Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Graduate

We spent last weekend in Chicago attending the graduation of Offspring No. 1. The University of Chicago does everything with much pomp and circumstance. On Friday evening they hosted a champagne reception at the Museum of Science and Industry. The Convocation, conferring of degrees and awarding of diplomas consumed most of the day Saturday. We spent approximately six hours outside in folding chairs – and rain and 50 degree temperatures. I must say that I would much rather spend six hours sitting outside in the Chicago chill than the Texas 100 degree heat! The various parts of the ceremony were divided by what someone affectionately referred to as “the $200,000 lunch.” We were given a very nice sack lunch provided “free” by the university – free if you disregard the $200,000 price tag of a UC undergraduate education.

To be fair, Brooke did get a great deal more than a veggie wrap and small cup of fruit from her time in Chicago. She earned a degree in linguistics. She studied both Russian and Georgian and is fluent in both. Her mind was challenged and expanded; her body was challenged and bruised playing rugby on the University of Chicago women’s rugby team; and, her view of the world was challenged and broadened by living on the south side of Chicago. We all know that a college education involves much more than what goes on in the classroom.

I bet you are all wondering what a Russian-speaking college graduate with a degree in linguistics who plays rugby (which really means can hold her own when faced with inordinate amounts of beer) does after college. Lucky for you I have the answer.

They go to culinary school to become a pastry chef. Seems logical, right?

Maybe it seems logical to me since I know that Brooke has had a fascination with food since her tiny taste buds first encountered “real” food. From the beginning she would eat any vegetable that I would puree for her toothless palette. Fruits too. The same, however, was not so with meat. She would not touch baby food meat. Once she had teeth, meat still took a backseat to fruit and veggies. Every now and then she would make an exception for what she affectionately termed “flat meats” – pepperoni, chicken fried steak, and an occasional Chicken McNugget.

At age three, I signed up for a Kid’s Cooking Club. It was one of those deals where every month you received recipes, ingredients, and kid-sized cooking tools. A passion for cooking was born. While at home, Brooke baked for anyone having a bake sale, regularly often cooked our family meals, and regularly prepared gourmet meals for a local residential home for persons living with HIV-AIDS.

In addition to her academic and not so academic pursuits while in college, Brooke has continued to hone her culinary skills. Though her meals often consisted of rice and beans, she, her roommates, and her boyfriend’s fraternity never lacked for exquisite desserts.

When I asked what Brooke wanted for a graduation gift, she said that she would like a nice camera (because hers was stolen when her apartment was broken into in one of those worldly educational experiences) so that she could take pictures of her creations to establish a portfolio and hopefully a blog. Since she doesn’t yet have a summer job, cooking is how she plans to occupy her free time. I ordered the camera and it was to arrive today. I am anxiously awaiting her first blog post!

As I began writing this post, my phone buzzed indicating that I had a text message from Brooke. I assumed that it was to let me know that her camera had arrived. The message read, “I just got my first stitches!”

Holding true to her summer plans, Brooke was baking her first cake as a college graduate. Those of you who bake cake know that often cakes need leveling. You get the picture . . . As Brooke said, the serrated knife is the sharpest because it gets used the least.

Her very sweet boyfriend came over and took her to the emergency room, texted her roommate to tell her that the blood all over the kitchen in their apartment was not evidence of a brutal crime scene, streamed cute cuddly pictures from cute.com for Brooke to look at as they stitched her finger and tweeted before and after pictures of Brooke’s finger. How’s that for true love!

Despite the somewhat ominous start, I trust that Brooke will have many sweet successes on her culinary path. I am proud of all that she has accomplished thus far.

And in case you are wondering, she was making a layer cake with strawberry jam filling. The cake layers, which she checked to make sure were blood-free, are in the freezer waiting to be filled, iced and decorated with flowers.