Dreams are crazy. That’s the point of them, right?
In 2001, I’d been living on my own for a few years, was making okay money, sharing an apartment outside of Boston with a girlfriend, exploring all kinds of silly twenty-something things, and cooking.
Like, cooking. I was falling in love with flavor and texture, with technique and adventure, with ethnic cuisine and rediscovered comfort food.
When I took the job as J’s nanny, I’d envisioned it as a relatively short-term gig. A way to stash some cash for a graduate degree. What I learned in those couple of years was that I didn’t want to do a graduate degree. So then, what?
Culinary school. Personal cheffing? Managing a B&B in Vermont? Maybe even someday running one… My head was full of ideas. Ah, youth. I researched programs and settled on two: the New England Culinary Institute and the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. One program was conveniently located near my apartment and offered night classes. One was in another state, and would be a lot like going back to college, including dorms. One was under $20,000. One was not. In the end, I chose the one that would allow me to work my way through and keep my cat. I stayed in Cambridge, but a part of me always wonders what would have gone differently had I enrolled in NECI and moved back to Vermont.
As fate would have it, just after enrolling in the local program, I met the man I’d marry three years later.
In the end, what culinary school taught me, more than anything, was how to make a killer Italian meringue buttercream frosting. That, and one other truth: I loathe the kitchen politics and preposterous egotism that rules the restaurant world. Working in a professional kitchen exhausted me on every level.
I still love to cook. I still love flavor and texture, technique and adventure, ethnic cuisine and comfort food. I just prefer to feed my family, and occasionally make really awesome cakes.
Nan and the Damselfly were born from those dreams and experiences, and her NECI education is, in part, an homage to the path I didn’t take, the school I didn’t attend.
Check out Open Studio to read Foolish Things, a short story that introduces you to some of the side-characters from Damselfly Inn when they were in high school, and fall in love with Thornton a month before it’s available to the public.