The New Gratinée Blog

by Darina on June 23, 2012

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A couple of weeks ago I was looking at my site stats and realized that I was coming up to my 200th post. I never thought I would write this many. Granted, this writing has taken place over the last three plus years, but it’s been so sporadic over the bulk of this time that I’m surprised that I’ve come this far. Almost everything in my life has been a greater priority; from work to photography classes to looking for a boyfriend. I’ve thought of packing it in more than once. I’m not one who easily sustains commitments. Having a bit of an addictive personality, I tend to jump into things with both feet, and jump out just as quickly once I’ve mastered something or have just plain become bored with it.

The thing is that I enjoy this space as a reflection of who I am. My tastes, what I like to cook and eat, how I write. It’s been an evolution as well for me on many levels. When I first started this blog, I didn’t really know how to cook. I knew how to put together several dishes that I rotated, but I was missing the foundation of technique and there were a lot of basics to master. I also had zero interest in photography. Or at least thought I didn’t–until I took my first picture of my potato gratin and realized that I liked photography more than I liked writing, which is a lot.

Three years later I can honestly say that I’m not only a pretty good cook but also a decent baker. And my photography is finally improving. Last summer I started studying photography seriously and am close to wrapping up the prerequisites I need to actually get into a food photography class. I will always want to be a fiction writer and continue to work (ploddingly) on that goal, but the whole trajectory of my life has changed through this blog. I also want to be a photographer now. A photographer in the sense that people pay me for the pictures I take. I don’t necessarily have the expectation that I will ever make a full-time living at it, but a part of me thinks, Why not? Other people do. 

I currently work as a career counsellor/coach. Most counsellors would tell a client like me to be more realistic, that there is no labour market to support photography as a valid career choice, as there is no labour market to support musicians, writers, or artists of another ilk. Not me. Whom am I to tell someone that their dreams are impossible? Empires have been built out of nothing. What would have become of Picasso, Da Vinci, Einstein if they had listened the advice to be practical? Yes, not everyone who wants to be a photographer is going to be the next Annie Leibovitz but this is not for me to decide. If there is anything I’ve learned through working with hundreds of people as a Career Planning specialist is that clients who oftentimes seem the most unlikely to succeed are the ones who triumph. It’s not always about life skills and emotional intelligence or what degrees you have; sometimes it’s determination and the lens with which you view yourself that matter most. Sometimes it’s goal setting, the ability to see the big picture, and often, asking yourself what you’re willing to give up to get what you want.

A couple of years ago I had a client whom I first thought was mentally retarded. She sat mutely at the back of the class, her hair flopping in her face as she doodled in her notebook. I thought she was not paying attention to anything at all, that someone had forced her to my workshops. It turned out that she was an incredible artist, her notebook full of intricate and beautiful illustrations. She wanted to be a graphic designer but had only ever worked as a nanny. She was dyslexic and had no money to go to school, often having to bum money off her parents to buy groceries. I talked about the importance of networking, building relationships, showing people what you can do. I guess she was listening because two weeks after she left my classroom she walked into a print shop and showed the owner her portfolio. He was so blown away by my client’s illustrations that he agreed to hire her–and train her on their software if she promised to go school. With money coming in, she was able to do exactly that.

This is not a stand-out story. It’s a common one, and I hear one like it almost every day. I, for one, have gotten every job I ever wanted because it never once occurred to me that I wouldn’t. The areas in my life where I struggle–my fiction writing, my love life–are the areas that are the most angsty, in which I am plagued by self doubt. I believe that most limitations in life are those we impose on ourselves.

I know this is a food blog but I’m not sure it’s all I want it to be anymore. Despite everything I have gained through this process, it’s a lot of work, and I’ve reached a place where writing about what I had for lunch is not enough. It needs to  be a place I inhabit, not only through the lens of my camera, but also how I see the world metaphorically. I think there will be more pictures of food and fewer recipes. There are thousands of great blogs out there doing the recipe thing far better than me. I want to do more food-related book reviews, talk about what’s cooking in my amazing city, and refocus on the food I love best–rustic French country cooking.

As for the writing, I know that the kind of writing that personally draws me in the most is personal, writing that gives me something to identify with. I want to draw the curtain back a bit and I hope that there will be something here for you, and that you will continue with me on my journey as I veer down a slightly different path.


“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  -Thomas Edison


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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah from 20something cupcakes June 23, 2012 at 6:00 am

Absolutely loved reading this. My favorite line: “sometimes it’s determination and the lens with which you view yourself that matter most.” Congratulations on all of your realizations and I look forward to seeing more!

Darina June 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

Thanks so much, Sarah. Thanks for stopping by :)

Andrea June 23, 2012 at 10:36 am

Beautiful blog Darina. Can’t wait to see what you have coming up.

Simply Life June 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I always love looking at your beautiful photos and delicious foods!

Darina June 23, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Thanks so much :)

Claire Bouchard June 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Brilliant post Darina! You have beautifully illuminated the true art of living well. I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s quote “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”. The curtain drawn, quill in hand…..enjoy the journey!

Darina June 24, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Thanks so much, Claire! I appreciate it.

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