I’m pretty certain I will spend my life working in the corporate world, but every once in a while it’s fun to wonder what life would be like if I took a less traditional path. While my cooking is certainly not up to restaurant standards (and I can’t make a pretty frosting for cupcakes to save my life!), if I was to do anything other than marketing it would somehow involve food. Which is probably why  I collect cookbooks (I got a new cupcake book over the weekend) and am always drawn to books involving food. So I was really excited when I decided to take a break from The Wheel of Time for a relaxing weekend read of The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry: Love, Laughter and Tears in Paris at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn.

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry

Most people are defined by their job. They describe themselves by what they do, and their life is a success or failure depending on how far up the corporate ladder they can rise. And when they are suddenly thrust out of the corporate world, their sense of self ends with the paychecks. Kathleen Flinn is different. After loosing her middle-management job and visa to live and work in London, she decides it’s time to finally follow her passion and enroll in Le Cordon Bleu and move to Paris. Well, Kathleen is mostly different–she still doubts her choice to totally leave the working world, and her hasty decision to move to Paris with the guy she’s always liked but never pursued. This book follows her experience in culinary school, but it also shares her extremely personal journey of self-discovery and love.

Kathleen grew up in a small town with a close-knit family, but always dreamed of traveling and food–and specifically of Paris. After college she bounced around the journalism world reporting on food and critiquing restaurants, but she eventually wound up working in London for a large company thanks to Mike, the wonderful could-have-been-more friend. When she suddenly looses her job, it’s Mike who reminds her of that childhood dream to graduated from Le Cordon Bleu.

Kathleen and Mike are the primary characters in the book, although Kathleen’s family and friends from cooking classes make frequent appearances. Kathleen is an incredibly strong woman,despite her fears that dropping everything and draining her bank account to move to Paris may not be the best decision. She views every experience as a chance to learn, and in many of her conversations with her classmates the author shares what every person has learned to show how every person learns something different from the same experience. Mike is a stabilizing force in her life. He eats the leftovers from school without complaint, carries pounds of flour up the six flights of stairs to their apartment, and was willing to put his own career on pause to move to Paris with the woman he loves.

I loved this book. Her stories of cooking classes and food-based tours of Paris reinforced my dreams to travel and host dinner parties for all my friends. She also featured a recipe at the end of every chapter with additional recipes at the end of the book, many of them an adaption from the complicated french dishes taught at Le Cordon Bleu. I would gladly recommend this book for anyone who loves food, and people who want a feel-good read for a lazy weekend.

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