- Date: Saturday, February 19, 2011 -- 6pm
- Location: East Lansing, MI
- Kitchen: Our House
- Fellow Chef: Helen
- Dining Companions: Charles, Clara, Matty, Mike, Tim, and Mark
- Recipe Rating: B
When Mike and Tim came to visit a couple months ago I put together a special menu for them. These snails were part of it. I started by making a compound butter with shallots, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, and white wine. Helen sterilized the snail shells, then stuffed some of the butter mixture in each one. She put a snail in each shell, then topped them with the remaining butter. She stabilized the shells on a baking sheet by nestling them in kosher salt. Then we baked the snails until the butter sizzled, about 3 minutes. These snails were perfectly fine. The butter mixture was buttery, as it should have been. It had a nice garlic-shallot flavor to it, and the white wine was a good addition. No one had anything terribly negative to say about this dish, but no one was really raving about it either. Mark commented that he prefers his escargots piping hot, which these were not. That was mostly my fault -- the timing of the meal was a bit off so these sat for a couple minutes before we ate them. But even when they were straight out of the oven -- after only 3 minutes in the oven (as The Book indicates) -- they weren't terribly hot all the way through. They could have cooked longer. Mike complained a lot about how the snails came in a can, which I agree was a little creepy. But that's what the recipe called for! Other than that everyone seemed relatively neutral on this dish. Wasn't great. Wasn't terrible. I probably won't make it again.
The recipe is here.
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One of my students started crying today. This happens more often than you might think. Math is hard, and many students feel very frustrated by it. This particular student is in my 300-level math course. It's not an easy course. She already failed it once with a different instructor, and is concerned (with good reason) that she might fail it again this semester.
I have been teaching for a number of years now, so I am accustomed to teary-eyed students in my office. It is pretty rare that students start all out crying, and only once have I had a student start sobbing. (That was a unique situation. The student had cheated on a quiz and was so remorseful that she couldn't stop sobbing through the entire meeting. She was crying so hard she was gasping to catch her breath. It was a difficult meeting for the both of us.) I am no longer surprised by the teary eyes. This afternoon, though, my student started to cry in a more serious way. After class we were standing outside the building where the class is held. It was a beautiful afternoon. What started as a discussion about what she needed to do to pass the course devolved into her crying out of frustration and anger. We stood on the steps for 25 minutes: her crying, me trying to be sympathetic, constructive, and motivational all at the same time. The reality is, there are less than two and a half weeks left in the semester, and much of her grade has already been determined. She should have done many things differently from the start. Can she still pass? Definitely. Will it require some hard work? Yes. I tried to pass along what wisdom I could.
As I stood there, I thought back on my own life as a student. To my recollection, I cried in front of my professors twice: once in college, once in graduate school. They were very different situations than the one today. I certainly never cried about a grade. In college I cried out of frustration at the feeling that I was doing a bad job at something that mattered to me. In retrospect I wish I could take back that whole conversation. I shouldn't have cried, and to this day I feel embarrassed when I think about the possibility of running into that professor. In graduate school I cried, also out of frustration, about the stress of the job application process. It wasn't my thesis advisor that I cried in front of, but rather another professor who I was close to. I don't feel bad about it actually. Applying for jobs is incredibly stressful. If I had to do it again now I am sure I would cry again. The professor took it in stride, and it didn't affect our relationship at all. I got the feeling that I was not the first person to cry in his office from job application stress. He told me horror stories about his own experiences on the job market, and it was tremendously reassuring.
This afternoon, standing in the sunshine with my crying student, I understood how she felt. I never failed a class, but I could relate to her frustration. And I wanted to help her. The problem is, there aren't always easy solutions. Her situation is difficult in a lot of ways. I do hope she passes. And from her tears I could tell, she genuinely hopes for that too.