HOW FOOD SAVED MY LIFE

The sweet tooth runs in my family.  This is my aunt Vittoria's idea of "come for coffee after dinner"

Food makes me happy. Just over a year ago, life decided to take a roughish turn. All I remember is a blur of hours spent lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, the dog licking my face and an emptiness in my stomach  I thought I could never fill. My body got so thin that most mornings I felt the scale was playing some sick joke on me – mind you, my legs looked fabulous once again but my face was a different matter. Drawn, gaunt, the only visible  benefit of  this previously unknown emaciated me was the newly discovered Lauren Hutton cheekbones but everything else screamed an endless series of sleepless nights no concealer could ever make right.

Then work intervened in the manner of a project deadline. My boss had got it into her mind that I should come up with a dish that reflected the scientific theme of the dinner for 200 people we were scheduled to cater in a few months. The lecture’s title was “What if everything is not what it seems to be?”. The guests would be mainly scientists, male and geeky – I think – although when you work in a kitchen you seldom get to have a good look at those who gobble your food. Anyway, yes, I am a chef. A Pastry Chef. An Executive Pastry Chef to be exact, at a fancy operation, in a fancy museum in Los Angeles. This is my second career, one I never would have imagined but one that pleases my mother as she can finally understand what I do. Food on a plate as opposed to days spent on the phone and drawing marketing plans for rock bands she had never heard of. I was already “old” when I became a chef and I never thought this kind of life would suit me – the clamoring noise of a kitchen, the long hours, the split second decisions, the army mentality, the sometimes brutal physicality of the job – all details that would not have phased me in my 20’s or 30’s but in my 40’s cannot be taken for granted. Still, I would not trade the creative freedom, the teamwork, the tangible satisfaction of watching a complete stranger savor a piece of something that hours before was only in my mind. I would not trade my tired legs for a corner office ever again.

But back to my project. I had to put my sorrows and tears on hold and dig deep somewhere – and dig I did and, together with my talented team, we created a burger and fries made of brioche, chocolate pudding and brownie crumbs , pastry cream mayo, mango cheddar cheese, strawberry ketchup that would have fooled Ronald MacDonald.

That is when I knew I could survive the catastrophe. This is the blog of that journey. I am by no means out of the woods nor am I trying to give upbeat Oprahish advice on why everything happens for a reason, because it doesn’t. Sometime shit is random and it’s the randomness that brings people together that interests me. I will share my concoctions, obscure and not to so obscure food facts and food history along the way but this is not meant to be strictly a cooking blog. It’s just a tool to stay connected to friends near and far, but mainly far, and maybe making new ones.

We all have obsessions and the one for food is my anchor and my mission is to age, if not gracefully, with a hell of a lot of fun and some integrity.

If you are wondering what the photo is – well, it’s proof that a sweet tooth runs in the family. That is my aunt Vittoria’s idea of  “stop by for coffee after dinner”…


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14 Comments

Filed under aging, food

14 responses to “HOW FOOD SAVED MY LIFE

  1. marika

    e brava claudia…devo capire bene come funziona..ma ci provo

  2. Giuseppina

    I’m really happy to have a new tool to follow your adventurous life!!!

    A big kiss

    g.

  3. baba

    Ciao Clo!
    Fin qui sono riuscita ad arrivare.
    Let’s keep in touch!!!
    baci
    la baba

  4. Anna Maria

    wow un blog!
    finally I can get your delicious recipes…

    love
    penni
    xxx

  5. Kay Austen

    Witty and fascinating! I hope good news will be coming on the health front soon, but in any case I look forward to the next installment.

  6. gingergirl

    Wahini – you may feel like you are a flour and water mix between a couple of metal sheets. but, in truth, you are a warm, funny, loving, crazy girl who, rather scarily, lets dogs lick her face. I am glad you are up off the floor, writing and eating. More of that please!
    xxx

  7. Carolyn Hebner

    I too enjoy watching someone eating something I’ve created, watching their eyes roll with food-gasmic pleasure. I miss the excitment of the work kitchen with a team of food enthusiasts. Some of my favorite times & stories are when I was cooking on location in Santa Fe.
    I am so happy for you that you are happy and enjoying the fulfillment of butter. Although most people don’t realize how much work it is, those who do can appreciate the blood, sweat and love that goes into each creation.
    For me, God has not revealed my next step but I do know it will be with food until then I wait patiently for the angel of delicousness to lead me to the right choice.
    As for you Claudia may all your sweetness be appreciated!
    Love you,
    Carolyn

  8. Kim

    Hola Claudia!

    I enjoyed reading your food and life stories. Come to Peru soon, so you can write a piece about aji de gallina and spicy “desserts”!

    besos,
    Kim

  9. Anna Maria

    cara Claudia,
    potresti “tradurre” le tue ricette anche per noi poveri mortali italiani? gli ingredienti si capiscono, ma le quantità…
    ad esempio cos’è un 6 T honey?
    e un 3 C Slivered Almonds?

    quel C e quel T mi hanno messo in crisi… e i 350°F quanti sono in italiano? 180? no, forse un po’ di più… insomma HELP!
    grazie
    un bacio

  10. Hai ragione Penni e il mio piano e’ di scrivere le ricette in metrico e americano. Ieri non ho avuto tempo ma prometto, da ora in poi! Per tua info, C significa cup e T tablespoon.

  11. Elizabeth

    Wonderful, my fellow obsessive New Yorker reader and foodie.

  12. silvia

    Nothing special to do at work and don’t know why I decided to look for your first written piece and found out I didn’t leave a comment. The hell with me!
    Anyway I was thinking do you realize how much life was lived since October 12, 2009? Of course you do. Can you see how your writing has developped while you were processing life’s details? I’m not sure you do. So please take a moment and go through it, it’s a nice journey.
    It would be very nice to print all this out and one piece after another to lie them on the floor to measure the total lenght of what you’ve written so far and ask yourself how far have I gone?
    ok forget about it, it’s just another silly thought of your weird friend

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