I thank you my readers, for being on this path too, and if you are here for the first time perhaps this post will explain a bit about the terrain I try to cover on Planting Cabbages. I hope you will join in on this conversation about cooking and writing. Which world do you live in?
Over an expanse of years, I’ve meandered about in two very different places; the two places I live. And you too, if you are a writer or other creative world maker - you must know both places as well? The one where you create and the other where you walk in fallen leaves with people who talk in concrete terms on the way to a 9-5 job, and where you live one of your lives in the outside world.
In the map I’ve worked out I’ve named these places: the place with-in and the place with-out.
Now the place with-in, is where I live entrenched in the writing life jammed with its saffron scented muses, bustling cities of ladies and vagabonds with mustaches, seventy seven and a half drafts, crazed stories about achiuegge (a ancient roman sauce with anchovies) and asking the ghost who haunts the tapestry why they are wearing that hat, oh wait, that's a napkin. Pens scratch out what the voices whisper. Well, sort of, that's not it exactly but that's a close enough description of the world with-in. At least for today. I'll hope you'll come back to hear more in Part Two about the World With-In.
And the other place; the place With-Out is where I live in the cooking life which is crammed full of lessons on foccaia and how to debone a chicken, make Julia Child’s chocolate mousse, find Sunshine Lavender Farm and coax corporate teams to negotiate for parsley or to wash the sauté pan they forgot to deglaze. Since 1997 these and so many lovely jaunts with my cooking school, C’est si Bon! occupies the world with-out.
This time of year – February thru early June the world with-out path of C’est si Bon! is strewn with summer itineraries of Carolina On My Plate Programs for Teens. To be sure there are visits to arrange with real farmers, local bee-keepers, makers of Cackalacky, cheeseries, chocolatiere lessons, as well as planning a cooking demo at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and cooking for the community at Anathoth Community Garden. Very real and very direct. Planning itineraries for a whole crew of Teens and Assistants involves months of planning and coordination.
Not to be forgotten are the 16 recipes each week for 9 weeks of our summer Kid-Chef Program: Cooking on the Front Burner. For the first time in a while I am also planning Intern workshops so the brood will know and be able to deftly explain mother sauces in both the French and Italian tongue. And be able to recognize, blindfolded, sage from mint in the garden.
And this garden, this same garden is a plot that with any luck grows with enough variety to hold both the place with-in and the place with-out. Where in Spring it needs many hands to plant and weed, and water.
One side of the garden lush with basil, enough basil to make pesto and feed a most demanding and hungry Chef World; and the other side nourishes a festooned Writer World with little corners of salad burnett and bull’s blood beet greens.
The garden is the world where both places merge. If you can believe it I once longed to just write and turn away from the world with-out; that of cooking and being a teaching chef. Not due to any lack of love; no - it was a rich and compelling path; a good life.
Teaching is quite honestly awesome. I feel so blessed to be able to teach young and old. I adore cooking together with lots of people in the kitchen Lots of very different people. But here’s the thing. What I don’t relish is playing host to a game of food trends and fads and fancies that distract from the real issue to me which is community. There is actually a great hunger for community in a divided world. The divided world is composed of countries with vegans, intolerant of even honey, and other eaters intolerant of gluten or vegetarians who will eat eggs and unbelievable as it sounds, vegetarians who eat ham. I teach students who are afraid of chicken and touching meat.
As a chef running C’est si Bon! the way I saw fit has not turned away from anything – as with any fully embraced profession it is not without its problems and stresses. Will anyone want to learn béchamel anymore? People, generally, still think French cooking is fraught with heaviness and complications. Little by little, I plot to entice them, they won’t realize it – but soon they will love sauce-making and not be able to live without it! They will nod and carry forth too that cooking is not something to do on a special occasion. Time in the kitchen is sweet, the best of what life’s table offers.
Years ago when I wanted to give up teaching it was because I wanted to look out over my days as a long feast table in a plane tree arched village. Protected from plotting in the kitchen, so I could concentrate on plotting on paper. The day would ensue without interruption and demands of fitting myself around a table where I couldn’t hear quite well enough to understand, yet alone believe. With-out jinxing anything, I think that is where I am. At a feast table, where more stretch out under the trees. I even enjoy the conversations now. I am not straining to hear every word, but there are voices that permeate and get this, even I enjoy speaking. And it is glorious, worth every imagined, hurtful glance, or comment by the me with-in who felt, at times, because measurements in the world with-out are so stringent and unforgiving that since I wasn’t acting as other chefs, that I wasn’t a real chef.
The world with-out, the chef I have become is very active and extroverted, laughing and jovial. Perhaps even flamboyant. Free and unbidden. At times brazen with brioche. And eggs. People want leading while they are among the knives and boiling pots. The world of the kitchen is to some, unfamiliar and scary terrain. I hope to be a guide worth her salt.
Have you ever felt the world of art, or however you define your creative endeavor, is accepting of your work? What is the difference between the worlds you navigate?
Merci beaucoup for visiting and won't you please come back for Part Two: The World With-In.