A long time ago, in what almost seems another lifetime, I worked in an office. I was working as an actuarial student—which means my days were occupied mostly with generic office work...spreadsheets, data entry, ... I no longer remember what else.... After hours I was supposed to be studying for a series of actuarial exams so I could progress further along the path of my career.
I became less and less interested in the work and the studying for a variety of reasons, but one thing that sticks in my memory is the feeling that I was not producing anything tangible with my days....
Having recently moved out on my own, I had begun to acquire the accoutrements of a home. My mother thought this should include cookware, dishes, cookbooks, etc. She purchased The Fanny Farmer Cookbook for me and I began to read it. Soon thereafter an offer arrived in the mail for a cheap subscription to Bon Appetit. I signed up. This was before the days of celebrity chefs and 24/7 food TV. But I was drawn in by the few shows that were on...Jacques Pepin, Natalie Dupree, Pierre Franey, and Madeleine Kamman.
I started to spend my days and evenings off baking instead of studying. There was something about the idea of food. Not only did my work result in something tangible, but it resulted in something that gave great pleasure to those for whom it was prepared (a cookie produces a much more satisfactory reaction from someone than a completed spreadsheet does). My understanding of the communal nature of food was completely unformed at that point, but it was probably my vague notion of this, combined with the desire to work with something real, that led me to pursue a career preparing food.
To this day, I relish the fact that at the end of the day, I have something concrete to show for my labor. And I always get to start over fresh the next day—the mistakes and disasters of the previous day have been consumed or thrown away and hopefully learned from. For me, a bad day cooking is better than the best day working in an office.
I have grown to love so many things about food and cooking. I love that there is always more to learn, that I can always continue to develop and hone my skills. I love the astonishing possibilities of food—you can conceivably cook everyday and never get bored. I love the raw ingredients—particularly vegetables and fruits. I love it that food, when prepared and presented with care, is beautiful. I love to eat. I love it that familial, cultural and ethnic traditions are so often intimately intertwined with food and cooking....that as people we connect and maintain connections with family and friends at the table.
Today, I cook in private homes to give people a chance to make those connections with family and friends at their home table rather than in restaurants. I teach so that people will have the tools to create those moments in their own homes, at their own tables, every day.