Real talk: I can’t cook, and I’m generally okay with that. Being a few years past my college years (never mind how many, a lady never tells), I should be past the phase in which Chef Boyardee is in charge of preparing most of my at home meals. Being one of the few single ladies in my group of married friends, I don’t spend any time at all baking or planning meals for my husband and children, thank God. My Pinterest account is reserved for interesting Harry Potter facts and pre-planned outfits rather than the most chocolaty, easy-bake dessert of the moment. The only recipe I’ve ever repinned was for a holiday drink, and even that fell to the wayside. I have a heavy pouring arm, and things typically taste better when I don’t make them myself, ok? Sue me.
So when Anonymous graciously invited me to join him for Chef Serge’s Cooking Class at Café de Paris I didn’t know whether to be honored at being so obviously adored, or insulted that my lack of culinary skill was finally catching up with me. That mean ole country girl was fond of her microwave too, if you’ll remember, so I didn’t feel too inferior for my gastronomic deficiencies. Either way, I was chosen to go so, as usual, Bunny wins. Since Anonymous’ busy schedule and his column about our fabulously French lunch at the café had him burning the midnight oil, I was able to do some more sweet-talking, and finagle this column for myself. You’re welcome lovelies! That’s right, I’m back again this week to fill you in on my Saturday morning spent filling up on wine and the delicious meal I cooked myself!
“How are you going to cook French food, when you can’t even cook anything American?” the doubtful boy-toy asked, to which I responded, “I can too! I can cook my Momma’s skillet corn bread, so there.” Apparently this doesn’t hold much weight around here when you can’t cook anything to go with said corn bread. I guess corn bread and milk for a meal can’t go much further than the huntin’ camp on the first night. I pushed this negativity and my inner self-doubt deep down inside and decided to dive into the unknown waters of cooking alone, with my pen and honor to keep me afloat! Okay, so I had Anonymous there to talk me through it, and he furnished a wine tasting so I knew if all else failed I could just get drunk, at which point anything would taste good.
The dreary, muggy day of the cooking class arrived and the darling Chef Serge Pambo introduced himself by serving us all croissant, butter, jam, juice, and coffee, for which I adored him right off the bat. It started at nine a.m., and Bunny, my angels, considers anything before ten obscene and borders on downright cruel and unusual without coffee. A good red lipstick can only do so much to make a girl look fresh faced and awake, especially in the rain. The packed class began with our darling Serge making the lady’s swoon with his adorable French accent. After explaining what we’d be making and giving a few pointers on French cooking, which I can’t give away (sign up for Serge’s next class on February 3rd , designed specifically for lovers, and see for yourself), he gave us our aprons and utensils, and we began.
We started off with a chocolate and banana bread pudding. Yep, that’s right…. dessert came first. I tell you what, the French really know how to enjoy life. Now I’m not going to go into detail about how to cook any of these fabulous recipes; as I said before, take your own class. What I will tell you is that he made this step-by-step process so fun and simple, it didn’t feel at all like cooking normally does. Once we learned the proper way to whisk and finished prepping the pudding, we sent it off to bake and began a wine tasting. Now, we all know our sweet Anonymous can’t give the limelight away for too long, so while Serge passed out the ingredients for our next dish, A. began his mini-course on how to drink, savor, and distinguish the different types of wine. From his own reserve he brought some Chilean, Argentinean, and Italian bottles, and Serge provided a few French. We began with the reds and sipped while we stuffed our tomatoes with fresh squash and zucchini. In proper wine tasting style, many of my peers tasted the wine and poured out what was left in order to move on to the next taste. Being the humanitarian that I am, I don’t like to waste. There are thirsty Italians in Jersey who’d give their last bedazzled pair of eyewear for a proper glass of wine, so I wasn’t going to take this luxury for granted. I guzzled every drop, and I’d do it again if I had to.
After sending the side-item to bake, we moved on to our main course, Papillote Tilapia. I diced and cut and wrapped things that I didn’t even know were involved in French cuisine, and before I knew it we were moving on to sipping white wine while we ate our delightfully decadent bread pudding. Now I know I didn’t give many details as to the preparation or ingredients that the recipes entailed, but when you take the class yourself you’ll see that the experience in itself makes the cooking seem like some sort of fun art project. I just assumed that since I was having so much fun I’d messed up my food, even though I was pretty sure I’d followed Serge’s directions. Having made a dessert here or there with my Suzy-Home Maker little sister, this wasn’t my first time baking with sugar.
“Ok,” I thought, “This isn’t my first dessert, I love sweets anyway, and I’ve had at least a half a bottle of wine already. These are the reason’s why my first recipe tastes like such a success.” My classmates all seemed pleased with theirs too, but they clearly knew their ways around the kitchen much better than I. The moment of truth came when my main course arrived. Ok, let’s forget for a moment that I followed a master chef ’s recipe verbatim as he walked me through it, and that he was there to make sure that I didn’t get drunk and burn the place down (in other words, he took my food out of the oven in time and turned the machine off). I had cooked an honest to goodness delicious, French meal! I’m a culinary genius! Ok, ok, I’m overstepping my boundaries a bit here. But my point is, that even I can be taught to cook. I cooked it, I had a blast doing it (it would’ve been fun even without the wine), and I actually plan to cook it again. These may be the only three dishes I’m capable of cooking for the rest of my life, but at least the French meal my new friend Serge taught me to cook will be much fancier than the buffalo dip and finger food recipes these other gals are “borrowing” from Pinterest. And Bunny, my dears, is nothing if not fancy.