Monday, June 05, 2006

The Mighty 4 year old Papa..

It was interesting being back at my old place of work this last week. It is funny how things can feel so different but then again, life at CJ hasn’t changed all that much.

..A Note that I had posted on the basement freezer 3 years ago, taunting people that hell would await them if they dared leave the freezer ajar, exposing all of my precious gelatos and doughs to luke warm temparatures..
(sometimes the trays would be stacked, unsealing the door just so..)
Still there.

..A Note posted next to the power strip of plugs, warning the evil doers not to even think about unplugging the freezer to make room for a plug to the stereo.. (sometimes, they would forget to plug it back in..)
Also, still there.

When I saw these reminders of time past, I felt a little warm fuzzy, as if, ‘wow’, after all this time of my being gone, there still was a piece of me living there. In this case, it was in the form of something I had written in haste and probably in annoyance, with a sharpie on a greasy piece of parchment, after I had discovered my sludgy melted gelatos one dark and dreary winter morning…

Up until the time that I left CJ over 2 years ago, I had been baking for them numerous breads and desserts for the 2 years prior. When I first started there, I was a pantry cook; something that I did my best to convince Holly wasn’t where my full potential lay. Where it did lay, I told her, was in bread and dessert land, somewhere in the early morning, alone with my breads, doughs and batters…not at night, when my energy levels have already peaked, and certainly not amidst the crazy bustle that transpires in the kitchen come evening. During these 4 months, I would infiltrate my craft wherever I could, whenever I had time, whether it be bread for staff meals, foccacia for the line…Somehow, after 4 months of struggling and sweating it out on the line, I was able to convince her, to take a chance on me. (I think that we both knew that I was not line cook material…) To this day, she still laughs and calls it foolish, but the next day, she cancelled her bread order, I crossed my fingers.. And my pastry position was born.

I think that I must have seen my future position coming, because within the first couple months of starting my job, I had already secured the organic grapes from the wine maker next door, and I had begun my Bread Starter, or ‘Papa’.
(finally, this is where the title comes into play…)

I babied this thing for the first ten days, then, when it was at full force, I would give it some love daily, which meant nothing more than a little flour, water, and a few kind words. (some people talk to their plants… I talk to my starters..)

People at work would chuckle as they would see me leaving for the weekend, with my covered bowl of bubbling goo under my arm. I would take it home, just so that it never felt neglected or lonely and cold in the far back reaches of the walk in fridge.

So, when the time came to pack up and move to the east coast, I knew what I needed to do. Instead of just abandoning my good friend of 2 years, I decided to put him into hibernation. I dried him out by spreading him thin across some parchment. I then told him not to worry, that I was doing what was best for the both of us…
(I mean, how would you feel if all of a sudden someone took you out of your yeasty, cozy and bubbly environment, spread you out on a hard sheet tray and air dried you for two days?)

When we arrived in Ithaca, I unpacked him, dry and crumbly in his ziplock baggy, and let him rest in the freezer. On a few occasions, I would bring a little of him out of hibernation, but my focus was more on sweet things at Pangea, rather than breads, so I wasn’t able to justify pulling him out hibernation completely.

That is, until now.

When I first knew that I would be back at CJ, 'Papa' was the first thing I thought of…

SO, I got him out of my freezer and began feeding and hydrating him. Slowly but surely. With a little babying and some kind words, he is back.

Papa is Back.

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