AVIVA KARDENER- It’s 12:30am, and I just got home from my first day at my internship with Apunto, a cooking school in the barrio called Chueca, about a fifteen minute walk from the program center. My work in this internship is an opportunity to further engage and immerse myself in Spanish culture throughout my semester here. This is largely because of the fact that I believe food is culture. It is a unique way to connect with a culture. In every bite, the flavors, spices, and herbs bring up feelings and images that lead to a greater appreciation of the culture, history, and traditions that have led to the dish in front of you.
I have spent the last seven hours in the energetic, albeit organized, chaos, learning the basics of everything from the names of my coworkers—at least as many as possible, putting together and prepping all the materials for each cooking class, setting up the workspaces for the students, helping out in the classes—and absorbing as much as I could by watching and listening. Then came the aftermath: the incredibly impressive team sport of cleaning up. In such a short amount of time, I have learned quite a great number of new vocabulary related to kitchen items and their various locations in the studio, though I will need to be reminded of the great majority of these. But, most importantly, I have learned to stop and ask questions when I am lost or confused about anything that has just been said or requested of me. This is key to my ability to be helpful rather than be in the way of normal day to day operations.
I sure chose a hullabaloo of a first day to begin working here. Tonight was a special one at Apunto. We had a very important chef from a restaurant with a Michelin Star for what is called “showcooking.” Basically, it’s a demonstration of his top quality cooking to the people of Madrid, and it was all filmed with special filming lights and a camera crew. Meanwhile, upstairs in the second kitchen it was the first day of a three month beginners course of traditional foods. While I have spent a fair amount of time watching cooking shows and trying recipes, I have never taken an actual cooking class. It was a unique and interesting experience to observe this class, as a non-native speaker, in particular for its special attention to the basics of knife skills and preventative safety measures. And watching the beginners practicing their chopping on clean, empty cutting boards was an adorable and entertaining added bonus. After the course, I even found myself discussing the difference between the agricultural system in the United States—dominated by factory farming—and other parts of the world while cleaning, drying, and putting away dishes with a coworker.
I’ve already been gifted a nickname from one of the chefs who teaches courses, and I know that with this great honor comes a great responsibility—putting my time, energy, and best foot forward in my work at Apunto. I am very excited to see the progress I make through this internship, of my knowledge of food and cooking, my comfort with the Spanish language, and my development of friendships with interesting and fun locals of different age ranges.