No Apprenticeship. No Master.

Cutting potatoes for a recipe I got thinking about technique. I cut vegetables all wrong, holding my knife poorly, and though I curve my fingers away I'm sure I'm an accident waiting to happen. Sharpening my knife on the stone, I'm less than amateur, almost clown-like. Sorry, clowns. No offense. There are YouTube videos I should watch to help myself learn, but I really want a teacher.

My mother has never liked cooking. Her mother died too young and Mom got stuck preparing meals, feeling no joy at all. I learned to make a lasagna from her and enjoyed our time together in the kitchen. I like to think she enjoyed those times too, but cooking was such an obligation. I learned some from her, but she was no master. No one masters something they hate to do.

My brother enjoyed the kitchen as much as the workshop or garage. He watched The Frugal Gourmet, bought one of his cookbooks, and prepared dishes as he had seen them done. Never one to shy from teaching himself, he went in knowing he could do it and so of course he could. I started cooking with him. He taught me to curl my fingers under as I used a knife and a lot more.

We used Mom's kitchen tools which were no good. Her generation was under the impression that anything would do. Her knives were cheap, dull, and couldn't be sharpened. My brother bought some of his own things and I learned the value of proper tools and technique.

I've come a good long way since then, mostly by trial and error, and while I can put a meal together, I'm not doing things in the traditional and proven ways, and with the level of success I want to achieve. Which is a way of saying that I have a lot to learn.

My friend is a photographer and has taught himself the art and craft. He has worked at it but seems a natural. Polished, practiced people often do. I know it has all come to him over time, that he has tried and erred, but by now it's as if he has magic in him. He continues to work at it and is student and teacher all in one. He is his own school of photography.

I'm not as good at running a school for myself. Ironic, given that I'm a teacher. I wish I was better at it, but it's not my forte. This is why I often wish I could apprentice to some chef or, better still, some writer.

I learned what I could learn of writing in school and college. That was all twenty-five years ago. Since then I've been mostly on my own. That's not bad. I've learned a lot about writing but almost nothing about publishing. A mentor, teacher, guru, or master to whom I could apprentice myself seems like the way to make it all work.

That or I could just dig in and push myself to figure it out. Even if I cut the vegetables with less than perfect technique, the soup will taste fine. I just have to manage not to cut my fingers off in the process. Lucky for me, my pen isn't nearly as sharp.