Starving

An Oxford Graduation

An Oxford Graduation

I’m dedicating this post to one reader, Mark, because it was his question that inspired it.

He asked, after reading that I had returned to Oxford to do my MBA, what I planned to do with all this education. Back weeks ago, full of pluck and tenacity, I stood tall, peering with shaded eyes across my vast aspirations, sure that I, writer and eater and cook, could never bite off more than I could chew. My appetites, I admit—for food, for life, for success—are greater than the ocean that separates me from my home.

I must admit that I have overdone it before, snacking on frites past midnight, slathering my morning baguette in a winter-thick blanket of ivory butter. And then, I had to go on a diet—which I hated! And though I hope I’ve upheld the adage French women don’t get fat through responsible consumption, the diet I’ve never been able to keep is rationing ideals, dreams, hopes, goals. Perhaps it is a contagion that racks all first generation Americans. Both my theses are on the American Dream, so has it fascinated me ever since I first heard the two words consecutively uttered. I cannot live without work. I am too hungry.

So, here I am, in the den of the hungriest lions in the world: business school. I will write cookbooks, I told myself, and be the greatest literary and culinary entrepreneur of all time! Sophomoric was the word invented for just such idiocy. I suppose the benefit of an expensive education is hearing over and over again that you can do anything—which translates to you can do everything. Yet, so far am I from being a master of the universe that I am not even master of my own universe.

And so the education that I thought would catapult me to the highest heights of personal capability has me licking the dregs of the lowest lows. Every day I sit in the same seat, under the same fluorescent lights, as one professor after another equivocates about the Capital Asset Pricing Model. They pontificate about where supply meets demand, and I surreptitiously stretch my legs under my desk and ask myself whether I will ever find an equilibrium that satisfies my own market conditions. I have realized, for the first time, that there is only so much of myself I can supply, and so many, many forces demanding.

I have only a microwave during the week in my little room. And I have found myself, that hungry, hungry tiger, feeling caged. I always thought that caged animals would turn tame, but they won’t. They turn angry. Which is why with every hour I spend balancing accounts, I curse the fact that I’m not balancing the weights of butter, flour, and water in choux pastry. I realized that I haven’t done anything that I love—I haven’t cooked, I haven’t written, in weeks.

Every day, a little knot of us eat three meals under the same fluorescent lights of the business school. Sometimes I play a little game with myself: is that fennel, or just tarragon in the soup? My friend Jeff asks for an extracurricular education in spices that I am happy to provide, as the cafeteria staff leaves dangerous, whole spikes of anise and cinnamon in its “fragrant” rice. But never before has food comprised such a little portion of my life. And now I am not just hungry, I am starving. Hungry for success, yes, but also starving to do that which I love more than that which I felt I should love.

How could a plate so full appear, feel, be so very empty?

I am not a religious girl, but another part of expensive education is religious training, and one line has always stuck with me: “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” I used to listen to all the voices that bombarded me telling me that following a dream, doing what you love, was childish. But that same passage reads, “love never fails,” and I have found what I love, and love is an investment, one that my professors would agree produces an excellent rate of return. I turned 27 last week, and so now that I am a woman, I put away childish things, and I am putting myself on a diet. Less strategy and accounting–more cooking and writing. More love.

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4 Responses to Starving

  1. Anonymous says:

    Kerry,

    First of all Happy Birthday! I am flattered that my comment had some effect on you. You never posted an answer to my question, so I worried that my question was offensive in some way. I was simply so impressed with your credentials that I was curious about where it would all lead you.

    I was bragging about your culinary talents last week to a fellow LCB student who shares some of your history (She is a NYer and went to Oxford Law School); however, unlike you, she is a beginner to cooking. You are a fantastic cook and talented writer. Keep the love coming.

    Mark

  2. Anonymous says:

    I hope you get everything you want in your life & your dreams all come true. I love your writing & i hope you get to publish more & share it with more & more people!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Life can be short. Eat what you love. Im writing this while starving because I cant take my own advice. But your blog has inspired me to only eat quality food. Im jealous of your educational opportunity. Once you finish it will come to you. Just keep your passions for what you love to do. Just because we love and do certain things, doesnt make them childish. Do what makes you happy!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Stoked a dying feeling within to re-challenge, to re-focus and to re-dedicate. Especially as we break for a while. Well done K.

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