After agonizing for years, I made my final decision so quickly that I realized I haven't told many people yet:
I've enrolled in culinary school.
It was something I've wanted to do for awhile, but was always afraid I didn't have the money or the time. Neither of those circumstances have changed, but I decided if I was ever going to do it, I should jump in before we have a family and life gets even more complicated. So I took out student loans (I'm not going to say how much because it still freaks me out) and signed up for classes 9-5 on Saturdays and Sundays at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, while holding onto my full-time job.
I'm studying to get a diploma in baking and pastry. Maybe I can use it to open my dream cookie shop one day. Or it can help with my husband's idea of opening a Bed and Breakfast in Asbury Park. No matter what I end up doing with it, at least I won't have to wonder anymore if it's something that I should have done.
I just finished my second week of classes. We've done some simple things like make caramel, which just involved heating half a pound of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Before it hardened we drizzled the hot liquid off the tip of a spoon to make designs like this caramel Saturn:
The second week our work got a little more complicated. We made apricot pectin candies called pate de fruits which I heard one of my classmates describe as a flavor explosion. Very accurate.
We also learned how to cut up, poach, dry, candy and macerate fruit (soaking in sugar to draw out some of the liquid which enhances flavor). Buried under all that wonderful Zabaglione cream are strawberries and basil that soaked in sugar with a 1/2 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar for about an hour.
I'm not sure how I went from growing up to in a house where cakes came from mixes or the supermarket bakery to candying grapefruit rinds in class and making my own mayonnaise. I've always wondered if my parents had enjoyed food more, would I have known how much I love it from an early age and taken a different career path? I had no idea how wonderful food could taste - or there was more to eating out than Chinese restaurants - until I became an adult. But I've learned there is something magical about food that makes people happy and I am hoping to learn to tap into that magic.
And yes, I do get to bring home what I make in class and will share with everyone!