Sunday, 29 April 2012

Done like dinner

The first part of my week went by in a blink it was the last half of the week where life got really crazy.

At work on Thursday I spent the morning hand chopping 15 pounds of peanuts for peanut brittle. We don’t have a fancy food processing machine to do our chopping for us so Larry the cook handed me a chef knife, 15 pounds of crunchy peanuts and told me to chop. So I chopped and chopped and chopped, but I didn’t mind it in the least. I have acquired great skills in chopping various types food while attending culinary school so I was glad to be able to put my new skills to good use. As I chopped I must have sang through every Disney song known to man and even squeezed in some Doris Day hits. When my right arm got tired from chopping I switched the knife to left and found I could chop just as efficiently with my left! I am an ambidextrous singing peanut chopper! I should take this talent to the streets and make a few extra dollars this summer.

On Thursday night PEI had the honour of welcoming two beautiful and handsome people. You may know them as the Ma and Pa Kettle of Bruce county or the Lord and Lady of the Ritsema Homestead, but I know them as Mom and Dad. I am very blessed to have such wonderful parents that would fly all the way to PEI to visit me for my college graduation! It was quite literally a whirl wind of adventure while they were here. Just because it was a special occasion doesn’t mean the Island has to be nice in the weather department. On Friday I took my parents out to the Avonlea Village in Cavendish to show them where I worked. I packed us bagged lunches and assorted goodies for the trip as well as rain boots and umbrellas. It was pouring rain with a wicked wind. After showing mom and dad around the chocolate shop we ventured out to Cavendish beach hoping that we could find some epic view or solace from the wind. The beach is open land, water, and air and that rain and wind just hurled itself harder at us. Mom and I braved the elements with rubber boots and rain jackets and were determined to make the best of the beach no matter the sour weather. Dad stood still mostly, shoulders hugging his ears and the hood of his sweater snuggly tied around his face blocking him from he brunt of the weather. Mom slipped on a pair of gloves and proceeded to pick every sea shell off the beach she could carry. I strolled confidently on the beach determined to find beauty amidst the anger of the stormy day. It was a success all around.

Friday evening we were treated to a BBQ at the college where staff, students, and parents could all mingle. I introduced my parents to the Chefs and then we proceeded to dine a fantastic feast of chicken, potatoes, three different types of salad, mussels, hamburgers, more vegetables than you can shake a stick at, corn bread and even an entire pig! They were even serving a choice selection of beer and spirits. I would say the dessert section was equally fabulous but with all of us pasty students graduated and out of the kitchen the dessert table was covered by Sara Lee, the queen of store bought cakes and desserts.  After a fabulous dinner Mom, Dad and I strolled down by the board walk and capture a skyful of beautiful angry storm clouds rolling in to chase Charlottetown into hiding. But we weren’t tired yet and stayed one step ahead of the storm. I took my parents to the opposite side of the harbour and we explored the quick developing Stratford, the sister town to Charlottetown. We meandered through the streets of large, expensive and beautiful homes and I may or may not have had to trespass in order to get some beautiful pictures of the light houses at dusk.

Saturday morning brought my last and formal graduation ceremony. With hard work, your prayers, lots of laughter, a few tears, blood, sweat, and burns I have graduated from the Culinary Institute of Canada with a Pastry Arts diploma. So if you need a cake or loaf of bread, you know who to call.

The day of graduation was nerve racking and exciting as all of my graduations have been, but this one in particular gave me an exceptional case of the jitters. I had the honour of opening the graduation ceremonies by singing the national anthem with a 36 piece band. It was thrilling! The band did a marvelous job playing a steady red and white rhythm, and the conductor was kind and gave me a wink of encouragement just before I opened my mouth to sing the first line. I admit my legs were shaking, probably from a combination of nerves, excitement, pride and disbelief.

Graduation was relaxed and the rowdiness throughout the ceremony was spurred on by the culinary and pastry students, hooting, hollering, and applauding at any chance we could. Our quest speaker of honour was Chef Michael Smith and he gave an inspiring speech about the delicate and difficult balance of career, family, and caring for strangers. All of the programs that graduated on Saturday specialized in hospitality and the unconditional care of anyone who walks through our doors. Along side pastry and culinary arts graduates were hotel management, gulf club management, and tourism and travel. It was a wonderful graduation and felt more like a party than a stuffy stiff necked ceremony. I have had a fabulous year at culinary school and learned so much. I will miss Chef Richard and Chef Christian the most though and all of the shenanigans my fellow class mates and I have gotten into in the kitchen this year. If I had one disappointment or regret about this year it would be this: I wish I had more kitchen injuries. I know that sounds silly, but one sugar burn or knife wound would be a badge of honour. Some of my friends got sugar burns, decent sized knife cuts, and one even caught fire, and all I have to show for 8 months in the kitchen is heat resistant fingers from constantly burning them on hot crème anglaise pots and a super power sense of smell. I suppose in the hind sight of things its better to have a super sense of smell than a sugar burn scar that lasts for years.

After the graduation ceremony was complete and I had exhausted my camera with oodles of pictures of friends and family, mom, dad and I packed up the rental car once again with a survival kit for the day and we made our way to Brackley Beach. It is rumoured to be the best place to go beach combing. I don’t know if that rumour is true because it was too cold and winding to make it 20 feet down the sand to put my beach combing skills to good use, not to mention the wind was so strong that you got sand blasted just standing there. And on top of all that delightful weather we had a sprinkle of festive seasoning with snow! We couldn’t have stayed more than a few hours at Brackley Beach and most of that time was spent in the car admiring the angry waves and sand dunes from its the comfort and warmth. But coffee time with donuts at Tim Hortons and a special dinner at an Italian restaurant made it all worth it. You can be sure that after two and half overwhelming days of joy, love, fellowship and pride I will sleep well tonight.

So here I am, a college graduate. Not only that but a university and college graduate. And after 18 years of schooling including elementary and high school I am officially and completely done school. I will not be returning to school anytime soon, at least not for a degree or masters program, but the idea of taking some night classes for social event planning, interior design, or cello lessons isn’t too far fetched me but I won’t be dabbling into that for a few years. For right now I am looking forward to the next step in my life: falling in love, building a house, growing peach trees and having six kids. 

A happy pair of Oompa Loompas

Save some sea shells for everyone else, Mom 

Mom and Dad having a wonderful day at the beach

I may or may not have trespassed to take this photo


Chef Richard, myself, and Chef Christian

My friend Lindsay and I hashing it out one last time with big mixer

Here comes the storm

It's cold, windy, and snowing, a perfect day to go to the beach!

Mom, myself, and Dad, a very proud moment for all of us.

Joelle Glori-Anne Ritsema, certified Pastry Chef! 

I am REALLY happy to be done school!

Thank you so much and God bless. I couldn't have done it without YOU!

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