Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I'll Take This Over an Apple Any Day

On Monday afternoon I met with one of my reading classes--a small class of only twelve students. Two of the students in that class are members of the college's culinary arts program, which has its own building up on top of the hill that looks out over the lake. In there, they toast and roast and possibly broast all kinds of food, which then gets sold in the campus bookstore or shipped off to elderly shut-ins.

I had concerns about that last thing. "What happens," I asked one of the students, "if what you guys did that day ends up all gross and inedible?"

"They throw it out," he assured me. "Oh, don't worry. We don't pack that stuff off and send it to the elderly."

This conversation sort of established this student as my go-to guy for the rest of the semester. He will be the guy to whom I direct all my silly questions about the culinary arts program--questions like, "Can I come over on brownie day and stick my head in the industrial sized bowl to lick it clean?" (The answer, I'm guessing, is probably No.)

Because of this, he is also the guy who hears all my whining during class, which runs right up to 5:00, the time when my stomach usually decides to collapse on itself.

"I'm huuungry," I will announce. I give my culinary arts students pointed looks. "Did you bring your teacher anything today?"

They shake their heads, say no. No, there's nothing to eat.

"But," the boy says, "you should know we made banana bread today in class, and mine turned out really good." He's had good luck lately with the sweet breads. Some cranberry concoction they produced in class also went his way.

Normally I will always announce that he's killing me, just absolutely killing me with all this talk of sweet breads (or cakes or cookies or pies), but on Monday I didn't have to. That's because he wasn't killing me with his descriptions of his latest culinary creations. Instead, he was walking up to me after class and sliding a cellophaned package of cookies onto the lectern.

"I got you both kinds we made today," he said. "The chocolate chip are mine. They turned out better."

Over my four years of teaching, I've gotten some creative gifts from students (a Tibetan picture frame, a giant Christmas ornament, a peanut butter pie from Denny's), but this one was really quite good--after all, the kid made it with his own hands and then filched it from the pile destined for the elderly shut-ins.

"They turned out better because they're yours," I told him. I figured a little sucking might get me a permanent spot on his list of people who get his leftover practice food.

"No," he said, "it's just a better recipe is all." Then he smiled, told me to enjoy, and was on his way out the door.

I flipped the cookies over in my palm and unwrapped the cellophane. I already had the chocolate chip cookie halfway down my throat when, in a panic, my student stuck his head around the corner and said, "Oh God! They have pecans in them! Are you allergic?! I forgot to tell you!"

I swallowed. "No, no," I told him. "Not allergic. And I love pecans, so we're good." He was off the hook. He didn't kill his English teacher. And so he went on his way--maybe off to another class, some class that instructs him on grilling and braising and broiling.

I ate the rest of the cookie and the other one in less than a minute's time, even though I told myself I was going to save one for later. I couldn't help it, though. That much sweetness? It's just too good to save.


Joe said...

JJ Dufresne would probably love that cookie.

You should send him a care package.

Diana said...

Hey! Hi Joe! You have no idea how happy you've made me! It's been a long time since we've had a JJ-fan.

Jess, maybe we need to update Joe on JJ's particulars.

Jess said...

It's true--JJ would love that cookie (or ANY cookie). Since I already ate those cookies, perhaps a care package is in order. I think maybe JJ could use a good double chocolate chunk brownie cookie.

I miss JJ.

Diana said...

I could use a good double chocolate chunk brownie cookie.

Joe said...

I randomly stumbled across the JJ blog and spent a couple hours of my work day reading the entire frigging thing.

You ladies are very funny.

I hope you are enjoying Maine.

Beware the biting black flies in summer.

North Conway, New Hamster or Portland will probably have to meet your shopping needs, depending on proximity....

Anne said...

Oh Jess, I feel your pain. Here in Auckland the food science department is located on my floor in the science building. I spend my afternoons in the lab smelling fresh bread baking. Oh the agony. Bread is my weakness. They had a food survey a couple weeks ago where they needed volunteers to try their products and give feedback. I got 3 yummy slices of fresh, oven baked goodness bread. It was glorious.