12.26.2009

A Month of Firsts

Sorry it's taken me so long to update! Honestly, my day to day classroom activities haven't been particularly exciting. Therefore, I've decided to highlight the more exciting bits from the last month or so through a list of "firsts" that I've had either in class or in New England.


  • I roasted my first whole chicken. For our practical exam in New World Cuisine, each student had to make pomme frites, grilled vegetables, a grilled pork chop and a whole roasted chicken with pan gravy. FYI - 18 roasted chickens feeds a lot of people.
  • I finished my first trimester of culinary school. That one is still hard for me to believe. 11 weeks down. 22 to go! (Although now it's more like 19 to go...) Below is a class picture from our last day together. Since this picture was taken, I've started a new term with almost all new faces.


  • I failed a uniform inspection...sort of. The class that I'm in the middle of right now is called Meatcutting, and my instructor is arguably the strictest instructor in the school. No one received perfect marks for the uniform on day one so I can't beat myself up too much. On the first day, however, my instructor demonstrated with an iron and ironing board how he expects us to iron our uniform each day. Needless to say, it takes me a minimum of an hour and half each day to get my uniform looking up to par.

  • I was yelled at for the first time. My first class of the new trimester was Purchasing and Product Identification. Basically, we spent 6 hours a day in the Johnson and Wales pantry learning to identify ingredients only based on sight. We also had to put together bins of requested ingredients for all of the other ongoing classes in the university. On one of the first days of this class, my group needed 1 bunch of basil for our bin. I filled a lunch-sized paper bag halfway with basil leaves. We continued to gather the rest of our ingredients until the bin was completed. When one of the TAs was checking the bin, she yelled out in front of the entire storeroom (instructors, TAs and whoever else happened to be listening) that someone from my group hadn't gotten enough basil. I owned up to my mistake, and then she proceeded to make fun of my in front of the class.


  • My first New England snow! Yes, the winter has begun, and it's snowed a few times since I've been here. My northern friends insist that what I've seen is only a dusting and the worst (or best depending on how you look at it) is yet to come.


  • I went home for the first time since the end of August. After a long few months away from home, I finally returned home for Thanksgiving and am now home again for Christmas. There really is no other place like home for the holidays.


  • I bought my first snow brush and first ice scraper. If only some of you could have seen my poor, pathetic self wandering around Wal-Mart trying to find the ice scrapers. I must have searched this one aisle for a solid 20 minutes before I realized that there was an entire de-icing/snow brush/ice scraper section a few aisles over. I bought lots of snow protection gear for my car, but I'm not entirely sure how to use all of it yet.


  • I used the snow brush and ice scraper for the first time. I was pretty excited about doing this for the first time because I thought that I would feel like a real New Englander. Instead, my hands went numb halfway through the process and I accidentally brushed snow onto my pants which then melted all over me.

  • I met my first famous chef. Chef Marcus Samuelsson, executive chef of New York City's Aquavit, came to perform a demo at Johnson and Wales. I'm a member of a club which volunteers around the university for open houses, community classes, and demos so I had the opportunity to work with him in the kitchen! I was incredibly nervous because the only time I had ever seen him was as a judge on "The Next Food Network Star" and he was pretty stern on the show. He was incredibly charismatic in person though!

11.04.2009

Maitre d' and a Buffetier

Just as we had a Chef of the Day in our production kitchen, my Essentials of the Dining Room class has a Maitre d' for the day. It was honestly a position I was trying to avoid because I need the practice serving, but on Monday Chef Trzcinski called out, "And today Frances will be our Maitre' d." I spent most of the day running between classrooms asking chefs what we would be serving, how many of each entree they would be able to offer, what sizes and shapes of plates would they need, and how many students they would be sending to our dining room for dinner. I then had to take that information and decide how many guests I would place at each table, how many of each entree the rest of my classmates would be allowed to offer, ensuring that the dishes from our dishroom made it up to the kitchens for plating, distributing checks and check books, making price sheets, talking to the servers about the menu and making sure they know of any allergens in the dishes. I felt as though I was playing a long game of hurry-up-and-wait. I was running around until service time, but once service began I had nothing to do. I'm not complaining of course. It was nice to have a break.

Chef Trzcinski has also been trying to give us experience with buffet service which often requires buffetiers. One day last week we had a deluxe buffet meaning that only our entrees were served through buffet service. And on Monday, we had an elaborate dessert buffet that spanned three 8' tables. It was covered in decadent, freshly baked pastries, hand-made truffles and chocolates as well as displayed some of the pastry students' show pieces. I wish I had taken pictures, but students had already started devouring it before I was able to get over to it with my camera.
We've slowly been adding elements to our sequence of service, and with more elements comes more formal tables. Our tables have improved greatly since last week with the addition of table linens, more elaborate napkin folds, and more extensive place settings. It's a daily ritual for each of us to stand by our tables promptly at 5:00 pm for inspections. Yesterday, I had one "miniscule element" wrong with my table as did most of my classmates. I analyzed my table, remeasured the distance between the heels of my pieces of flatware and the edge of the table, and checked to make sure everything on my table was completely in line. When she came back to ask me what was wrong with my table, I told her I thought one of my forks was a little off-center. She told me I was correct, and that my fork had been way off. I literally slid one fork over 3 mm and she told me that fixed it. 3 mm on one piece of flatware?!! I can't even imagine how strict they are going to be on us in our sophomore level dining room class.
Despite how strict she is on our performance, there are definitely perks to this dining room class. Because we only get leftovers from all of the kitchens for dinner, we are fed excellent dessert before service time. Below is the lemon lime cake that was brought up from one of the freshman labs the other day. We've also had carrot cake, devil's food cake, apple strudel, lemon danishes and my favorite - warm blueberry scones with a cinnamon sugar topping. Delicious!
On the downside, we did have to wear hairnets for the first few days of class (as if our uniforms weren't unflattering enough.) So here I am with two of my closest friends here modeling our oh-so-attractive hair nets. Thankfully, chef has laxed up and doesn't require us to wear them anymore.
Yesterday, we began wine service, and therefore had a wine tasting before class. We sampled three or 4 different wines and cleansed our palates with fresh croissants. I wasn't complaining, and that's for sure. Johnson and Wales has an unusual drinking policy on campus. Outside of the classroom, the campus is dry, but you are allowed to drink at any age (even if you aren't legal) within the classroom because the alcohol is being used for educational purposes. It's kind of backwards if you ask me.

10.28.2009

Sorry that it's been a while since my last update. Time here really does seem to fly by. My classmates and I completed our Traditional European Cuisine class last Wednesday. Unlike previous classes, the day of our exam was assigned to us individually. I'm not sure whether I was lucky or unlucky to be chosen for day 7 which was the first day of testing. After a mere 4 days of practicing braising and stewing techniques, I was assigned 2 dishes at random by the chef to prepare to his liking and serve to him within a 30 minute window. I had 3 hours to prepare stewed pork and clams (Portuguese style) as well as braised short ribs. While 3 hours sounds like a generous amount of time, those 180 minutes slipped through my fingers before I was even able to blink.

On a daily basis, our class of 18 became accustomed to preparing around 14 braised and stewed dishes ranging from beef stew to Greek beans with potatoes. The number of dishes alone was a little stressful, but combine that with the fact that we only had 10 eyes on the stove and 3 ovens with which to work, and it's easy to see how our lab instantly turned into a mad house. As I mentioned in my last entry, our class was responsible for plating dishes for the culinary dining room. So after the chaos of food preparation died down, we went into plating mode where several of us lined the steam tables ready to learn the art of plating. Additionally, each day in lab one student was designated as the Chef of the Day and another as his/her Sous Chef. The Chef of the Day was responsible for ensuring that all dishes were prepared on time and in accordance with national sanitation standards. The Chef of the Day directed all plating and organized the functions of the kitchen. The Sous Chef acted as a second set of hands for the Chef of the Day and was responsible for garnishing the dishes as they went out the door. Our assembly line looked something like this each day:


And here's a small sampling of the dishes we sent out. These pictures were taken on the first day of plating so they improved after this, but you get the idea.




Pork au Lait atop braised potatoes with red cabbage

Braised lamb over spatzle with red cabbage

White veal stew with red cabbage and asparagus

Each lab group had the opportunity to make pasta for a day from scratch, and on my group's pasta day we made spatzle (which I had never made before). It has to be beaten very quickly by hand for around 5 minutes to tighten and smooth the gluten strands. Since I don't mind getting messy in the kitchen, I quickly stepped up and volunteered to do the mixing.


Now our class has moved on to a class that pulls each of us out of our element. I've mentioned the culinary dining rooms several times now, and for the last 3 labs, we've been lucky enough to dine in them. Now the tables are turned and we are serving in one of them. In Essentials of the Dining Room, we learn the basics of the front of the house in a restaurant as well as the basics of fine dining. And at 5:45 each day, practice begins when we are required to serve tables. It's a very different kind of classroom than I've ever seen before. Yes, the picture below is my classroom. Each day I report here for lecture. Crazy, right?




The "classroom" even has a bar area where one person from our class acts as bartender each day. He or she prepares all of the non-alcoholic drinks for cold beverage service.


With entirely new subject material, comes a new uniform. We have all shed our chef whites and traded them in for white button-ups, black pants, and black service aprons. With my smile, you would never know how uncomfortable these uniforms are. The pants are high-waisted, pleated, unisex black pants that could not be more unflattering on the girls. I'm ready to put on my coat and checkered pants again.

Yesterday was our first day of service, and unfortunately I did not receive a table so I didn't have the opportunity to practice. Today was my first day ever waiting on a table. So of course, I would have to wait on a table with one chef and two senior TAs. Every other student seated in the dining room was a freshman student, and I had the chef. As if I wasn't nervous enough, right? Our dining service consisted of water, bread and butter, cold beverage (some of which we have to present and pour tableside), soup and salad, entree, and coffee. We will begin adding other courses as the next week and a half goes on, but that was plenty for me to start with. My table almost went off without a hitch. I made one mistake in clearing the table, but the chef still gave me a thumbs up and told me, "job well done" at the end of the meal, so I was happy. I just hope I can keep it up!

10.13.2009

Could there BE any more delicious food?!

I'm sure it's not news to most of you that I love the TV show "Friends" so the title of this entry is a little play on Chandler's character. In all seriousness, though, the food just keeps getting better and better.

We had our first day of production in Traditional European Cuisine on Thursday, and my group was assigned basic braised chicken legs along with risotto. Some of you have asked for recipes, and it's difficult to post them because what we work from can hardly be called recipes. For example, the "recipe" we were given for our chicken dish was as follows:
...............


1. MAIN ITEM
  • Oil
  • Chicken Legs

Sear. Remove.

2. AROMATICS

  • Mirepoix
  • Garlic
  • Herbs
  • Salt and Pepper
Sweat.

3. THICKENER

Add fat (if necessary). Singer.

4. MOISTENING

  • White Wine
  • Appropriate Liquid

Build braising liquid.

5. FINISH

Reduce if necessary. Strain. Adjust Seasoning.

...................

As you can see we are given no quantities, times or temperatures, so the resulting dish is dependent upon the student(s) working on it. The chefs want us to learn culinary techniques so that they become second nature. They say that we shouldn't be referring to recipes every other minute, and we should only measure in specific instances. I must say that I was quite proud of how our first European dish turned out. Our chicken was perfectly seared, and the viscosity and flavors of our sauce paired very nicely with the the chicken. Here's our dish as we were preparing it for the oven to finish it off.



My class has been spoiled the last several weeks by wonderful dining room service and 3-course French dinners. Now, only half of the class is invited to dinner each night, and the other half must stay behind in the kitchen to plate our dishes for the dining room (since we now provide food for the dining rooms) and begin the clean-up process. I can't really complain though because we are still fed a delicious dinner. It's just that we have to eat it while standing or sitting around our production tables in between cleaning tasks. And I don't know why it is, but serving dinner from these metal warming trays just makes the food seem a lot less appetizing. Point and case - the dish that you see above was eventually converted into the dish with the orange-ish sauce third from the end of the table. It still tasted great though.



Over the weekend, I chose to attend yet another class outside of the school's curriculum. My advisor and chef from Introduction to Baking and Pastry taught a 6-hour class on Artisan Bread Baking at Home. The class was in a beautful home in Smithfield, RI, and the owners had a wood fire brick oven which we used to make some wonderful wood-fired pizzas and 7-grain breads.

We started off with the pizzas. After making the dough, we each assembled and fired some pizzas. I didn't make the one pictured below but it was by far my favorite. The crust was fired with a layer of fig preserves topped with crumbled gorgonzola. As soon as it was pulled from the oven, the woman topped it with some lightly dressed arugula, prosciutto and parmesan. It was scrumptious!

I had never baked in a brick oven before so it was interesting to learn the techniques behind it. Since the heat comes from the fire and embers, we carefully monitored the temperature until it dropped low enough for us to bake our bread loaves. Just as we did in my baking class, we loaded our shaped dough onto a couche for the final proof and then onto a loader. The resulting bread was delicious! I will certainly be practicing this one in a home oven.

Some of our loaves before the oven:

All of our loaves after the oven:

And lastly, here's a picture of me with my academic advisor and instructor for this class, Richard Miscovich. As many of the other students in this class commented, "He really knows his bread," and that is an understatement. I'm just about ready to switch to Baking and Pastry after taking this class.


10.07.2009

Two down. Three to go!

It's hard to believe that I've already completed two of my lab classes here at Johnson and Wales. Lab classes seem to fly by, and I only have three more before Thanksgiving break!


Since my last post, my class made has gallons upon gallons of stock, I spent a weekend in Tampa, and I survived my first hot lab practical exam. It seems as though Stocks, Sauces and Soups flew by, but yet I learned so much. We covered the six traditional French mother sauces (Bechamel, Veloute, Hollandaise, Tomato, Espagnole, and Demi-Glace), and I can now produce any of them without a recipe. I can now recognize and taste the differences between a well-prepared flavorful stock and a weak stock. And my knife skills are.....well, they could use a little improvement, but they're getting there and I've got the blisters to prove it. And after passing the practical exam, I know that I can make most soups without even glancing at a recipe. Learning to rely on my instincts rather than reading a recipe has certainly been an adjustment, but it's also a lot of fun to throw in a handful of an ingredient and taste to see how it flavors the final dish. Just as it was in baking and pastry, we were once again assigned lab groups, and my group members worked very well together this time. Here's a group photo that was taken while we were working on a roux for our mushroom veloute.


My practical exam for Stocks, Sauces and Soups was Monday and Tuesday which adds up to 12 hours of testing if you're wondering. Each student in my class was individually assigned two sauces, one soup and certain knife cuts to produce without notes or recipes. We weren't allowed to talk to anyone, and even the Chef was reluctant to answer any of our questions, and he deducted points if we had to ask questions. I lucked out in my soup assignment when the chef asked me to prepare a chicken vegetable. Very few if any of us were assigned a soup we had studied in class, and even though we hadn't prepared chicken vegetable in class, it required very few techniques which made it easy to prepare. I watched as my classmates prepared chowders, bisques, and creamy tomato soups as I prepared my thin chicken soup. I was relieved to say the least! For my sauces, I was asked to prepare a chicken veloute (basically a chicken stock thickened with a roux) and a hollandaise which is shown below:

The chef asked each of us to prepare certain cuts which he graded for correct size and consistency. Below are my potatoes (parmentier), leeks (brunoise), onions (brunoise) and carrots (brunoise, macedoine, and julienne). Again, they're not perfect, but I'm working on them.



And here I am with my friend Nia and Chef Jaffe after completing the class.

Yesterday was my first day of Introduction to European Cuisine. Exciting, right? Sadly we were in lecture all day yesterday (over 4 hours) and didn't get to produce anything, but we were given a thorough run-down of all that we will cover and I cannot wait! We will learn the ins and outs of braising and stewing and how these techniques differ between countries. A sub-focus of the class will be traditional European rice dishes such as rice pilaf and risotto as well as homemade pasta and pasta shaping. Today we will be making braised chicken legs and pork stew. Dinner should be delicious!

Also, for those of you who aren't on facebook, I have added a Photo Album section in the top right corner of the blog. This link will take you to more pictures of my culinary school journey.

9.29.2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This week has been full of ups and downs, but I'm the kind of person who would rather end on a high note, so I'm leaving "the good" for the closing of this entry. But first....

The Bad:

Despite what previous posts may have told you about my life here, the day to day routine isn't exactly a cake walk. This no make-up, no perfume, no jewelry routine is getting rather old. And I can't decide what I'm more sick of - washing dishes or scrubbing floors. A mountain of dishes like this can appear out of nowhere, especially when the chef says, "Class, each of you will be required to make a hollandaise for me during your practical, so I want each of you to make your own today." By the time all 17 of us had gathered our equipment and ingredients, I'm surprised there were any sauce pots or bowls left in the room! And you know what that means? All of them will be in the sink eventually which means they must be scrubbed, rinsed and sanitized.

The Ugly:

Our stocks class has been structured down to the minute. We are asked to arrive 5 minutes before class begins so that we have time to put our things away before lining up outside alphabetically for uniform inspection. If our coats aren't ironed, our aprons aren't bleached, or our shoes aren't polished guess what. We go home. After inspections, we take our daily quiz, sit through lecture and enter production. We then clean briefly before heading up to dinner promptly at 5:45, return to class at 7:00 to finish cleaning, and we're supposed to be out the door by 7:30. Yesterday, we worked more efficiently than we ever had, so we were able to do a large amount of the cleaning before heading off to dinner. That meant that we would return from dinner at 7:00 for any last-minute announcements or reminders from the chef and head out the door 30 minutes early. Or so we thought...
Upon returning from dinner, we cleaned the last few pots and began to gather our things to leave. The chef asked, "Have you cleaned the floors?" We were so proud to say, "Yes, chef. We scrubbed them before dinner." He replied, "Well you're doing them again. Floors should ALWAYS be the last thing you clean. And they just look dirty." Great. After scrubbing the floors for the second time, we had to re-wipe down the tables to prevent water marks from forming, and we ended up leaving at 8:00 which was 30 minutes late.

The Good:
Aside from that, this week has been packed with incredible learning opportunities. Johnson and Wales has so many unique organizations that expose students to various aspects of the food industry. This week was particulary exciting because I was able to attend both an ice sculpture club meeting and a beer brewing club meeting.

The ice sculpture club, formally known as The Chippers, meets every 2 weeks in one of the culinary labs. We split up into groups of 2-4, and each group is given a 300 pound block of ice to carve whatever we want. They have templates to choose from, but I suppose a group could free-hand the sculpture if they wanted. I was paired with another freshman who hadn't carved before either, and we thought this design would be fairly simple. We were wrong, but had a great time trying to do it! To begin the sculpture, we had to trace a template on banner paper which we then stuck onto the ice and outlined in the ice using small picks.
We then used chain saws (of which I do not have pictures) to cut off larger chunks of ice around our design. From there, we roughly chipped away the ice which creates a ridged look as shown in the picture below.
Smoothing tools are then used to give the sculpture a cleaner look and to add any detail work. Sadly, I don't have any pictures of that process either. But here's a picture of some of the other students working on their sculptures. A few of the members have been doing this for over a year and carved some very impressive pieces. Hopefully I'll get better with time!

9.24.2009

Vichyssoise and lots of Fond

I might as well be taking French here with all of the French we're required to know. Dicing is now known as brunoise, macedoine or parmentier depending on the size of the cubes being cut. Stocks are now Fond. Vegetables are mirepoix. It's a little overwhelming but also exciting at the same time. When I hear someone shout, "Bring me some fond brun d'agneau!" I know instantly that brown lamb stock is needed.


Our soup lab moves much more quickly than baking and pastry did. Since baking is all about precision, most of our lab time was spent scaling out ingredients to the nearest tenth of a gram. In this class, the chef simply says, "Grab some more cream and add it in." Well, how much is "some"? The time that was spent scaling out ingredients in baking is now spent learning to add ingredients by taste rather than by measurement. In the middle of production, it's typical for the classoom to look something like this:
Once the soups are finished, they are sent up to the dining rooms in 2-4 gallon containers, portioned out, and garnished so that they're served to us like this:



We've already covered a wide variety of soup-making techniques to produce dishes like cream of carrot soup, butternut squash bisque, clam chowder, and vichyssoise. It has been interesting to see how all of the culinary labs work together throughout the day. For example, our soup lab is responsible for providing all of the soups for dining room service, and all of the other culinary labs rely on us for stock production.


It's common for famous chefs to perform demos on campus for the culinary students. Thursday, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend one of the first ones of the year. Chef Graham Brown from Pure New Zealand Cuisine came Thursday morning to showcase the secrets of some signature New Zealand dishes. I felt like I was on Emeril Live. This picture is terrible, but it gives you an idea of what the room looked like.
He prepared a variety of dishes in front of us using the New Zealand gold kiwi and my favorite, lamb. As soon as he finished preparing one dish, chefs appeared from the back kitchens carrying trays of individual portions of tempura mussles, steamed mussels with kiwi salsa, roasted venison atop grilled pita with a cauliflower tabouleh, and rack of lamb with kiwi tzatziki for each of us to try. One word - delicious! Not a bad trade off either. I'd sit through that again any day instead of attending my menu planning and cost controls class for 2 hours. Who wouldn't want to have this for brunch?

9.22.2009

"It's hot, and it's only going to get hotter."

After two weeks of studying the basics of baking and pastry, I survived my first practical exam. It consisted of a written exam followed by an extensive hands-on test during which we demonstrated what we had learned in the class by preparing chef-selected dishes. For a four hour block of time, the chef monitored our every move and graded our final products on size, shape, technical accuracy, taste, and eye appeal. Though I didn't take any pictures during the actual exam, I do have some pictures from earlier in the week of the items we were asked to reproduce. Below are pictures of baguettes, challah, croissants and scones.


They don't give us much time to rest here. Despite the fact that I had a final exam yesterday, the second round of labs began today. For the next two weeks I will be in Stocks, Sauces and Soups for 6 hours each day. Even though it's new subject matter, my classmates are the same. Today we opened our knife kits (some of us for the first time) to practice knife skills on carrots, onions, potatoes and leeks. Our ignorance showed briefly at the beginning of class when several cut their fingers. We've been told those are just a sampling of the injuries we can expect over the next year and throughout our careers.


"The mark of a great chef --or at least one who works hard-- is a knife callus." That's what our chef told us as he began his knife skills demo today. By the time I was on my second or third carrot, I understood what he meant. My index finger is blistered, and it's only day one. I never thought I'd wish for a callus, but I am now.


We are beginning to feel like real culinary students since we are now cooking in a hot lab (a lab in which hot foods are prepared). What they don't tell you about hot labs is that they are HOT. Room temperature in this lab is around 75 to 77 degrees, and that's before the burners, boilers, and ovens are turned on. Keep in mind, we are also in full uniform. Long pants. Long sleeves. And hats. The chef noticed us sweating and heard a few of us commenting on how warm it was, and his response? "Yes, it's hot, and it's only going to get hotter. Get used to it." I thought by moving to Rhode Island I was escaping the heat. I guess I was wrong.


On the bright side, we are once again served dinner during lab, but this time it's table service. At 5:45 each day we are required to report to dining room 1, a classroom in the culinary arts building, to be seated for a 3 or 4 course French dinner. It's amazing how quickly cream of carrot soup, freshly baked baguettes, and roasted partridge can erase the frustrations of a hard day in the lab.

9.18.2009

Life on the Rhode. Rhode Island that is.

As promised, I finally broke down, overcame my writing insecurities and decided to enter the blogosphere. I’m making no promises that this will be a great read, but if you are interested in my life in Rhode Island, feel free to check in and read about it here.

The name of the blog, Lobster and Grits, is supposed to represent this north meets south phase of my life. Grits for me, the southern girl. Lobster for New England, the area in which I now reside. Lobster and grits taken from the classic South Carolinian dish, shrimp and grits. (Even though I only lived in South Carolina for 4 years, I like to think I can still halfway claim it as home.) And of course, since this blog will detail my experiences and life in culinary school, it's only appropriate that my blog have a food-related title. And no, I've never actually prepared lobster and grits, but I plan to. I'll let you know how it turns out.


I can’t believe that I’ve only been living here for a mere three weeks. I’ve spent 60 hours of the last 2 weeks in class, and 48 of those were in the kitchen. Since last Tuesday, my lab class of 17 freshmen culinary arts majors has been furiously baking up pies, muffins, cookies, ├ęclairs, baguettes, croissants, and so many more delicious baked goods that I've lost count. And as culinary students, we are required by the university to taste everything. We even had to taste these raspberry and apple danishes. How unfortunate, right?


Life outside of the classroom is going well. I’m still discovering all that Providence and the surrounding areas have to offer, but with classes running until 8:00 p.m., little time is left for exploring. I’ve made a few trips to the major mall in Providence known as Providence Place (pictured above). Ladies, this mall is ridiculous. Aside from Anthroplogie I’m at a loss to think of a store this mall doesn’t have. And the 4th floor (yes, the mall has 4 floors) is a 16-theater cinema complete with a 3D Imax.


I was expecting a little bit of a culture shock when I moved here because I've been told repeatedly that Northerners are more abrasive and of course lack southern hospitality, but I've been pleasantly suprised. From what I've experienced, Rhode Islanders are very friendly. One of my favorite things to do here is ride the campus bus and strike up conversation with whoever sits down beside me. My friends here get a kick out of it because even when I'm with them on the bus, I always insist on sitting on a separate bench so that I can make a new friend. I like to think I've made a few this way.


One last thought that I'll leave you with is yes, I still do cook for myself. But it has only been 2 weeks. We'll just have to see how long I keep it up.