My first few days at culinary school have been going swimmingly, but I do wish I had a little more of that back-to-school feel I used to get as a kid. I’ve been trying my utmost to get into the spirit by stocking my bag with the basic school supplies a second-grader would find appealing: highlighters, pens, notecards, etc. I seriously considered some magic markers, but decided against it. After all, I am in school to be a proper chef, not a master doodler.
However, there are certain parallels between grade-schoolers and cooks, the most notable one being that getting filthy is part of the job description. Early last week my fellow students and I were being instructed in the art of making fumet. Fumet is fish stock, and of course, requires the use of fish. If you’re imagining a hunchback named Igor stirring fish heads and tails as they boil and bubble over a tall stockpot you’ve got the right image in mind, but how do said heads and tails wind up in the pot? They must first be fished out of their water bath of course!
Step 1: Roll sleeve up. High. Almost to your armpit.
Step 2: Plunge arm into fishy, bloody, gunky water.
Step 3: Pull out fish body part.
Step 4: Do not rinse, but do repeat, until you have a nice pile of fish chunks.
It’s rather like bobbing for apples, really, the prize being a fish head. I didn’t get a head, sadly, and was glumly setting about the task of chopping my fish chunks into smaller bits when I heard a faint “eeeww!” — the sound I was hoping for: someone didn’t want their fishy head…because a fish head has fishy eyes…and those fishy eyes must be gouged out. I valiantly volunteered, and with firm will and hand, scooped out the googly eyeballs with my melon baller. Yes, dear reader, a melon baller is actually a fish-eye-scooper-outer. It’s just called a melon baller (fancy alias: parisienne scoop) because how would “Sadistic Tool to Gouge Out Dead Fish Eyes” read in a Williams Sonoma catalog?
High Heels & Frijoles