Thursday, December 31, 2009

To New Beginnings...

It has been quite a year. I finally took steps towards my dream of doing something that I love. I am proud of my courage and can't wait to see what the new year brings.

To a year of good food, safe travels, loved ones, new beginnings, and following dreams.

All the best for 2010!

My horoscope for 2010:
CANCER - You have weathered some difficult times in recent months but with Jupiter, planet of good fortune, focusing on changes of direction for the first half of 2010 you now have the chance to do something more satisfying. Meanwhile, Mars's dynamic influence on your finances in April will help you to find ways to improve your cash-flow situation. Challenging aspects to obsessive Pluto throughout the summer will put increasing pressure on a close relationship and a decision will need to be made before the year is over. Autumn will bring some light relief, a romantic interlude and a chance to shine in a more creative environment.

Words to remember, from Randy Pausch's Last Lecture:
  • When people give you feedback, cherish it and use it.
  • Show gratitude.
  • Don’t complain. Just work harder.
  • Be good at something, it makes you valuable.
  • Work hard.
  • Find the best in everybody.
  • And be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Update; Amaretto Balls

December has flown by really quickly for me. It has been a month of working hard at both jobs, visits from both sets of parents, and lots of Christmas shopping and get-togethers. On the career change front, things are still pretty difficult with my parents, but I am only a couple of days away from giving my notice. Scared and excited at the same time is only a mild description of how I'm feeling.

Got some great Christmas gifts this year, including a dSLR camera and a new lens (still to come), awesome hand-made recipe cards, the second book by Michael Ruhlman, a gift certificate to West, and a pizza stone.

One new recipe I tried this holiday season was amaretto balls. I had somehow gotten myself fixated on rum balls, but when I was finally about to start to make them, A pointed out that we don't have any dark rum. So I adapted the recipe and made amaretto balls instead, which I think is probably better than rum balls anyway.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and if I don't manage to get back here this year, have a very happy 2010!

Amaretto Balls
Adapted from Joy of Cooking (recipe for Bourbon Balls)
Yield: 30 1-inch balls
Print recipe

1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp unsweeted cocoa powder
1/8 cup amaretto
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/4 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup icing sugar

  1. Sift the 1/2 cup icing sugar and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl.

  2. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the amaretto and corn syrup.

  3. Stir the amaretto mixture into the cocoa mixture. Set aside.

  4. Combine the vanilla wafer crumbs (crushed in a food processor) and almonds, and stir into cocoa mixture.

  5. Roll the mixture into balls between palms.

  6. Roll the balls in the 1/4 cup of icing sugar.

  7. Store between layers of wax or parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Current State of Mind

I just worked four straight days of cooking - three game days and one prep day. It was my first prep day at BBC, which was a great experience. The game days go by so fast and there really isn't all that much cooking going on other than at the action stations, so it was good to finally get a chance to slow down a little bit, start from raw ingredients, and see how some of the food actually gets made. It was also the night of the SYTYCDC show, so we got to see their rehearsals during our breaks.

So not only am I physically tired from working so much, but I am also emotionally tired. My parents are writing me emails since they are away (this is in addition to long phone conversations before they left) about how going to cooking school is not a good idea. Their main points are (1) at cooking, I am not using my brain the same way a professional would and since I have been gifted with mathematical skills, I should follow a career path that utilizes those skills, not one that minimizes them, (2) I should finish my exams so that even if I decide to take time away from actuarial work at some point, I will have my designation to fall back on to be able to get a job that much easier in the future, and (3) cooking is a hard life and not condusive to family life.

These things really anger me. I am getting all riled up just writing them down. I understand all of their arguments. Obviously I've thought about them myself. I could offer counterarguments to each of their points: (1) Being a chef is not just peeling potatoes mindlessly all day long. Maybe if my long-term goal was to be a third cook for the rest of my life, I wouldn't use my brain all that much. But a chef doesn't even cook all that much because a chef's job is more about being organized and running all the components of the kitchen and business. I'm pretty sure you need a brain for that. (2) Actuarial work will always be there whether I finish my exams or not. I refuse to waste six more months studying for an exam that I will probably fail because I have no interest in it. (3) Yes, it is hard work and the hours are very different from a typical 9-5 job. But I don't see how that negatively impacts family life. If family is important, I will make time for it no matter what my job is. And if A is supportive, then we will figure out how to make it work and that is all that matters.

But the thing that bothers me the most is that I've told them numerous times that I'm not happy with actuarial work and they keep pushing me to continue. I am very open to listening to their opinions and concerns, but the bottom line is that it's my life. I'm tired of debating and arguing about it. It would be nice if they could just accept my decisions and support them instead of continually trying to convince me to change my mind.

I have also started to see some of the negative sides of cooking. On tv, there are chefs that yell and curse and I somehow decided that was a rare occurrence. But the new sous chef at BBC is definitely a yeller and a curser. He has no filter. It's definitely not something I'm used to working in an office. The people I work with are all pretty different from me too. They are not very well educated, they have a union mentality, they live pay cheque to pay cheque, and many of them have some sort of substance abuse, be it smoking, drinking, or other drugs.

And while I definitely see all the positives about actuarial work, I still feel quite strongly about my current dislike for it. Days at work go by so slowly because I'm so unmotivated - I get in at almost 9am now, and I sometimes spend hours just staring into space or just trying to look busy. I also feel quite strongly about going to cooking school. It is something I've always wanted to do. Anytime anyone has ever asked me what I would do if I wasn't doing actuarial work, my answer has always been have a restaurant. Who knows if the restaurant dream will actually come true, but working in the food industry has so many different possibilities, cooking school is definitely my first step.

I wish I could know whether changing careers is a big mistake or the best decision I will ever make. I wish I knew what to say to my parents to make them understand. But such is life - if everything were easy it wouldn't be worth doing, right?