There may be some food for thought here. Not a lot, just a morsel.
My daughter owns her own dessert catering business. As it is a one-woman show and its tough to turn a profit, I help her two days a week in her kitchen. Of course, I can easily follow a recipe she has kindly transferred from her head to paper (I never memorize them), but sometimes she asks me to mix something that is less specific, measurement-wise. Like buttercream.
Buttercream fillings for her French almond macarons* are my weekly task; she never provided proportions, just ingredients, and you just make “enough” and make it “stiff enough”. A bit too vague and nerve-wracking for me at first, I feel I get it right now—most of the time.
Today, the conversation went something like this:
“Remember that cream cheese pastry filling I had you make a couple of weeks ago?”
“Uh, no…maybe. It has cream cheese and….?” I’m fishing for a recipe here.
“Powdered sugar, egg yolk, vanilla.”
“OK….How much cream cheese?” (Still fishing.)
“I don’t know, start with 8 oz. Make it stiff, like buttercream.”
Again with the vagueness, but I can do this, right? Its not complicated.
Well, as I mix, the consistency is not at all like buttercream, so I keep adding more sugar, beating the hell out of it. Finally, I pull her away from her baking; its getting stiffer, but kinda gooey and weird…is that the way it is supposed to be?
She takes one look at it and asks, with some angst, “HOW much sugar did you put in?!?”
“Well, several scoops; it took that much to make it stiff.” I do not like the direction this conversation is headed.
“What? That’s waaaay too much sugar. I said ‘NOT stiff like buttercream’. Do you remember what it looked like last time?”
Shit. “No! I really don’t! And…..well….I heard….‘stiff, like buttercream.’”
We look at each other wildly, almost laughing/freaking out, me feeling stupid and her feeling IDK what, then she quickly moves to finding a solution to the ample mess I made. (I hate hate hate making these kinds of mistakes, and to her credit, she is always gracious.) Now that the pastry filling has an emotional attachment, you can bet I WILL remember making it!
So what is the take-away here? I’m not really sure (you tell me), but I feel something happened that speaks to the complexities of teaching and learning, or sheds light on risk and trust, or addresses memory and communication. Or. Little moments like these take place all the time in our lives, at least they do in mine, that at the very least remind us what its like to be in the vulnerable position of learner. Ah, empathy as a guide. Now there’s a take-away!
* Yes, only one ‘o’. Macaroons with two o’s are something else entirely. The first is a hoity-toity, finicky-to-make meringue and almond meal cookie. Filled with delicious, flavored buttercream, of course. The second is a mostly coconut drop cookie, like a haystack. Both, however, are naturally GF, so there’s that.