so what exactly am i faking?
It's funny, I've spent years thinking about starting a blog. Really, years! But one thing has always held me back, and that's the little voice inside my head consistently whispering, 'hey, you're no expert, what do you know?' (Well that, and the word 'blog.' Can we just call it something else, please? I can't have a 'blog'! I am far too cynical to lay ownership to a 'blaaaahg'.)
Without the comfort of a culinary education to fall back on, I've spent a lifetime waiting for the penny to drop - for people to suddenly realize that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I have wasted a lot of energy trying to convince myself that the success I have been fortunate enough to enjoy, has been achieved through a whole lot of dumb luck and distraction, and that at some point, someone will catch on.
I have recently come to discover that there's a name for that feeling - it's called 'Impostor Syndrome' and apparently it's quite common. It seems that a lot of people spend a great deal of time marinating in that uneasy self-doubt, despite a mountain of evidence pointing towards their obvious ability.
The question is, do I let it stop me or do I swallow it, and step out everyday ready to put on a show?
Thus far, I seem to have been doing the latter.
A few years back, I walked into a restaurant in Los Angeles, to inquire about a job. I would have been happy with a position as a hostess or a waitress at the front of the house, but the owner, with a smile on his face, asked 'what else do you do?' Surprised, and delighted, I mentioned that I had a small, word-of-mouth business baking cakes and pastries, and that I loved any time I could spend in the kitchen. 'Well, are you any good?' he asked. 'Um, yeah, I think so,' I said. He thought for a moment, before uttering words that would quickly turn my world upside down. 'Maybe we could hire you as the assistant to our pastry chef. Let me think about it.'
I almost jumped out of my skin. My first thought was that this man must be crazy. To take a chance on a young 20-something-year-old with absolutely no professional experience, seemed unfathomable to me. My second thought was that I had to run home and bake up a storm for him. I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by, and having enough life experience to know that 'I'll think about it' more often than not results in zero thought whatsoever, I knew I had to force him to.
The next day, banana-walnut-caramel-upside-down cake in hand, I walked back into that restaurant and got the job. (After which I left the restaurant and thought 'oh crap, what on earth did I get myself into?!')
Did I learn a lot as the assistant to the pastry chef? No, because the pastry chef was fired a week before the restaurant opened. ('Hi Tess! Just making sure you're still coming in on Monday? Ok great! The pastry chef is out, and you're up! Hope you're ready!' Cue my stomach being permanently lodged in my throat for the next year.) I did, however, learn a hell of a lot from the guys around me, from a boss who pushed and ignored my assumed limitations, and from myself. I learned that my feet will paddle as hard as they need to, regardless of how rough the waters may be, and that not much can stop me, no matter how hard it tries.
I woke up every day in a panic, and every day I showed up and faked it 'til I made it. I may have thought of myself as an impostor, but I'd be damned if I let anyone know it.
With every job I've taken and succeeded in, I've brought my 'impostor self' along - much like my stomach, she's permanently lodged somewhere between my heart and my head. And though I know I'm fully capable, I'll probably always feel a little bit like I'm faking it, both in the kitchen and outside it. But I've taken enough comfort in understanding this about myself, to be able to, finally, share what I know.
With this blog (...ugh), I hope I can express to you that food and cooking aren't necessarily about getting it right. They're not about measurements and exact science - they're about a feeling. So, whether you're a total pro, or have absolutely no idea what you're doing (and, as evidenced here, they're often one and the same), you have as much right to a spot in the kitchen as anyone else. Carry on family traditions and start new ones. Make meals for many, or servings for one. Get elaborate or dip carrot sticks in hummus and call it dinner! Your perceived limitations don't matter, as long as you enjoy continuing to push past them.
You got this.