I was a pre-school dropout. Well, let me back up. Long before I locked myself in the pre-K bathroom and vowed never to return to a place that made me share play dough (the nerve!), I came down with a raging case of The Quits. I was a quirky kid who wanted to try everything from ice skating to being an actress, but if something proved to be a hassle or made me uncomfortable, I gave up. In elementary school that meant gymnastics, ballet, jazz, and tap. In middle school, it was a flirtation with music--chorus, piano, flute and a two week stint with the alto sax. In high school, it was boyfriends--I made for the door instead of making things work.
Somewhere around fourth grade, I was obsessed with informercials. If Ron Popeil endorsed it, chances are, I had seen it. Even worse, I was convinced I needed said product to make my life simpler, healthier or more productive. [What ten year old doesn't need a food dehydrator? How else am I, er...is she, going to stockpile all that beef jerky she's been meaning to make?]. By the time I was 12, our counters were littered with unused appliances and my mom began to lose faith in my ability to follow through on kitchen projects. My heart nearly broke when she refused to buy me a Popeil Pasta Maker, even at the bargain price of 6 easy payments of $19.99.
So, I took matters into my own hands and saved my allowance to buy a $50 Atlas pasta roller. That pricetag is no joke for a 12 year old budget, so I vowed to use the machine all the time.
On its inaugural run, I took my Atlas to the basement where my dad's commercial kitchen was. I confidently mounted one of the stools as if it were a horse and I was riding into battle against my case of The Quits. I was armed with AP flour, eggs and a cookie sheet as I sat face to face with the shiny metal machine. My dad's kitchen had always been a lively space with pans coming in and out of the oven, aromas mingling in the air and the familiar hum of the industrial fan as a soundtrack. As I sat in the silent kitchen to embark upon my first solo kitchen adventure, I couldn't help but be intimidated by the now desolate space. Within minutes, the floor was caked in failed fettucini and flour footprints. My too-sticky dough clung to the tiny slots of the noodle attachments and I quickly gave up. Crestfallen at my defeat and now-depleted allowance, I cleaned the rollers and put away the metal appliance, admitting surrender: I was not the culinary master I imagined myself to be.
Since that day, I've fallen for lots of things--kitchen gadgets, hobbies and men alike (though admittedly, I don't give up on the last one as easily anymore)--and managed to stay within my comfort zone up until grad school. Then, in a move unlike anything I'd ever done, I moved four hours away, got an apartment in the city, traded my car for a bike and found myself doing nerve-wracking things like riding my bike in traffic, teaching lectures and presenting at conferences.
As I learned to accept all the chaos I had no control over, I pushed myself toward the uncomfortable, unknown and un-good-at. Photography. Hot yoga. Classes on PR. Riding a bike with no hands. Uncluttering my life. As I was doing just that, I stumbled upon my old pasta roller and knew that it was time to push myself in the area that meant most to me: the kitchen. As coincidence would have it, that day I also stumbled upon a pasta making class taught by Domenica Marchetti in the home of Cathy Barrow. When the universe sends signs, I follow.
Sitting in Cathy's kitchen ready to face my pasta-rolling demons, I realized I had nothing to fear except developing a sudden gluten intolerance. I couldn't have asked for a more relaxed, no-pressure environment. Domenica was patient and thorough in her explanations and conveyed such love for what she does. Cathy was a gracious, witty hostess who made us feel welcome from the moment we stepped foot in her gorgeous kitchen. As if learning from their combined culinary experience wasn't enough, I was lucky enough to do so as part of a group of wonderful women. We laughed, rolled, cut, shaped, filled, ate and covered Cathy's floor in flour (sorry, Dennis!). Moreover, I came home and made pasta without expectation. It wasn't perfect. But, like anything that's intimidating, the first step is sitting down and actually giving it a try!