Fête de la Fédération
11:28 a.m. on July 17, 2006

I went to a French Cooking class on Friday. I was invited by a friend who I have had some difficulty with lately and who I am not entirely comfortable with, so truth be told, I did not really want to go. There were a few other factors that had me stressed and irritable, but I soldiered on.

The class was at the kitchen store, Sur La Table (pronounced in the snootiest French accent you can muster: Sur la TAUB) in a snobby Seattle suburb. In the back of the store was a nice kitchen set up with a big cocked mirror and cameras pointed at the stove top so you could see everything the chef was doing. There were 4 giant butcher blocks with set-up for 4 people.

We were about 30 minutes early & were the first to arrive. The greeter gave us name tags, but no information about what we should do, so we decided to wander the store for a bit. We came back 15 minutes later with still no one there and still no information from the greeter, so we wandered some more. When we came back to the kitchen this time around, suddenly the classroom area was full and every single place at the butcher blocks were taken except for one spot at a table where 3 of the bitchiest girls you have ever seen were standing. One of them dressed in shorty sweat pant shorts gave us a look and actually said: “WE are here”. I suddenly had a high school flash back and my social phobia kicked in full hilt. I was standing there having no idea what to do and no one was helping. Suddenly a male voice came out of nowhere and said my friend’s first name with a question mark and then my friends first and last name with a question mark. It was someone she knew from high school whom she had not seen in 20 years. The class was about to begin but that did not stop them from trying to catch up on the last 2 decades of time passage. I began to sweat and see color swirls.

Finally my friend asked for help from one of the kitchen staff and they said we could stand at the very front of the class at the kitchen counter where the chef would be standing. This did nothing to help my anxiety. I am not a front of the class type of person. I am not a cook. I am not French. By now everyone was standing quietly at their work stations with their aprons neatly tied on. The tie was all fucked up on the apron I was given and I could not figure it out. I fumbled with it, but could not get it to work, maybe because my eyes were beginning to cross with tears and I was hyperventilating. Just as the chef was introducing the class with me stood right next to her, I spotted another apron so I made a grab for it. In true spaz fashion, when grabbing the apron, I knocked about 4 things off the counter that fell in slow motion to an extreme clatter and commotion when it all hit the floor. I could not believe it. Instinctively I laughed the loudest, most hideous, spaztastic, crazy person laugh I could muster: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Every single person in the room, including my friend, stood there in dead silence and stared at me, mouth closed, no expression.

The Menu: Pissaladiere (Onion and Black Olive Tart) - Provencal Lamb Chop Mixed Grill with Mint Aioli - French Potato Salad with French green beans - French Cherry Tart

We were to break up into groups and each take an item from the menu to prepare. Coincidentally, we got paired up with my friend’s high school classmate and his mother and we were to make the Pissaladiere, an onion tart. We all got to chop onions and garlic, but the rest of this project, I have to say, was not a 4 person job. The mother ended up basically doing all the rest of the work, while the other two caught up on the past and I stood there like a complete retard. After about 40 minutes, my time finally came. I was to place the kalamata olives artistically across the top of the tart. I did a heck of a job placing them lovingly and beautifully around the onions. Then one of the kitchen helpers came over and kicked me in the nuts: “Did you pit the olives?”

This is when I lost it. I began yanking olives off the tart and pitting them with a violent squash of the butcher knife and throwing the remnants haphazardly back onto the tart. My friend began trying to rearrange them. “Don’t touch my Olives!” I spat. “I am only trying to…” “SHUT UP!” Another of the kitchen helpers came over and began chastising us for not bringing the onion filling all the way to the edge of the dough. It clearly said on the directions to leave a half inch space. “Listen lady”, I said, wielding the big knife, “we are following THESE directions. You cannot go changing things. And NOWHERE on here does it say to PIT THE DAMN OLIVES!”

After almost 3 hours, the food was done and we got to sit and eat it. It was all very good, except the cherry tart was full of PITS!

I really learned nothing from the class, as I already knew how to chop onions going in.

The best part was that by the time the class was over, the store was closed, but we got to shop as though they closed it just for us. I felt like a celebrity and bought this very special collapsible colander:

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