While some people find speaking to their peers concerning topics they are knowledgeable to be enjoyable, I have yet to find this to be the case in my personal experience. I understand that communicating is part of my job, part of life, I’ve yet to find it enjoyable to stand in front of even the smallest group of people and preach to them my ideas, I mean, who the hell am I to be telling them this or that??? Well, by golly, people actually want to hear what I have to say when it comes to cooking!!! While I’ve spent the past few years battling with young line cooks, badgering them, beating them up with my opinion and ideas about how things in the kitchen should be run, placed, or cooked, fighting teeth and nail, BOOM.... on a pleasant Sunday afternoon every single person in attendance is intent on listening to exactly what it involves to make strawberry lemon-aid. Talk about a shock. It was less than 24 hours before that I had, what I call a, ‘Chef-fit" in which doors and pans got slammed and knocked around the kitchen, and this was all concerning the portioning of noodles! Wow, these people are willing to listen to me without having to throw things around and cause a scene. What a pleasant dispatch from my normal communication efforts.
Nerves, what nerves? It is slightly twisted that on my way to the 11 am food demo, it was raining quite hard. I began to wonder if the show would go on at all it was raining so hard. In a very shallow, self-centered way I sighed, "well, at least there won’t be a big crowd" ha ha ha. The clouds parted as if they had been paid to do so, and a ray of sun brought a slight glow to the market has hundreds, yes hundreds of people arrived. I felt slightly nervous in the car, in the rain, thinking I would do a demo for 5 lost soles in the mist of a thunderstorm, but all that went away. I think the hospitality of Steve and Molly helped a lot. The fact I was setting up, and working along, chopping berries, and tasting the lemon-aid, and slicing bread made the fact that people where approaching me and we spoke about what I was doing seemed all to familiar, and comfortable to a point.
I spoke to a few people who of whom we had common acquaintances which was very nice. We started to sample the lemon-aid promptly, and a fair crowd formed around the punch bowl. In some way I felt sorry for the food truck behind me selling soda pop cans, oh well. I was preceded by an Irish Dance Troupe with was very well received, with a large crowd gathered around. It was at this point I realized, no rain, no 5 lost soles, I was going to do it, and damned if I wasn’t brim with confidence. My parents gazed from the back, as I made eye contact with most of the crowd, it actually felt like they where listening, not just standing there waiting for a hand out. I spoke about the lemon-aid since people couldn’t get enough, I mean they where ladling it out the whole time I spoke, I didn’t mind, it was action, and that is what I’m used to, multiple things going on at one time. Second we talked about pickling cucumbers, which everyone listened but no one comprehended because I was asked the very simple recipie about 30 more times in the next hour. Finally, the one hot item.
I had a pot on the butane burner because I contemplated heating up a pickling liquid, and dumping some cukes in, but I aborted that as people seemed the least interested in the cucumbers. Well, the pot was very hot, and I took it off the burner after about 10 minutes, it was smoking, and set it on the plastic table!! What a joy that became about 30 minutes later.
Fortunatly at the time it didn’t cause a scene. I made a very simple warm strawberry-goat cheese bruschetta, with local honey and thyme. People where amazed that you would cook a strawberry, I quickly made the analogy to jam, and things smoothed over. Then the cheese, we talked about cheese substatutes, and if you didn’t want to use cheese....I just agreed that everyone had a great idea. Just as the pan got hot and the berries got juicy in the pan 3 small children are standing next to me, I’m thinking, "for god’s sake don’t let me burn these little bastards" so I grabed the tongs there I had already deligated to picking the cucumbers out of the pickle, and to be honest this became the biggest issue of the day. I figured since I touched every single slice of cucumber in the pickle, why shouldn’t anyone just reach in and get a slice, well, no, we needed tongs, which I’m sure is better in the long run. I finished the first batch of brushetta, and all of a sudden I felt like I was at a rowdy soccer match with people pushing up from the back for a taste of strawberry brushetta. I decided to quickly ask for any public questions, and finished with a plea to come forward patiently with any queries assuring to a personal confrontation.
My nerves didn’t kick in until I answered the same question of, "what was in the pickling liquid again, I forgot?" 30 times or, "what restaurant are you from again?" 50 times, even though it was printed on my t-shirt. In the mean time the fact that I solidified my pot to the table came back to haunt me. I twisted and pried, my father tried a knife, my mother laughed in the corner, and finally my sister pried it off with as little damage as possible. Thanks again!!! A quick 40 minute tirade of fact exchange, and my loving crowd is off to sniff the flowers. Thanks crowd for my first public cooking demo.
Maybe I’ve turned the corner. Maybe I’m not infinitely scared of public speaking after all. Maybe I will succeed at this again in the future? ......yes, I think the answer is yes.