I'm at a pivotal point in my collegiate career and I've been doing a whole lot of last minute self-examination. Do I really want to be a sociologist? Is that what's going to make me happiest? Is it what's best for my family?
I was verbally processing these concerns a couple months ago when The Husband threw a question my way.
"If money, time, and location were not a concern, what would you do?"
Without a hesitation, and much to my surprise, I answered, "I'd go to pastry school and open up a vegan bakery." And the seed was planted.
I tried my best to ignore the flood of excitement and ideas about such a fantastical notion and applied myself as best as I could to the task of finishing out the semester and doing well on my finals.
But as soon as school ended, the idea would not be denied. So, I talked to The Husband about it and shared some of my thoughts with him and he absolutely loved it! Even though no decisions were (or have) been made, we were both all in dither about the possibilities.
So, I researched culinary schools in my area, found one that would suit my needs, and scheduled an appointment for a tour. The woman I spoke to on the phone was friendly and positive, even after I told her that I'm vegan and intended to make that my niche.
The night before the tour, I was in my cake decorating class and mentioned my plans to my instructor. Turns out she attended the same school, also as a student of the pastry program there. I immediately began probing for details.
She gave the school a glowing review and I was feeling really good until she started talking about the class in which she had to boil a lobster alive.
So I asked ... "In the baking and pastry program?"
"Do all pastry students have to take that class?"
"Yes," she said. She went on to explain that every culinary student, no matter what program they are in, has to complete a series of introductory course that include making animal stocks (beef, poultry, fish, and veal) along with sautéing, roasting, poaching, braising, and frying all manner of animals.
My heart sunk into my stomach.
So the next night, I was quick to address my concerns with the woman in the admissions office. I reminded her that I'm vegan and very clearly explained what I was and was not willing to do. It went something like this...
I will not touch meat, poultry, or fish. Though it makes me uncomfortable, while in school I'm willing to cook with animal products like dairy and eggs, just to learn how they work in food with the intention of determining the best substitutions for various types of baked goods and pastries.
She understood and said she thought they'd be able to work with me on it, but that she'd have to ask the head of the department. So we toured the school, which was very nice, and I left hopeful and excited.
Unfortunately, she called two days later to inform me that they would not be able to accommodate me. Despite the fact that they work around students' food allergies, they would not be willing to train me to be a pastry chef if I was unwilling to work with meat in my first few courses.
I was so bummed! Here I was willing to pay them over $50k for a 21 month baking and pastry degree program and they weren't willing to budge.
So now I'm at a crossroad. I can ...
- ... research the only other culinary school in my area and see if they'd be willing to train me.
- ... devise my own curriculum and be self-taught.
- ... stick with my sociology major.
Not only do I have some decisions to make, but I'm really upset. My cake decorating teacher told me that there were vegetarians in her class that hung back when the time came to drop the live lobster into the boiling water. This makes me so angry. Perhaps if these other vegetarians possessed the courage of their convictions, I wouldn't have been the first person to ever tell them they'd be unwilling to work with meat while attending their school.
Yeah ... you read that right. The woman in the admissions office told me that to her knowledge, I'm the only person that's ever asked for an ethical exception.
And in case you were wondering, no ... I'm not blind to my own hypocrisy here. How can I really be angry with these other, anonymous vegetarians for not speaking their minds when I was willing to work with animals ingredients myself? I think I had it in my brain that it would make it easier for them if I compromised. That was just me trying not to rock the boat.
But screw that! I'm so over that now.
If I do tour another culinary school, I won't offer the same consolation. I'm stickin' to my vegan guns and quite honestly, leaning toward the self-taught route at this point.
So there ... I finally shared my news.
If anyone out there has any insights or thoughts on the matter, I'd love to hear them. Until then, I'll just continue taking my cake decorating classes and working on veganizing my favorite baking recipes.
C'mon culinary schools, y'all need to offer vegetarian and vegan course tracks!