Howie Mandel." We don't eat out very often because of it! One of my client's is the County Food Inspector. She inspects our local restaurants. And, according to her, there's only about 2 or 3 we can safely dine at in our little town. Creeps me out to say the least. Please share the photos of your brunch. I can't wait to see what you've very "safely" whipped up for your fellow class mates. As usual, Great Blog!
Jun. 11, 2011 4:27 am
Really a fun entrance to your blog. I'm lucky I don't go out much to eat, I guess. Your lunch for your co-learners sound great. I'll be right over. Mom
Jun. 11, 2011 6:58 pm
I really like reading your culinary school exploits. Keep up the good work!
Mary C 
Jun. 11, 2011 7:30 pm
Again, Jan - fabulous!
Jun. 11, 2011 7:50 pm
I don't want to know anything about the food safety. I love to eat and be kind of careful--especially when I'm serving others than myself. I love hearing what you are going through. Thank you for your blog. Nice to see you! Hope to meet up soon.
Jun. 13, 2011 5:59 pm
Congrats on doing well on your tests. Sounds like you're getting a lot of good info. Can't wait to hear more about when you actually get to cook.
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Cookin Up A Storm

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About Me
I am a mid-life career changer who has enjoyed cooking (and eating) good food all her life. My Mom went to work when I was in the 5th grade and most days when I got home from school, she'd have left instructions for me to get dinner started. Cooking never felt like a "chore" back then and it certainly rarely feels like one now. During my 20 plus year career in IT, I traveled all over the US for work. And for fun, I traveled internationally. I have a fairly broad knowledge of food, but when cooking, I tend to stick to comfort foods and pretty much anything Italian. I have a big collection of Asian or eastern foods in my arsenal and I absolutely love their flavors. I am a professional chef who runs her own personal chef service.
My favorite things to cook
Comfort foods, soups, chilies, baked goods, candies at christmas, anything Italian, pizzas, homemade dressing for big salads when good veggies are at their peak, potstickers. Anything I can bake that's bad for you like doughnuts, coconut cakes with whipped cream frosting or fresh artisan breads slathered with butter. When I cook for clients, I am forced to move out of my comfort zone and I love trying new things. I especially love coming up with streamlined ways to make seemingly complicated food easy and accessible for everyone.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Mom's Potato Doughnuts - she's frying them as she was going into labor with my younger brother and then wasn't home to monitor how many I was eating over the next several days. I rarely stray from the Thanksgiving basics I grew up with. I do switch up the veggie dishes each year, but the basics remain pretty constant. My own tradition (not one I grew up with) is making Turkey Wild Rice soup from the leftovers. No better way to extend the taste of the holiday for me. Making Chili on a cold winter weekend, in honor of my Dad who made a batch nearly every weekend in winter as I was growing up. I don't use his recipe (too much Chili Powder and Dark Kidney Beans for my taste), but I do think of him when I make it.
My cooking triumphs
Mastering Gnocchi - so light and puffy, they are like clouds. A killer Vodka Sauce - never ever have I tasted one better. It took me a lot of tries to get it right. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes - from the book of the same name. Fresh bread...anytime. I always keep a few batches (Wheat, White, Semolina) in the fridge. Heat up the oven, shape the loaves, bake...yum. Homemade Caramels at Christmas time. I make both Vanilla and Chocolate Caramels and they are to die for. I give the Vanilla ones away as fast as possible, as I cannot stop myself from eating them.
My cooking tragedies
So many to list, such little space to write in.
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