I was turning 40. I had always been a glass-half-full sort of girl, so I preferred to look at it as "the new 30" rather than "officially over the hill." Either way, 40 was a hard pill to swallow and I decided to celebrate in Paris, wedged comfortably among the culinary greats and the couture. Paris had to be the answer; it had the best in sex, food and wine available for mass consumption.
In my mind, there was no better place to go when looking for inspiration than Paris. I have never found comfort in religion. Thanks to my father, I have some sort of radical disbelief tied up in the DNA. I have, however, always believed in the restorative power of cooking. I grew up watching my mother cook. Each amazing, sensual meal could turn an everyday experience into something extraordinary. A great meal has the ability to connect and bring people together. And on a really bad day, all the chopping and pounding can even provide a cheaper alternative to therapy.
Once in Paris, armed with a loaf of bread, a bottle of Sancerre and some cheese bought at the local market, I realized how much my life was lacking in true inspiration. The only thing that would make 40 palatable was a new challenge. My best friend, Lisa, opted for a young boyfriend, but my husband would never approve.
Something radical was needed. I had always played with the idea of culinary school, but excuses came too readily: it took too much time, too much money and besides, what would I do with the degree? As I looked out at the lights fading on the banks of the Seine, I realize I had taken the term "at-home cook" as far as I could go without some formal training and to me, there was nothing sexier than a Bad-Ass Woman Chef. (Perhaps that could be a technical term). To me, cookbooks are porn.
I wanted to up my game and cook restaurant quality food in the luxury of my home for family and friends. Trapped in my own version of The Hunger Games (with very little box office return guaranteed), I order a glass of house wine and the onion soup. I let the idea simmer and rapidly rise to a rolling boil. I was already overcommitted, but nothing in my life seemed to be feeding the most important thing -- my soul. I swirled the gruyere cheese on my spoon as if it were a strand of spaghetti and took a huge bite, savoring every last morsel. Either I plunged headlong and accepted the challenge to transform my at-home skills into culinary genius... or I plunged headlong into the Seine and avoid the process of aging altogether.
With the seductive sites and smells of Paris officially under my skin and butter coursing through my veins like a drug, I returned to New York with a renewed sense of purpose. I found the Serious Amateur class in Culinary Techniques at the International Culinary Center, described as 110 hours of intensive study. I opted for the boot camp option, fives times a week for five weeks.
The blogs of my adventures will become a series on The Huffington Post. Tune in each week to see what I've learned and how it's changed my life. Have you ever dreamed of becoming a chef or just learning to cook like one?
Please share with us and watch for our weekly posts, recipes included.
After all: "We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are." -Adelle Davis
Heidi Brod and Lisa Stolov have a daily newsletter/website DishInOutBeauty.com that focuses on health and beauty from the inside out.