I did something tonight I haven't done in... well, since The Lad was born. I shed tears of joy.
It happened as I was recounting something that happened at school today. This week in our Garde Manger class, we've been covering charcuterie, smoking and curing meats, confits and rillettes. This has carried over into our restaurant lab (we operate a restaurant on campus) where we have been featuring a lot of the products we made in Garde Manger on our menu. I mentioned to Chef Clive that I had a recipe for smoked fish that I inherited from my great-grandfather, and he had me go ahead and try it on some salmon we had on hand. I brined and smoked it today, and wrapped it up to refrigerate until next Wednesday, when I plan to serve it as the lunch special -- I'm going to make smoked salmon reubens, an idea I got from work this summer. But before I put it away, I set some aside for the rest of my classmates to sample.
Only a few of them had a chance to do so before our other instructor, Chef Chris, stopped by. I decided to offer him a sample, and handed him the ingredient bowl with the salmon and a tasting spoon. He proceeded to eat the entire thing. He then handed the bowl back to me to take to the dish pit, and said, "That's pretty good."
That's all he said. No raving about it, no details about what was good about it, just "That's pretty good".
But the thing is, that'sthe first time he's commented on anything I've cooked without offering suggestions for improvement. I know why he does it -- he wants us to continue to imporve, he wants us to learn and grow and do our best and build on what we've learned. But after a while the constant critique weighs on you, it gets painful to offer something that you've put your efforts and soul into, only to be told what you've done wrong.
But not this time. It was pretty good. Not great, not amazing, not awesome or "Oh my LORD!", but pretty good -- good enough to not mention how it fell short. And that was huge. I've heard of being damned with faint praise, but this time, I was elevated with it.
It felt good to be good. Even just pretty good.