My primary life’s goal is to build a train set in my head. That may need some explaining.
When my family moved from L.A. to Seattle in the ’80s, I was introduced to an unfinished train set in the attic of our new house.
To a 5-year-old it was approximately 300 feet long by 80 feet wide. It was amazing and slightly tragic. There was a cluster of white Christmas lights hovering above it to represent a cosmos, and the rest of the attic was unfinished and empty.
I decided I would just imagine building my own train set instead of finishing someone else’s. I turned to books to begin gathering information. My knowledge gathering has expanded from there.
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If something interests me, I want to understand it well enough that I can hold a quality conversation about it with someone who is diehard on the topic. The problem with diehards is their keen ability to spot weekend enthusiasts, so I had to start to do things.
I’ve played with stringed instruments, glass-blowing, ancient Chinese strategy games and the innards of desktop computers. I’ve traveled. All this in the name of crafting and perfecting my train set.
I want to be a cook.
As you can likely imagine, my wife was a touch skeptical of my sudden interest in pole-vaulting us into poverty so I can learn something new … again.
Expecting this, I did my research and spun a yarn certain to sell her on gambling with our livelihood. Johnson County Community College has one of the best culinary programs in the country.
I’ll be working as an apprentice, 40 hours a week guaranteed. I’ll be making tens of dollars. I already have a copy of “The Professional Chef,” which saves us several dollars!
We can finally explain my giant knife collection to the neighbors. We can rediscover coupons! Our girls are almost ready for college and the poorer we are the less they will expect from us. It will improve their self-reliance.
My beautiful wife succumbed to my nonsense, and I immediately bought a new knife.
That was some months ago and I’m already certain that I will never perfect the culinary adornments on the train set. There is too much.
JCCC’s culinary program is brim full of quality people, and bits and gizmos I only marginally comprehend. My approach has always been to research something until I am able to appreciate what mastery looks like in that field, but never expecting to master it myself.
I can’t say that I have the appropriate gusto to survive the focus I will require for this 3-year program, but my bones will graduate. I will figure out food!
My middle-aged limbs will make homework happen. I will wake up in the ludicrous deepness of 5 a.m. to manufacture product for the omelette groupies at William Jewell College, where I do apprenticeship under the clever and vehement chef Jim Tinkham.
If mastery occurs, so be it, but my determination lay in assembling understandings. I will pepper restaurant knowledge throughout my brainscape with monstrous abandon until I can impress laypeople with the craftsmanship.
I will be a cook, or I will understand what cooks do and tell everyone about it.
Through the kindness and trust of The Star’s food editor Jill Silva, I get to tell you about it. So if you could, please excuse me my ignorance and my arrogance. I’m new here. I haven’t had those things beaten out of me yet.