In two days’ time, I will be starting the 12-Week certification course at Ballymaloe Cookery School. I am both excited and nervous. I am excited, as I’ve been dreaming about doing this course ever since I serendipitously came upon the school’s website a few years ago. It seemed too good to be true – a cooking school set in the middle of the Irish countryside on the grounds of a 100-acre organic farm with an ethos for local, seasonal, and sustainable food? Sign me up! Well, it took about two years to get the plan together, which included such minor obstacles as quitting my job as an aviation defense attorney in Chicago and moving to Ireland. Back when the “dream plan” was in its infant stage, I can remember quite distinctly reading everything I could about the school online (usually during working hours no less…shhhh, it’s our little secret). But alas, here I am now in Dublin, where I have been living for the past four months. However, I will soon bid farewell to the comforts of city life, as I leave Dublin tomorrow for Cork and to my final destination in a tiny village called Shanagarry where Ballymaloe is located.
Then, of course, there is the nervousness, which stems from a myriad of reasons. Firstly, I left everything I know behind – most notably, my career and my life and friends in Chicago. When I started telling people about my plans to attend this school, I was met with some interesting reactions. Some were genuinely happy for me (“it sounds amazing – go for it”); others were confused (“I didn’t know you liked to cook that much”); and still others said I was brave, which, to me, seemed like a thinly veiled euphemism for “I would never do what you’re doing (i.e. give up a perfectly good, well-paying job; move to another country for 8 months; leave everything behind), but good for you.” One small existential crisis and a few minor panic attacks later, I eventually
got over my initial nerves (and it was too late to renege anyway, as I had already paid my deposit for the course – cha-ching!).
Yet, in the past couple of weeks leading up to this moment, another pain-in-the-ass feeling, a.k.a. self-doubt, has been rearing its ugly head. Here’s a list of thoughts that have, at one stage or another, crossed my mind:
- All of my attempts at cooking will likely fail miserably and be met with shame and mockery.
- I pretend to know what I’m doing, but in actuality, I don’t know what I’m doing.
- After years of practicing law and abiding by the rules of IRAC (*that’s the legal writing acronym for “issue, rule, application, and conclusion”…yes, lame, I know), I have been stripped of any modicum of creativity and will generally suck at cooking.
- I have no culinary skills.
And my personal favorite – the simplest but most deadly of fears:
- Everyone will laugh at me.
I had a few pep talks with various friends and family, and the bottom line of their collective message was precisely this: Lisa, calm down and stop acting like a damn fool! And they’re right: it’s not the Bocuse d’Or; I am there to learn. Funnily, in the last few days of getting everything together, it kind of feels like I’m going to sleep-away camp. My bag is packed (full of items seemingly appropriate for cooking school but that seem rather strange to be putting into a suitcase like Tupperware, non-skid clogs, and a grater). I even sewed name labels into my brand-spanking new chef whites yesterday. Ultimately, I know that I am very fortunate that I even get to do this, so I intend to appreciate it. So for the next 12 weeks, my basic philosophy will be this: to just enjoy the experience…oh yeah, and hopefully not chop off any of my fingers!
More info on Ballymaloe Cookery School: