I met Kathleen Flinn one evening last October when Sarasota News and Books held an author’s event to promote her new book, “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less you Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School.”
I realize those of you who know me well are astonished that I would be interested in a book about cooking. It’s not that I can’t cook. It’s just that I have no interest in it. I try; I really do. I go to the grocery store and load my cart with fresh veggies and other healthy stuff like tofu and tempeh. But regardless of my good intentions, more than half of it ends up spoiling and then I feel guilty because I have wasted food. Over the past few years I have gradually accepted this quirk in my personality and just started eating out once a day. (I am still capable of fixing myself fruit in the morning and a small snack in the evening).
I was interested in Kathleen’s book because it is as much memoir as it is a book about cooking. It was fascinating to hear her story first hand. In 2003, she returned from vacation to discover that her job had been eliminated. After her initial panic passed, she realized the situation might be for the best. Not only had she long been unhappy with her present position, the job had also required her to live in London, while Mike, the man with whom she’d been developing a relationship, lived in Seattle. Thinking this might be an opportunity to see if the relationship would really work, she phoned Mike and told him what had happened.
“Do you think I should move to Seattle so we can be together?”
Great, she thought, I’ve lost a job and a boyfriend in the same day.
Then he added: “I think you should do what you’ve always dreamed of; go to France and attend the Cordon Bleu School of Cooking.”
“But I just lost my job and I don’t have the money to do that.”
“You have your IRA’s. And if you don’t do it now, you’ll wonder ‘what if’ for the rest of your life.”
“But I don’t speak French well and I don’t know anyone in France!”
“Well, you know me and I’ll go with you.”
Of course, she married the guy because, as Kathleen says, you don’t let a man like that get away.
“The Sharper Your Knife, The Less you Cry” is a sometimes touching, often funny account of her time at the Le Cordon Bleu school, where she struggles with ego-maniacal chefs, competitive classmates, and her limited French, while simultaneously treating the reader to vibrant descriptions of life in Paris. And those of you who can and DO cook haven’t been forgotten. Kathleen closes each chapter with a mouth-watering recipe, direct from the Cordon Bleu kitchens.
Kathleen’s story resonates with me because I am on somewhat the same track. I, too, abandoned a career I detested and set out to remake my life. I, too, am writing a book about my experiences. After listening to her speak last October, I eagerly purchased the book and stood in line to meet her. While signing my copy, she was kind enough to listen as I told her briefly about our similar life paths. Smiling, she handed me the book. I flipped open to the inside cover to read what she had written:
“Remember, life is not a dress rehearsal. You have a story to tell. Now tell it.”
Words to live by. Words I am living. Thank you, Kathleen.
Note: In December of 2006, author Barbara Weibel left her successful but joyless career to pursue her dream of becoming a travel writer and photographer. This story is one in a series about people who, like Weibel, have chosen to pursue their true passions.