Friday, July 27, 2007

Unexpected inspiration

Despite having a typical bedtime of around 10 o'clock, I was kept awake several nights ago when the movie Babette's Feast began. This 1987 Danish film was captivating, although for the first 60 minutes, there is very little food or feasting to be seen. Instead, the majority of the film centres around two sisters, Martine and Phillipa, who are part of a strict Protestant village in remote Jutland. There is a great deal of praying and hymn singing. The focus on food and the sensuality of flavour brought by Babette, a French woman who seeks refuge in this rural community, serves as a stark contrast to this very austere setting. Without giving too much of the plot away, she is able to find solace and personal fulfillment in the preparation of a lavish dinner, celebrating her role as artist through the medium of food. Her culinary artistry, expressed so powerfully under such unfortunate personal circumstances, is even more inspiring and ignites long forgotten passions in Martine and Phillipa.

After watching Babette's Feast, it is difficult not to become empassioned about how food can be art. It is this creative drive that atrophied in me somewhere between high school and fellowship but hopefully, it has regenerated into something bigger and better.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sesame seeds and cannelés

With two weeks of true pastry employment under my belt (or apron), I am happy to be back at Ganache. The environment is familiar and friendly and the work is challenging. Receiving a genuine paycheck again has been satisfying; however, the reality is that food industry wages are, in general, meagre. Even at the Pan Pacific, Chef Ted facetiously said after learning about my job offer at Ganache, "the pay here is peanuts, Ganache must be sesame seeds". Obviously, financial gain is not my primary objective, otherwise high-volume cataract surgery would be my calling, not pastry! It is pyschologically gratifying to be paid to do something that I love and of which I am proud.

Meanwhile, besides macarons, I have also been making cannelés de Bordeaux at home which are Eric's favourites. Traditionally made in beeswax lined copper molds, these fluted caramelized cakes are ideally eaten on the day they are baked in order to savour their crunchy exterior before entering their soft custardy vanilla and rum centres. The origin of the cannelé is filled with mystique; nuns from the convent of Annonciades in Bordeaux or perhaps, an artisan guild of "canauliers" may be credited with its creation. Regardless, they are very addictive and very easy to make using the silicone molds which I purchased in France.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bearing gifts or children

For anyone counting, this is the fourth photo of macarons that I have posted on my blog since its inception seven months ago, a reflection of how enormously I love them. The key difference between these and previous macarons, however, is that these little beauties are homemade by yours truly. This recipe is from Alain Ducasse's Grand Livre de Cuisine: Desserts & Pastries and despite not having a convection oven at home, they turned out exquisitely. One of my last assignments at the Pan Pacific was to make macarons and because of my surprising success in producing macarons beyond everyone's expectations, I was requested to make almost 700 for several functions.

These macarons are filled with a chocolate-passionfruit ganache, customized for my friend Ramona who just gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Friday. It is my theory that the passionfruit bubble tea which she consumed earlier provoked the subsequent labour and delivery. Combined with the undeniable fact that she is one of the biggest chocoholics who I know, these macarons are a perfect sweet treat for her.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A long journey for all

This unusual looking, yet beautiful, fruit is the mangosteen, also known as the "queen of fruit". For those unfamiliar with this exotic nugget of deliciousness, the mangosteen originates from Southeast Asia and has a rich history involving its discovery and introduction to the Western world in the 18th and 19th centuries. With a tough deep purple rind and luscious creamy white segmented interior, the mangosteen's flavour is somewhat difficult to describe. To my tastebuds, the flavour combines strawberry with nectarine but also pineapple and perhaps even kiwifruit. You will just have to try it for yourself and luckily they are currently abundant. We saw many in Chinatown and bought some at T & T Supermarket.

Although the mangosteens which I bought did travel many miles in order to end up in my kitchen, lately I have been more conscious about where my food is grown. Eating local not only benefits the environment, but also it helps support the local agricultural economy. I have been gorging on red Okanagan cherries from the Riley Park Farmer's Market and am eagerly awaiting the start of blueberry season. Nothing beats a big bowl of fresh blueberries topped with vanilla yogurt!

Monday is my very last day at the Pan Pacific and I am happy to finally cease being a student. Thankfully, I will be returning to Ganache Pâtisserie as a part-time employee which is ideal for me because my other part-time job these days is still helping my mom rehabilitate after her leg injury. It has been a long journey in search of professional happiness and I finally feel that, despite the enormous toll on my spirit and confidence taken during my departure from Ophthalmology, the outcome is positive, hopeful, and in sight.