Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Over analyzation of homework is aggravating

I had a wonderful weekend, well, aside from that awful homework assignment where I had to draw a flowchart that involved removing a case of lettuce from a walk in cooler, taking it to a sink/work area, and chopping it for salads.

So here I am, a person that has done a lot of cooking in his life time. For those that do not know, I will be 40 in September and I am very much looking forward to it. Anyway, I had also taken basic culinary preparation courses at Pima Community College in 1996 (well before that Jarrod Lee Laughner went there). I earned my Associates degree in General Studies and a Certificate in Hotel Food and Beverage Management. Not to mention that for my first 1.5 years here at Purdue and sometimes at UNLV, I helped teach basic cooking methods and techniques, such as proper knife handling and control, the different cooking methods and types of heat and so on.

So here I am making a flow chart on chopping lettuce for salads. The instructions tells us where everything is located, to ensure that we instruct our person to go and get the items from this location and bring them back to the work area. Here, I must point out, that the reason I got an associates degree in general studies rather than in any hospitality or other field is because I could get the Associates within 1 year, while any other associates would take 2 years. I had already spent 2 years at Pensacola Junior College from 1992 to 1994. I didn't like the idea of taking 4 years to get an associates degree, so I piled all my credits together and applied for graduation. So to get a feeling of what my focus in general studies includes, you would have to look at the courses I was taking. I took some basics, algebra, English, etc. but my electives were in things like Nutrition and nutrition for food service, Hotel law, Foodservice Sanitation, Pascal & FORTRAN 90 program, Introduction to programming the internet (that was back when everything was programmed using text editors and writing HTML, WYSIWYG came later.

The computer programming gave me great insight into designing flowcharts for programs. Those were a bit easier, in that you were simulating the process of commands in a computer. In that sense, one wrong move (process), and the program doesn't work. In the flowchart I was doing for class, one wrong move and a person could get hurt, equipment could be damaged, food could become contaminated, etc. By Saturday, the homework was driving me so crazy, I had to lie down in bed and literally stare at the flowchart on my computer and try to figure out what my problem was. Come to find out, I was over analyzing the assignment. I finished the assignment on Sunday in time to pick up Andrew later that day.

Of the equipment listed in the assignment, there were pans, a knife, a cutting board, and a lettuce chopper. All these newfangled equipment that I actually had to Google a lettuce chopper to figure out how it works, since I had never used one. You basically put a clean head of lettuce in the open chopper and pull down on the lever and it dices the lettuce into neat 1 inch squares for salad. Pretty neat invention. So then I start the assignment with a decision question that I personally feel should be a "NO" every time you enter a new work area. And that decision is "is the work area clean and sanitized?" So I am off and working on my flow chart, I make another decision question, "do you have all the equipment needed to complete the task at hand?", of course the answer is no, because the equipment is still in its original location, so I have them collect the pieces of equipment and bring it back to the work area. After that, I go through the process of removing a case of lettuce from the cooler and bringing it to the work area and opening it.

That is where I hit my first roadblock. This is homework, so I am sure he is expecting us to show some sort of initiative in developing this flowchart. I put myself in the position of following the flow chart, and I actually go to my kitchen and perform the steps with real items. Unfortunately I did not have a head or lettuce or a lettuce chopper, but the blender stood in for the lettuce chopper and one of my friend's grapefruits from the cupboard simulated the lettuce. So here I am with a knife, a pan, a cutting board, a head of lettuce, and a lettuce chopper. I close my eyes and walk my way through the steps that need to be completed. I start very basic and move outward. I pick up the lettuce and say that the dead and wilted leaves need to be removed and the core needs to be removed as well. I then ask myself, Okay, so how do we do this. I go, okay, simple, take the heal of my right hand and while firmly gripping the head of lettuce I slam the heal of my right hand firmly into the core of the lettuce, thus ripping it from all leaves attached and it is now able to be pulled out and tossed in the trash. I then decide that the head of lettuce needs to be rinsed/washed, so I turn on the cold water and run the head of lettuce under the water and fill the hole left by the core like a cup with water running out among the now somewhat looser leaves. I turn the head over so it can drain a bit and I methodically remove pieces that were connected to the core, such as interior leaves with a red rustic tint. I place a full size deep hotel pan under the lettuce chopper to catch the lettuce, and I place several rows of towels to help dry any excess water that may pool towards the bottom of the pan. I decide that now would be a good time to make a decision on whether the pan is full or still has available space. Once the pan is full, it is removed and another plan is put in its place. I stop and rest for a pit and continue to walk myself through the steps that I have written.

While walking myself back through all the steps and following along, I stumble across an issue that I did not notice before and am unsure of how to fix it. Of course all the directions and decisions are what I consider perfect; however, I never used the knife or the cutting board and I now have no use for them in the near future. My ultimate decision is to remove them from the list of items that are gathered towards the beginning of the flowchart. But it originally frightened me, because I knew he had those items there for some reason. Unfortunately, when it comes to chopping lettuce, I have never used a knife or cutting board. In all my previous jobs, if the lettuce didn't already come prechopped, we would pop out the core and then just rip the pieces by hand due to the issue that metal knives have been known to cause the oxidation to appear quicker (that is the rusting of the lettuce or red tint that appears where the cuts were completed.)

After talking to one of my co-students in the class, I found that I was not the only one that did not have a use for the knife and cutting board. She took the head of lettuce firmly in both hands and smashed the core on something solid to remove the core.

I guess you can see that I am pretty set in my ways when it comes to working with certain items

Only 7 more homework assignments for this class. I know that a future assignment will be about Therblings, which is a way of measuring what one hand is doing while the other hand is doing something else. We have heard that it involved the movement of hands involved in chopping some piece of food where it is important that the hand not doing the chopping is out of the way when the chopping hand comes down.

Anyway, this is my ranting about that homework that was turned in on Monday. It is a great learning experience.

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