Food Studies: Serious Knife Skills

How many ways can you slice a carrot? A lot—but at the French Culinary Institute, only one is correct.

Food Studies features the voices of volunteer student bloggers from a variety of different food- and agriculture-related programs at universities around the world. Don't miss Christine's first post, which explains how she went to culinary school to become a better food writer, but ended up falling in love with cooking itself.

Simply put, culinary school is fun. Five hours go by really, really fast when you spend them in a kitchen, talking about food and cooking food with twenty other people who also love food. The best part of it for me, though, is that every class is a process that yields an end result to be judged. Call me an education junkie (you wouldn’t be wrong), but I thrive on teacher feedback and evaluation. Being able to present a dish at the end of every class and have each detail picked apart, for better or worse, really gets me going. Like I said, culinary school is fun.

Similarly, I like being able to track my progress, and by far the best indicator of this is knife work. Three months into my program at the French Culinary Institute, and I am finally getting the hang of taillage. I’ve learned plenty else—how to make and not break a hollandaise sauce, how to fillet and skin a flat or round fish, and how to quenelle whipped cream, to name a few things—but I feel like I am just now gaining the upper hand in the battle of "Christine vs. the Julienne cut."

To give some background, taillage is the process of cutting things into standardized, uniform shapes to ensure even cooking and present a proper aesthetic. (Culinary School 101: Even the simplest things have fancy French names). Memorizing the different cuts is the first step—to unknowingly present a salad of brunoise vegetables when the recipe called for macedoine would be humiliating, to say the least. Then, it’s a matter of getting comfortable with your (sharp!) knife and cutting lots and lots of produce.

I understand how some would find this tedious, the seemingly endless pile of vegetables waiting to be peeled, squared off, and cut into your best attempt at a 5mm x 5cm stick, or a 2mm dice. Me, I kind of like it. For one thing, there’s something meditative about focusing on nothing but a knife, a cutting board, and a carrot.

More seriously, though, it feels good to know that I’m slowly mastering the very basics of classic cooking. Trends change, but taillage stays the same… or something like that. And while, really, plenty of people can roast a tray of potatoes or reduce a sauce, knife skills take serious practice.

Taillage is a set of rules we learn to follow, and I guess when it comes down to it, I like a good set of rules. A pile of uncooked julienne sitting on my cutting board is the most concrete measure of improvement. It's great to get feedback on the clarity of my consommé, the texture of my lemon tart, and the balance of seasoning in my skate Grenobloise. But taillage is either right, or it's not, and there's nothing subjective about it. Cooking is a creative and constantly evolving field, but the basics are pretty nonnegotiable, and that is the most valuable thing I have learned at FCI thus far.

To be continued... Christine is a student blogger for the Food Studies feature on GOOD's Food hub. If you enjoyed this, you should check out the rest of the Food Studies blogger gang here.

All photos by the author, except for the taillage diagram, which was taken by Emily Fleischaker.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.