Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The questions worth asking

I've said several times that I feel like I'm on the "brink" of something - like I'm at some crossroads where I have to decide what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, and I've felt stuck in this place for . . . I don't know, ever. I don't know how I got here, or if it's even a real place to begin with. Maybe this brink is just a big waiting room we have to learn to get out of - a place of apathy and denial where the next step seems impossible and "life" has yet to begin. But it has begun. This is it. This is life, the clock is ticking, and the magazine rack in the waiting room can only keep you happy and distracted for so long.

How very adept I've become at stomping on my dreams before they've taken shape. Whenever I imagine life as professional musician, owning my own music school, becoming a world class chef, or writing a book, insecurity and doubt choke my creativity, and my pie in the sky is shoved aside for what I believe to be "reality." Lack of money. Lack of education. Lack of talent. Lack of childcare. Lack of drive. That same insecurity saps my energy and ambition, leaving me feeling old, alone and washed up. Pathetic. How did I become so jaded at the tender age of 26? I should be flexing my romantic muscles more than ever and giving my heart some room to breathe without reigning it in with shouts of "get real!" and "in your dreams!" and "I can't do that!" What might I accomplish if I chose, instead, to ask these questions:

What if?

Why not?

After reading my blog for a while, my brother said to me "you know what? Screw getting another music degree. Why not become a chef? It's obviously something you enjoy." He said he knew someone-who-knew-someone involved in casting a show for amateur cooks, and that he could hook me up with his contact information if I was interested. A couple weeks later he tagged me in a photo. It was the casting call for Gordon Ramsey's show "Masterchef." Cue little horned doubtful voice:

Get real. Do you even know how to cook? I mean REALLY cook? You like new recipes, but are you really creative enough to improvise or compete? And who's going to watch Hannah?

I kind of joked with Mark, saying something dumb like "Haha, no way. I don't have the balls for this."

But . . . what if I did?

What if I contacted the producer and told him about myself? I'd say I'm just starting out, but that I really love vegetarian cooking, and I would ask if he needed someone like me on one of his shows. What if he said yes? What if he gave me a phone number for the casting director, who then told me to come prepared to make five dishes for my "audition?" I would do it. I wouldn't know what to make - black bean burgers, potatoes with curry and mustard seeds, vegetarian lasagna, spinach pie, lentil curry, Persian Basmati pilaf, vegetarian chili? I'd dig out my best recipes and practice them for as many people as possible, asking them to taste and critique my cooking while I feverishly took notes for next time. I'd cook every day, learn new recipes, acquire new techniques, all while feeding the hungry!

If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk . . . After cooking so much, I'll notice how dull my knives are, and I'll go out and buy new knives, and maybe a fancy garlic press or lemon juicer. A food processor, too. Pots and pans that cook things the way they're meant to be cooked - no teflon that flakes, saps flavor and turns out steamed rather than pan-seared vegetables. I'd experiment with every whole food I can find - get to know the character and taste of each one. Make my own sprouts from mung beans, broccoli seeds and wheat berries. Practice cooking with fine wines. Try every dry bean and lentil . . . exotic grains like quinoa and amaranth . . . tomatillos, every kind of pepper, tropical fruit, dried fruits . . . and spices. I would go to The Spice House and spend a small fortune on whole, organic spices from India, and a mortar and pestle to grind them. Cumin seeds. turmeric root. Whole nutmeg, chai, cloves, multicolored peppercorns, vanilla beans . . . I'd learn how to make my own chili powder from fresh chilis. Grow fresh dill, basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme, and dry them when their abundance is too great for use.

After practicing my recipes, and probably finding a few hundred new ones along the way, I would go to my audition. I'd walk into the kitchen with confidence and cook for these directors, tell them my food story. I'd expound my views on whole foods and vegetarian cooking, how I think it's a lifestyle change that could reverse the path of destruction American food culture has left our youngest generations to face . . .

And what if they liked what they heard and tasted, and asked me to be on the show? What if they said filming would only take a few hours a day, and that they would provide on-set childcare for Hannah? Not only that, but what if they provided Hannah with a fun, stimulating and educational experience that I might not have been able to give her myself, all while I'm cooking my butt off for Gordon Ramsay? What if I won the competition? Got my own cooking show? Even if I lost, what if I opened a restaurant and the publicity from the show brought people from all over the the area?

I'm not saying I want to go out and become a chef, all I'm saying is: what if?

And why not?


Samantha said...

Suzie, so much of this- even though the specifics about cooking are different- is stuff I'm going through right now. Like the first paragraph or so of this was like, exactly how I feel and have been feeling. I'm going through a lot of confusion and "turmoil" if you will about this kind of thing. I honestly don't know what to do about it. And my "dreams" - they seem so impossible and far fetched.

Flirty and Thirty said...

Go for it, Suzie! "What if?" is such an empowering question. There will always be complications and doubts, but they sort themselves out. I agree with Thoreau: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." I love this opportunity you have. Carpe diem, girl.

Jacob and Kalli Hiller said...

Sounds like you've got nothing to lose! I like reading about your vegetarian ideas since I am too. Vegetarian is SO in these days.

courtney*adele said...

do it. with less salt, of course ;) what do you have to lose? and if you use hannah as an excuse to not do something, you'll regret it in the long run. you can do whatever you want. you DO have the drive... you just need a swift kick in your ass from someone, like, ME!

you need to watch the oprah that aired today- i'm not a huge fan, but i watched it because it was going to have a feature on the ipad... it was seriously motivational- especially the flower guy... the overall message: find a way to get paid to do what you love. if you love to cook, no matter how 'novice' you feel, then DO IT.

oh yeah, and if i can do anything to help... i'm here.

ps. DO IT.

Suzie said...

Haha, whoa guys! This is an exercise in creativity, not a confession of my life's ambitions! Thanks for all the support, though!

Courtney, I'm a little afraid you're going to kick my ass now . . .

J said...

I love it. Work that creative muscle, Suzie!

The exaggerated pessimistic counterpoint is fun if you're really nervous about something, because then you look back at all you've written and can say heartily "Well, it wouldn't be all THAT bad!" But this is beautiful the way it is. Full of hope and enthusiasm, which everybody needs a little more of.