About

“Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simple or luxurious. Then you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”

― Julia ChildMastering the Art of French Cooking

 

Hello and welcome to An Uneducated Palate.  

It’s not an easy task to teach yourself to be a great cook. You can follow a recipe, master a technique, and watch all the Food Network programming in the world, but if you’ve never tasted a perfectly cooked version of the dish you’re attempting to cook, you’ll never really know if you’ve got it right. A glossy photo in a cookbook can guide you visually and a well-written recipe can teach you the steps, but neither one can convey the sensory qualities the finished dish should have – qualities like flavour, smell and texture.

Case in point ~ Blackberry Clafoutis. Traditionally made with cherries, clafoutis is a classic French dessert, and since I’m a bit of a French food fanatic, I wanted to give it a try. I found a scaled-down recipe-for-one that swapped blackberries for cherries, followed it exactly, and baked it in the oven for about 30 minutes, until browned and puffed. It tasted very good but the texture surprised me. It was a bit spongy and wet inside, like a soufflé or pudding. Maybe I should have cooked it a little longer. Maybe not. What is the right consistency for clafoutis anyway? I have no idea because I have nothing to compare it to.

Proper seasoning is another very important piece of the palate puzzle, and almost impossible to learn from a cookbook or television show. Most professional chefs agree that it is the key to creating truly memorable food.

julia-child-tasting-opCase in point ~ The French ChefIn almost every episode, we see Julia standing at the stove with one hand behind her back, the other holding her tasting spoon, and speaking in her very distinct voice, she instructs us to “taste it very, very, VERY carefully!”. I’ve performed this tasting ritual many times, just as she instructed. (I’ve even tried placing my left hand behind my back to see if that gesture held some magical power), but without a reference point, I still have absolutely no idea if the seasoning is correct.

Developing your palate is such a vital part of culinary training that it’s built into the curriculum at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Students there attend demonstration classes in the morning where they watch the teaching chef’s techniques in detail. The demonstrations then end with a tasting. In the afternoon, the students must recreate the recipes from the morning’s demonstration, with only their notes and their palates to guide them. These aspiring culinarians even carry little tasting spoons tucked into special pockets on the sleeves of their jackets so they always have one handy!

I’m not a full-time culinary student and I don’t live in France, but that doesn’t mean I can’t become a superstar in my kitchen! There are still plenty of opportunities to develop my palate (as well as my talent) by learning from culinary professionals, in professional grade kitchens around the world. Come along with me on a culinary adventure as I explore a variety of cooking classes and styles, demonstrations, workshops and maybe even some intensive boot-camp style programs. I’ll also be checking out fresh food markets, gourmet food shops, restaurants, food and wine festivals, and conferences looking for new foods and flavour combinations to help me create new taste memories.  And when I’m not out exploring, I’ll be in my kitchen cooking because…

“…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”

― Julia ChildMy Life in France

My culinary journey began in earnest on September 24, 2011 when I boarded a plane for Paris, France and embarked on the trip of a lifetime!

If you’d like to come along on the adventure, I’d love to have the company. You can subscribe here to receive notification of new posts by email, or use the social media icons at the top of the page to follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.

 

24 Comments

  1. good luck to your blog goals – I’m sure many bloggers will enjoy to follow you and your culinary hints …

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  2. I am very jealous about your Cordon Bleu experience – I wanted to do the patisserie course in London but couldn’t do it as well as a job as it’s a full-time course. Good luck with your blog – the truffle post is very interesting.

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    • I heard they are opening a beautiful new campus in London next month. Maybe some day you’ll find a way.

      I don’t know what’s a bigger hurdle for me. The time away from work or the tuition. I bought their Level I Cuisine Foundations textbooks while I was in Paris but that’s not quite the same as being there :-)

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  3. I wanted to thank you for following my blog and to wish you a wonderful holiday season.

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    • Thanks for stopping by Karen. We share a love of food and travel, and your posts are always a pleasure to read.

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  4. Great photos and recipes. You might like some of what we do as well with culinary trips. The problem is that while you can make the recipes here, the products themselves are of a different quality and so we can’t really get the nuanced flavor -absent the terroir!

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    • Thanks for stopping by. I took a quick look at your blog and that had me missing Paris all over again, and after having such an amazing time in the City of Light, I know I want to see more of France in the future. I’m looking forward to spending a little more time getting to know you, your blog and your website!

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  5. Wow, a 17 day culinary trip. Sounds absolutely delicious. Will definitely be checking in from time to time :-) Thanks for stopping by my photo blog!

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    • It was awesome! I hope to do it again next year but in Italy…or Spain. Thanks for stopping by :-)

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  6. Enjoyed reading about your trip in Paris and your walking through the Ritz. I just watched Midnight in Paris last night with my daughter and her husband so could envision you there.

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    • I loved that movie (especially the Hemingway character). Thanks for stopping by.

      Happy New Year!

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  7. Wow! That must have been an amazing experience! I totally agree about the “salt to taste” thing. I love cooking too, but I’m such a recipe follower that the vague measurement always worries me.

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  8. Laura, I’m so glad you liked the photo of the sailboats on the canal. You’re the first one to comment on my blog. Thank you.
    I envy you being in Paris. A year ago, I had 3 weeks alone in Paris. Not as a foodie, but as a student researcher. I think about France every day. Trish

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    • Trish – the photo is really wonderful, as is your father’s painting. I’m glad you shared them.

      It’s been almost three months since I’ve been home from Paris, and I’m just like you. I think about it every day. It’s just so different than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

      Oh – and I love your idea to translate French stories to English too!

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  9. Thank you for visiting my blog. So glad to have found another Okanagan dweller, although I am from the UK. There is so much food and fruit in this wonderful valley to enjoy. I am enthralled by your recipies and will be looking to see what you come up with and how I can try them out for myself.

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    • Nice to meet you Kate!

      I’m also from somewhere else (California) and have lived in the Okanagan for the last eleven years. I love it here in the spring, summer and fall, but admit that I would be happier if I could spend the winters somewhere else. Thank goodness its behind us now until next year.

      Your photography is dazzling! One of these days I’d love to learn how to use a ‘real’ camera instead of relying entirely on my iPhone.

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Laura

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  10. I can see I’m going to develop a bad case of Need-Some-Western-Gourmet-Food when I follow you on your journeys:) Usually I’m very happy to explore the intricacies of Sri Lankan cooking, but sometimes …

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  11. I took art classes a few years ago and had to paint standing over a table. I had a brush in one hand, painting, and my other hand, if I rested it on the table next to the work, was in my line of vision as if it wanted to be part of my picture, so I’d put that hand behind my back. The teacher said this was a good thing to do. However, it didn’t make me a better artist because I still can’t draw to save my life. So putting your hand behind your back when you cook (probably) won’t make the dish better. You’ll just have to return to France to do some taste testing.

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  12. Nice blog Laura and I like your introduction. You make valid points about cooking and the experience of food. I think I may meet you in person tonight at the Kraze Legs Winery event.
    Ciao,
    Dina

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    • Thanks very much Dina! I’m really looking forward to meeting you and enjoying a fun night with new friends, food and wine (assuming I don’t get lost!)
      :-)

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