Sometimes I forget the parameters of nerd-dom. In the kitchen, I can dork-out all day long about perfect puff pastry, or the mechanical hurdles of creating the world’s largest gummy bear. While the occasional line-cook or chef may give me a strange side-glance, it’s generally followed by a tone of resigned collaboration – “To make the world’s largest gummy bear, you’d need to create your own starch mold, but you could probably use a sandbox or something, fill it with starch and do it that way,” pause, “I’m not helping.”
In the real world, people aren’t sure how to react to the world’s largest gummy bear.
I rediscovered this yesterday in class – surrounded by liberal arts types, I was no longer in my element. I am taking a class called “Food in the Arts,” a fascinating course about how food is used and portrayed in performance – we’ve studied Karen Finley, Alicia Rios and beyond. This particular day, we were assigned to bring in some sort of food item and feed the class – an exercise to share stories and also observe the act of feeding as a type of performance in itself – I know, it get’s a little hippy-dippy for me too.
Well, I brought in marshmallows. Why marshmallows? “It’s my favorite hydrocolloid,” I said.
I immediately knew I’d completely lost my audience.
I struggled to keep hold of them by explaining that that gelatin melted in their mouths, and yet maintained structure through protein coagulation and the trapping of air. It was a playful texture – familiar, and yet enticing…. Still, not a soul in the classroom followed me into this realm of culinary darkness.
Side note: Some of you may know that I love puppets…particularly sock puppets. I love sock puppets so dearly that that’s what I made everyone for Christmas two years ago – in addition to a packet, which included their sock puppet’s interests and all of the other sock puppets’ various hobbies and personalities – It was a sock puppet Facebook packet of sorts. I mention this because nothing receives blank stares in the company of strangers as much as sock puppets – except, perhaps gelatin and marshmallow making – not to mention that we have a Vegan in the class, which didn’t help matters.
To give you perspective, an enthusiastic love of marshmallows is not much better received that Boo-boo the Amazing Sock Puppet Creature.
The lesson to this tale is that I am slowly adjusting to graduate school – it’s a different crowd, but I think I could eventually break them – just get me some sugar, gelatin, socks and googly-eyes.