Sunday, July 11, 2010

a little too late

I spent a majority of 1994-1998 in art school, and unlike some of my peers, I have no regrets. It's hard to get a job, yes, but hey, at this point it's hard to get a job anywhere! Some days, though, I wonder if I made the right choice. I sometimes wonder how different my life would be had I skipped art school and did something else entirely. The only other thing in life that has held my attention as long as the art world has is the culinary world. I sometimes fantasize about where I'd be right now had I chosen a career in the food industry instead of learning about perspective, arc welding, hues, gallery maintenance and the importance of opting for Turpenoid over Turpentine in a closed space.

And that's not to say I want to be a chef. I fear that if I ever got involved in the food industry, I'd regret it and eventually lose the peace and zen that cooking brings me. I can be pissed off, miserable and ready to take a swan dive off of a tall building and yet one step into my kitchen brings me back to normal. I love that. I love losing myself in a recipe, testing out new methods, tasting new or rare foods, shopping for ingredients, while the rest of the world just melts away. I'd like to think it's what keeps me sane. But there's always that "what if" bouncing around in the background. There's a "what if" for everyone, I guess. For me, my only regret is not learning technique. Culinary school would have taught me the necessary techniques, and therefore, made me a better cook. I've learned a lot from watching the Food Network (my knife skills have improved drastically, for example), but the two just don't compare.

Anyway, talk about bad timing. I just read about the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland and I'm seriously kicking myself in the ass for not knowing about this sooner. Why didn't I know about this back when I was trying to decide what to do with my life? This would have trounced art school by far. No degrees to work for. No pressure. A short-term commitment. And an excuse to travel??? Ah yes, such is life. Anyway, a twelve week course costs over $15,000 (still significantly less than four years of art school), so this little dream of mine will have to stay on the back burner until we hit the lotto, or some long lost relative kicks the bucket and dumps their fortune in our laps. I'd say, though, for the money you spend, you walk away knowing everything from the bare bones basics to pretty advanced topics of farm-to-table cuisine. I don't know about you, but I'd love to learn the ins and outs of smoking mackerel, beekeeping, curing bacon, and making yogurt and butter. This class also covers topics such as preparing wild game and the cooking styles of France, India, Mexico, Japan, Italy, and let's not forget Ireland.

For now I'll stick with the book. This was written by Darina Allen, the founder of the Ballymaloe school, and I have a feeling I'm not going to want to put this baby down.

So, yes, I love food. No brainer, right? I love talking about food, I love reading about food, I love being around food, and well, duh, I love eating food. Lately I've been sucked into several books about food. A Homemade Life rocks, for those of you who love little stories that always go hand in hand with a good recipe. And, if you're a fan of Orangette, one of my fave blogs, you'll certainly love this book. Up next, a book recommended by Stanley at the Market Block Bookstore, Heat, by Bill Buford, and another I found while poking around the cooking section, The Hunger by John Delucie. I'll keep you posted on how these turn out. I trust Stanley's judgement, so I'm sure they'll be great!

Do you have any other faves you can recommend? I'm getting in lots of reading time on the bus every day. Keeps the crazy people from bugging me.


Good Girls Studio said...

I dare say had you gone to culinary school you might not be so zen when you cook anymore. The year I spent cooking in the restaurant biz kept me out of the kitchen for a lot longer than I was in it! I'm going to have to pick up Homemade Life at the library tomorrow.


Ben said...

Well, I can speak from experience on two fronts...
First, as her husband, the daring and artistic moves that she executes in the kitchen (not to mention my ever-growing waistline) prove that it's definitely a calling of hers.
Second, I can tell you that once you take a hobby, regardless of how much you may love it, and turn it into your job: it becomes just that - another job. It's unfortunate, but that's the way the dice normally roll.
Either way, she's always going to have at least one HUGE fan of her work.

Amanda said...

I too, wish I had gone to culinary school. Spent years at a university studying theatre, only to leave 30 credits shy of graduation because I just couldn't see myself in the industry. Moved in with my boyfriend (now my husband of almost 6 years.) and never finished my degree. I have lots of what if's... and none of them are real pleasant... but the biggest one revolves around culinary school. I still day dream about ways I could make it a reality. But in reality, if I did, it would just become a job, and I'd hate it. For now, I'll spend hours pouring over cookbooks and magazines.

I read Julie Powell's "Cleaving, a story of Meat, Marriage and Obsession" in December, and really enjoyed it. There are some interesting recipes included.