Onion soup: A classic well-known French dish that everyone knows, loves and consumes. Made of caramelized onions and beef stock, Soupe à l’oignon is heart-warming with melted cheese and croutons or slices of toasted baguette. Fairly easy to make by yourself at home as well as other traditional recipes, such as boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin, salade niçoise, quiche lorraine, and ratatouille.
A more complex dish could be Confit de Canard, a specific process of cooking duck in its own fat, at just the right temperature, in order to keep the flesh soft and succulent without drying it out. Delicious in the end, but a somewhat strenuous time during the making.
Then there is the so-called gastronomic genius of Lièvre à la Royale: The wild rabbit (hare) is de-boned and skinned, without breaking apart the meat, and marinated for up to a day in red wine and vegetables. It is stuffed with mixture of truffles, goose foie gras, minced chicken and pork, wrapped in pork fat, braised in the wine marinade, which is then thickened by the blood of the hare. You cannot get anymore French than that. As a Muslim, I believe this may be the most anti-Islam dish ever created by man.
My Le Cordon Bleu experience was enlightening and fulfilling to say the least. I quit my unsuccessful, disenchanting love life, a career in the newspaper industry, and ran away from the chaotic world called Egypt to Canada. A place where I’ll attempt to acquire the “Canadian Dream”.
Throughout the 9-month Diplome d’Cuisine course, I’ve attempted to acquire the valuable culinary skills bestowed upon the world by the French. I learned more about myself and my potential capabilities in the culinary industry, which I cannot quite define as of yet. The decision to join the culinary field has thrown me way out of my introverted comfort zone.
When I began the learning process, I didn’t have any expectations, as I preferred to go with the flow, keeping an open mind and taking in whatever was offered. Le Cordon Bleu’s reputation preceded itself, and I had known that being in the culinary field was an intense and pressure-filled experience. Yet, as I’ve never been in that type of working environment, I had a difficult time adapting to the pace.
Cooking at home is drastically different than cooking professionally. All the talent that I thought I had in the kitchen, due the compliments that I received about my culinary delights, were totally nit-picked and destroyed in front of the mentor French chefs. A total blow to my self-esteem.
Like their language, the French made their cuisine so (somewhat unnecessarily) complicated, which generally uses a hand-full of the same basic ingredients to add flavour: Mire Poix, Bouquet Garni, white or red wine and stock. However, after centuries of perfected practices to please royalty and the people, they know what they’re doing.
Coming from a Mediterranean background, I am used to strong flavours of Middle Eastern and Indian spices and the rustic plating of food. If you give an Egyptian a Frenched-up plate of food, consisting of a tiny good-looking piece of meat in the middle of a large white plate with some sauce and garnish, I guarantee you they will be insulted. Tummy full, but still insulted. We tend to over-eat.
In conclusion, here I am and hopefully will continue to produce and inspire myself and others in life full of uncertainties. But one thing I know for certain: I will never accept the use of animal blood as a thickening agent in sauces. Also, why is it an option to murder thousands of frogs just to eat their legs? They don’t even taste that good.