life with cerebral palsy

Some bumps and bruises, reflection and smashed cookies…

During class (and usually day-to-day life in general), I like to blend in. I mind my own business and try very hard to get my work done in the four hours we usually have for production in this Cookies and Petit Fours class. Most of the time, I do just fine.

cpf1When I fought back to be able to come here and got what I wanted it was absolutely a dream come true. It still is. I wasn’t concerned about my safety at all like some of the administrators seemed to be. My first course, Classic Pastry, came and went without any problems (except that I didn’t finish my practical in the allotted time. But I’m going to chalk that up to not knowing what to expect, instead of me just moving too slowly). Undoubtedly, the most frustrating thing about living with CP is losing my balance. Every day, I know it’s only a matter of time before something happens in a lab and I fall. I couldn’t believe that I had gotten through the first nine-day class without falling.

So I would just keep going along making my cookies and brownies just like everybody else. But let me tell you, there’s no better way to attract attention than to grab my sheet pan of baked cookies off a rack, try to turn around, catch the pan on the oven and fall backwards, spewing the cookies all over the floor. See, when other people drop stuff, it’s like, “Oh, shoot, I’m so clumsy and I just tripped and dropped a pan of cookies. Whoops.” And nobody really notices. And then when I drop stuff I usually end up making a ton of noise trying to catch either myself or whatever product I’m carrying – today it was the latter – grabbing on to whatever I can reach. And everyone’s always like, “Erica! Ohmygoshareyouokay??” Which is understandable, but embarrassing. For the first time I was so grateful to have an instructor who’s quite strict and doesn’t particularly favor anyone. He saw everyone else react and from the other side of the room he asked, “You okay, cheffie?” I gave a prompt “Yes Chef!” and that was that. Works for me.


My grade for today’s production of smashed checkerboard cookies is still to be decided, but I don’t have high expectations. Those darn things took me three days to finish so I was pretty devastated when they hit the floor. I know it’s not about grades. This whole experience – from the time I made the decision to teach Miami a thing or two about ADA law to graduation  – is all about learning.

cpf2But what about when I finish school and I start working? What Pastry Chef is going to be happy about a full sheet pan of labor-intensive cookies hitting the floor? I constantly try to push those thoughts out of my head. It’s a question that’ll never have a good answer. Mistakes happen, sure. But I can still remember being called a liability by a chef that I interned for a few years ago, and each time a perfectly good product hits the ground, it’s a reminder that my mistakes are being scrutinized a little more closely than anyone else’s.

Today’s post isn’t upbeat and colorful and positive. But it’s real. I fell in love with an industry requiring speed, precision, and artistic talent, and every day’s a challenge when my biggest concern is staying upright. But I still love it. I love pastry, I’m loving Providence, and it has absolutely been worth all the trouble to get to Johnson & Wales. I’ll put today behind me and get ready to tackle another week of opportunities. Tomorrow starts a two-day demo with King Arthur Flour’s own Martin Phillips – have I mentioned how much I love this school?