For most of my life I’ve loved to read and to make stuff. My mother says I taught myself to read when I was 4, and I never looked back. I also liked fooling around in the kitchen, but my mother wasn’t really into cooking, so I learned a lot of that on my own, too. My sister and I had the Betty Crocker New Boys and Girls Cookbook (1965), and naturally I had to make the Enchanted Castle Cake. I learned how to bake bread when I was 14, and I bought a copy of the Joy of Cooking when I was 17. My aunt and uncle gave me Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my 19th birthday, and the first thing I made was soufflé. I’ve always been more of a baker than a cook, though.
When our niece used to visit us during her breaks from college, she’d get me to show her some cooking things (including soufflé, of course), but I kept having to tell her, “This is just how I do it. I have no idea if it’s the right way.” Finally, I took a basic cooking class, and that changed my life. After that class, I signed up for a 4-day baking class at King Arthur Flour. The day Michelle taught us to calculate desired dough temperature, I knew I was really a baker.
Now, after 25 years of editing nonfiction, I’m in the professional pastry program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, training to become a pastry chef. The program is 37 weeks and consists of one 3-hour seminar and two 8-hour kitchen classes each week. The kitchen classes begin with a lecture of a couple of hours, after which we break into teams and make assigned recipes for the rest of the class. I’m in the evening classes, which run from 4:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.