Friday, September 30, 2011


6:45am - The alarm rings and I punch snooze, roll over, and try to get back to dreaming about petting fluffy whales.

6:55am - I drag myself out of bed because I now only have 14 minutes before I miss my train. I brush my teeth, put on one of the five outfits I generally wear, and double check that my backpack has all the required crap (chef coat, apron, pants, socks, wallet, phone) like a kid on their way to school. Though I must admit, I don't think I actually every did that as a kid and often left home without essential things like homework, if I'd done it.

7:09am - I rush out the door and fly down the seven flights of stairs because my train leaves at 7:19 and if I don't speed walk like a seventy-year-old on a mall walk I may miss it and have to wait for the 7:24 train. It's still dark outside and the street is devoid of most people except a man walking his yellow lab and the homeless guy who sleeps outside my metro on a mattress. Where this mattress goes during the day, I don't really know, nor do I have time to think about it because I swear I can hear my train rolling in and I'm terrified I may miss it. My calves are burning slightly from the quick stepping but I shuffle down the metro steps and manage to arrive a minute before my train. God obviously loves me.

7:24am - I get off my train and emerge from the metro onto my pastisserie's street. It's still dark out and as I walk to the shop it begins to hit me that my day is, in fact, starting and I must endure another 7+ hours of french, yelling, tight spaces, and mindless jobs. God obviously hates me.

7:26am - I enter my bakery and say "Bon Jour" to everyone I see, including my boss and store owner, before popping upstairs to change into my uniform. I look at the time on my cellphone and tell myself that I just have eight hours until I get to leave. Eight measly hours. If I can kick the shit out of an eight-year-old, why not eight hours of work?

7:30am - The day at the patisserie officially starts. I ask my chef what to start with and he tells me to begin finishing one of the many tarts that we offer. So for the next three hours this is what I do. Finish tarts to put out in the shop for when we open at ten. This consists of:
- Putting sauce and raspberries in neat little rows on top of tart 1
- Slicing a bazillion figs, putting sauce and then fanning the figs on top of tart 2
- Slicing caramelized apples and spreading inside of tart 3
- Putting nappage on everything
- Put all tarts on golden cardboard, place the price ticket in them, put them out for the shop
Generally while doing these things I am daydreaming about my own future pastry shop, singing songs in my head, thinking about how much I hate nappage and its stickiness, and random waves of homesickness pass over me though I have become quite good at ignoring them.
At some point my boss comes and tells me to "Vite! Vite!" and often I am corrected on some task in french which leads to me either nodding my head in feigned understanding or asking "Que?"

10:30am - The shop has opened and I have finished tarting, cleaning, and putting off the inevitable of asking for my next task. There is always a bit of suspense when it comes to this point because I never know what I am going to be asked to do. Most of the time it is some mindless task. Though every once in a while I do get asked to do something a bit more exciting like actually mix a recipe. About this I am very conflicted. On one hand peeling fruits, zesting citrus, juicing, chopping, measuring, and other mechanical jobs don't exactly leave me feeling fulfilled. I am putting myself through these six months of memory and character creating torture to actually learn something, not just to give myself arthritis. But on the other hand, these things are simple, easy to do, and at most I'll get yelled at for not being fast enough. Then there are the actual jobs that I got into pastry for to begin with. Making creams, custards, cakes, frostings, fillings. All that good stuff! This is what I'm here to learn. Six months of peeling lemons isn't exactly worth the fortune I spent on pastry school or the 800 € in rent I shell out every month. But it also means that I have to go through the long and embarrassing process of speaking french to someone, listening to french, not understanding, asking them to repeat, listening again, perhaps having them repeat one more time, just to make sure, then making the stuff. Thus far I have yet to actually mess anything up too seriously, but enough experience in other kitchens has told me that it is only a matter of time. And when I do, it ain't gonna be pretty.

12:00pm - I've made it through the hard stretch and somehow feel that I will only be at the pastry shop for a few more seconds. Lunch time is right around the corner. The hectic morning time is done with and over. Pretty soon they'll be asking me to clean up and that's the signal that the day is coming to a close. The thought of this shines a light on me, as if from the heavens above, and I happily chop away at my piles of mint, humming quietly to myself and looking forward to going home and relaxing.

1:30pm - I've finished chopping my mint and now that I have cleaned up I am wondering why someone hasn't starting making lunch yet. Are they going to make me starve? Maybe I'll be lucky and instead of having staff lunch they'll just say, "Oh, you can go home early today. Sorry about the food. We'll serve some of our fabulous duck pies tomorrow to make it up to you." So I stand around looking like an idiot until my boss comes back into the kitchen and tells me I can start peeling the bottom half of macaron from their sheet pans and flipping them over. Fourteen trays should suffice.

2:00pm - Someone throws some old sandwiches from the shop into the oven to melt them nice and good and a few people have been freed to their lunch breaks. I look up briefly from my macaron shucking and feel my stomach grumble.

2:30pm - I've finished peeling the stubborn ass ends of macaron from their parchment sheets and wonder how something so tasty and delicate could be so reminiscent of a barnacle. With the last sheet done, Gaetan, a chef's assistant, informs me that "mange" time is upon me and I happily grab a plate, to tiny french sized sandwiches, and ascend to the atrium upstairs where I crouch on a window sill and eat my lunch silently while listening to the other coworkers chat in a language I still don't understand.

2:45pm - I look at the clock and wonder why I didn't drag my lunch on a bit longer. I wash my hands, go to the bathroom, hang out in there for a minute or two longer that I need to, then wash my hands again, and then ask Gaetan, or my boss, or Alberique, what else I can do. They command me to do yet another unfulfilling, tedious task, like pushing a thick roquefort cheese spread through a sieve, which will most likely result in my early onset arthritis. I am told I'm too slow, speed things up until my hand is red and on fire, and my wrist is crying out in pain, and then wait until whoever is important isn't around to take things back to a human pace.

3:30pm - Hoping that cleaning will be the next task I ask what I can do now. If I'm lucky they shoo me away like a pesty child and tell me to clean in the back where people are still working and so I can't exactly clean up but I scrub the mixers, and the walls, and things that aren't really dirty just to be doing something.

4:00pm - Cleaning has taken longer than necessary because I have to clean around my coworkers and wait for them to move to finish cleaning. My pant bottoms are wet from cleaning the floor and I can feel it dripping into my shoes, but I don't care, freedom is near! I turn to Alberique or my boss and ask them what to do next and hope that I hear that lovely word, "partir" slink out of their mouths.

4:15pm - If I've been let loose I'm now walking home, thinking of how this little walk in the streets of Paris is good for my soul, my mind, my ass. I pass tons of jewelry and accessorie shops and realize that I really like diamonds, big fat ones that twinkle and sparkle and look really really really pretty. Then I remember that I'm a poor intern living in an expensive city, planning on saving up to open my own bakery one day, and that window shopping is probably as good as it's going to get when it comes to bijoux.

4:30pm - I'm home. I debate between walking up the seven flights of stairs or taking the lift. If I'm super tired, or super grumpy, I take the lift, but generally I boot it up the winding flights of stairs to fell better about sneaking a macaron or two at work. Plus my damn roommates have been filling my kitchen with things like cookies and Pringles and those assholes are right. Once you pop you just can't stop.

5:00pm - I'm elbow deep in free online television and thinking about if I want to make dinner or not for my flat cohorts. There is a chicken in the oven and roast chicken sounds mighty tasty. But then again Christy makes some awesome asian pasta. Decisions, decisions.

8:00pm - Dinner is on the table as well as wine. Lots and lots of wine. Elze and I talk about or days. Christy is at work. Luke has been living foot loose and fancy free.

10:00pm - Now that three bottles are in the recycling I'm getting ready to wind down for bedtime. I know I should turn in early but I'd rather squeeze in some more american television, pinterest surfing, and g-chatting because that is, after all, so much more important than precious sleep.

12:00am - I lay in bed, hot and listening to the noises of the city outside. I know I have a night of tossing and turning to look forward to because of the heat, uncomfortable bed, and yelling french men. And let's not forget that I get to wake up in a few hours and do it all over again. The anticipation is just too much to handle!

1 comment:

  1. Whew! I am out of breath just reading this. I am so glad you are documenting this, because when we are old and in rocking chairs on the porch these are going to be some of the times we laugh our heads off about!