Julia made me do it


 Image result for julia child images

You would think that three months abroad would have its roots in lots of thought and careful planning. You would be wrong, at least in this case.

It all started with a book (no surprises there). Called “Dearie”, this biography of Julia Child delighted and inspired me. I loved how she struggled to find her purpose and how, when she did, she pursued it at full tilt and blazed a trail for today’s celebrity chefs and the countless cooking shows on television.

I particularly loved the descriptions of her walking the streets of Paris to and from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Those images arrested my imagination and tapped into a long-held desire to live and work in a foreign country.

Holiday is one thing; I longed for something more.

A week or so after finishing the book, we met with a director at our financial planning firm. Somehow we got onto the Julia topic. She looked at Rob and me and said: “So what is your next adventure?” By the time we left that meeting room 15 minutes later, it was decided: we would put our stuff in storage, go away for three months and I would go to cooking school.

That was April last year and here we are, a month and a bit away from our departure date, and just over two months away from the start of my 4-week essential skills course at the Dublin Cookery School.

Yes, I know the Irish aren’t renowned for their cooking. A Euro for every person who’s looked at me in surprise/shock/concern/confusion when I told them about Dublin would have contributed handsomely towards my course fees.

Fear not, dear friends and family members, I’m not going to spend a month learning the intricacies of Irish stew. I have other fish to fry. And that is why I wasn’t looking for a week in Tuscany or the south of France where you drink wine and cook 5 dishes. My mission was to learn, and for that I needed a hard-core cooking school with paperwork on the walls and chef’s jackets and, yes, an equipment list. (When I feel strong enough I will tell you about buying knives.)

Three other powerful motivations drove the Dublin decision: we wanted to be close to London; I didn’t want to apply for two visas; and we love Ireland.

Am I planning a career change that entails a sho’t left into the hospitality industry? No. I’m planning an adventure that will unlock some of the mysteries of food and technique for me, and let me be more competent and imaginative in my own kitchen (I was the child my mother thought would never master the stove). Food aside, I want an adventure that will feed my soul on all the levels that count. And I hope that Julia will drop in from time to time.


Concerns of an almost-gypsy

19 April 2016

Today, in exactly 6 weeks’ time, we’ll be boarding a KLM flight bound for Amsterdam. Our earthly possessions will be stacked in a single storage unit, our cat will be settling in (we hope!) with her foster family, and we will be on the verge of becoming gypsies for the next 3 months.

Ok, maybe gypsies is overreaching just a tad, given that we know where we will sleep every night (Schengen visa requirements, and all that). Interesting enough, however, the gypsy-tag will actually kick in when we board our return flight in Paris on 30 August. Coming home we will have to find a new home.

Deciding to have a 3-month adventure/sabbatical/holiday is one thing; deciding to give up your home to do so is turning out to be quite another. As my poor husband discovered when he innocently wanted to discuss the logistics of when to move which pieces of furniture so that the flat can be empty in time for the landlord to do his inspection and refund us our deposit before we leave for the airport.

“We’ll move the last stuff on the weekend before and stay with D and H for the last 10 days,” he announced, having planned it all in his organised engineer’s way.

Instead of being grateful, I fought and cried. Because I’m having a little trouble understanding how to do those last-minute pre-travel things when not surrounded by my own things. The main issue on my mind? Don’t laugh. It’s that last load of laundry (we’ll need the underwear). I always plan it so that I don’t come home to pre-holiday washing, as far as is humanly possible. Now, today in 6 weeks’ time, I’ll be in someone else’s house, packing our last bits and bobs and either waiting for the time to pass or rushing around like a demented chicken.

But there’s a massive gift in not departing from my own house, isn’t there? It’ll be a bit like a bride going on honeymoon straight after the reception. She doesn’t worry about last dishes in the sink or whether the front door is locked and the geyser turned off. She just goes, in splendour, throwing bouquets and blowing kisses at the crowd.

I’m deciding that’ll be me. Lovely H will spoil us, I know, and I won’t have to worry about cleaning out the fridge and changing the sheets so that we can come home to a fresh bed. That last load of laundry? I’ll drop it off somewhere and someone will collect it for me sometime during the 3 months – or not. Cause it’ll be old stuff, old skin I’ll be shedding as I transform into a gypsy. Maybe I’ll just lose the slip and they’ll sell the clothes to defray expenses and we’ll all be happy.

Such tremendous freedom, now that I think about it, sans the gulping sobs.

Now someone just have to let D and H know to expect us.