Staying Awhile: Mantras for a New Year


Fattened and blissful after a holiday gorging back home in Wisconsin (though, I should note, in the time since moving six years ago it’s increasingly hard to distinguish between these special occasions and the normal Midwestern diet), I’m returning to The Farm resolute and inspired. Prior to my break Ian and Shelley asked that I stay on for an extended period beyond December. Of course, I agreed.

Who was I kidding when I first came, certain that it would be only “until Thanksgiving?” What reassurance was I giving, and to whom, when about two weeks later, “until the new year” felt more right? Myself I suppose. I was nervous to move; I love New York, its energy, its people, and its incomparable access to global food. I was nervous about switching careers; I my parents spent a lot of money on not-culinary-school and I enjoyed psychology (though more in theory than in practice). And especially, I think I was nervous that I wouldn’t be all that great at this thing that I love.

A lot of people love to cook. Many people read compulsively about food. And everybody loves to eat (or should). But few people end up cooking professionally. It scared me that I might be so interested in something and simply not cut out for it. This is probably why it took so long to find my way to a kitchen, despite feeling drawn to it since I was young. But, having jumped blindly, I’m finding that I might be okay at this. Even better than just okay. And not just the dishwashing part.

A knife feels right in my hand, especially now where a callus has formed. I can’t eat without connecting flavors to each other, and to place and history, to other dishes I’ve had and dishes I have yet to create. I no longer know where to find the time or quiet to think without a walk-in to clean. And life wouldn’t be complete without wiping flour from my hair and picking dough from my cuticles.

Now that I’m on this path, I can’t imagine another direction and was all too glad to accept Ian and Shelley’s invitation to stay. The extension also sees my role at the school expanded slightly and, in the spirit of the New Year, I’m excited to approach my new place at the school with a reinvigorated enthusiasm. Like a mantra my new objectives circle my head: Keep reading (join me?). Write more. Cook with purpose. Stay humble…dish wash mindfully. Get funky (be able to utter “Farm Cooking School fermentation program” tongue-defiantly-out-of-cheek). Spread the word. Always share food, drink, and happiness. Eat well.