My Real Food Movement

October 8th, 2010 · 17 Comments · Kitchenlightenment

I think it’s so awesome when readers come up to me and say “I love your blog. You sound like you have the greatest life.” This conclusion is based on the fact that I regularly…eat porcupine meatballs? That’s a joke, but it’s also kind of serious.

I need to back up for a second. My first job out of college was at a financial consulting firm. The people in my office were very nice (especially my friend Han who called me over to his Sun computer one morning to show me this cool new thing called “The Net”) but I had no idea what I was doing and kept my phone on the “direct-to-voicemail” function all day because I was too nervous to talk to clients. It is a miracle I lasted 14 months there — I hated it. But since I was raised in a certain way (aka TriState Ashkenazi) I was programmed to think of these kinds of jobs (law, medicine, business) as the real jobs. And when you are in a real job, you aren’t necessarily happy all the time. “That’s why it’s called a job,” said one jerky associate (Dartmouth ’92) when I made the mistake of saying that I wasn’t 100% fulfilled compiling Strategic Action Reports for Lazard Freres. (At least I think that’s what I was doing.) I will always remember that conversation, as well as the “informational interview” I had later that year with the mother of a friend of mine who was like the Don Draper of the 80′s. She asked me what made me happy. A lot of things made me happy, but I had just put together a recipe book for my best friend for her birthday (crafted from stolen office supplies!) so I answered “Food.” Ha ha ha.

“So let’s think about jobs in food.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! No one gets a job in food. That is the very definition of Not a Real Job.

She looked at me as only someone who had made a lot of money from a creative career could look at me. “Why not?”

I worshipped this woman, but it took me a long time (like 15 years) to come around to processing her message. Not the first, obvious level of the message — that you should pursue what you love — but the second: That food can not only be a real job, but in my mind, it can be real-er than most jobs. After all, you can actually eat a meatball. And that meatball gives you a reason to sit down and eat more meatballs with your children. And the meatball can bring happiness to your children. And other parents’ children. And then those parents email you to say how happy they are that the meatball made their kids happy. What, pray tell, is more real than that?

OK, so I’ve strayed, but the point is this: If it seems like I have some kind of amazingly great life (there is plenty of evidence to contest this conclusion, I promise) it’s because of your baseline assumption: If you’re eating well, you must be living well. And because of mine: A meatball is so much more than a meatball.

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17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Marcos Duran // Oct 8, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Thanks for being brave enough to have the “real-er” job. It has brought me pleasure, and by kitchen proxy, happiness to my family as well. :-)

  • 2 Mendy // Oct 8, 2010 at 11:16 am

    I’m not convinced. Your life is totally cooler than mine.

  • 3 Emily // Oct 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    OH MY GOSH…I’m a 22-year-old college graduate who has been in the real world–at a job in the financial services industry–for 5 months now. I read your blog because the food you make is wonderful and the pickiness of your girlies is similar to that of my (also 22-year-old) roommates. I know your perceived audience is full of moms, but I just wanted to let you know that this post was seriously the bright spot in a long, rather boring week at a rather boring job. I know this wasn’t quite the point of the post, but the idea that maybe one day, I could have a job in food + writing, plus be successful, gives me hope!! Thanks for being out there on this thing called The Net, and thanks for being so inspiring (in a different way than to cook dinner)!

  • 4 bianca // Oct 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Amazing words!

    xoxo
    bianca

  • 5 Jen // Oct 9, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Great post! My first job out of college was in the financial services industry… and I hated it too! It took me (and is still taking me) a while to realize that starting my own business to help other people get organized is a “real job.” Thanks for the reminder that our job doesn’t need to be “painful” to be real and fulfilling! :)

  • 6 glp // Oct 11, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Thank you for this post. It takes a lot of courage to look at the work that doesn’t make you happy and say, “it doesn’t have to be this way.” This blog is helping me get there!

  • 7 Faith McGown // Oct 11, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you for this very important reminder. Old beliefs can be hard to let go even when we know they are incorrect. You are an inspiration!

  • 8 Jane @ Sweet Basil Kitchen // Oct 11, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Hi Jenny ~ I have an award to share with you! I have followed and enjoyed your blog for several months. Please stop by my blog when you’re able =)

  • 9 andrea // Oct 11, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    meatballs make everyone happy :)

  • 10 Dalai Lina // Oct 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I’ve been following you but am a terrible commenter! I couldn’t let this one pass me buy, though. It was so well said! Thank God I’m not in insurance anymore :)

  • 11 Cindy // Oct 11, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I’d buy this if you hadn’t written a couple fantastic posts about books you and your family are reading. That plus the food and living in Manhattan…you have a lot of the world beat. Stop trying to be humble and keep sending us your fabulous writing already!

  • 12 Deb // Oct 11, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    I’ve worked in the financial services industry for over 15 years and continue to enjoy it. With 3 kids under 7 my work keeps me extremely busy and its wonderful to drop in on your site and be reminded that creating dinner need not be a chore, ok it has to be done, regardless of the outcome, but it can (at times) bring me back to my love of cooking and creating something that is satisfying and sometimes appreciated by a majority!

  • 13 Jenny // Oct 12, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Deb – thank you for writing! This was not supposed to be an indictment of the financial services industry! It was a roundabout way of saying you should do what makes you happy. Just want to be clear on that.

  • 14 Laura // Oct 12, 2010 at 9:51 am

    I agree with an earlier comment, you ARE an inspiration. I’m 23 years old and trying to figure out a job in food. Reading this post helps me think of the bigger picture and that is what’s truly important in the first place.

  • 15 Becca // Oct 12, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    THANK YOU! I’m 24 and in a “this is NOT what I want to be doing for the rest of my life” type of job. I also grew up TriState Ashkenazi, and thus used to subscribe to the belief that that if its not Medicine, Law or Finance (aka the Jewish Trifecta), its not a job. Thanks for reminding me that I can break out of the mold, and I can be successful at it, and that I can make it a successful career. A blogpost about how you made this happen for you would be awesome!

  • 16 Beth // Oct 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks for a wonderful blog! I have just recently discovered it……am trying to hold out until Christmas for the book! I am also not a fan of the kids “helping” make dinner. It makes me nuts when my 4 1/2 y.o. and 6 y.o. fight over who gets to do what next.

    We are also lovers of TJoes……I recently found and bought on impulse Smores cookies/candies in the new product section. Microwave for 4-6 seconds….heaven!

    Keep inspiring all of us with picky eaters….I used the white broccoli line just the other night!

  • 17 Jill // Oct 15, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Funny… I went the other direction. I followed my dream of being an actor and scoffed at the folks with “real jobs”. And now I am almost 40, newly married and broke. I have now entered the “real job” world and am so happy! I love the steady paycheck and the security… Such a funny switcharoo!

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