Elaine S.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

The first time my dad banned me from reading a specific book, curiosity started sharpening its knife for the cat. Dad decided that I was too young, and when my eight-year-old-self asked when I would be ready, he said the three words every kid hates to hear: "When you're older."

I tried forgetting about it, yet every time I passed by the book in the den, I heard it calling my name in a sweet siren serenade. Finally, one day, overpowering curiosity made my fortitude collapse like a poorly made soufflé. I climbed up and pulled the forbidden volume from the mantle above the fireplace. I slid my thumb down the spine, and murmured the title aloud, "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly". As I looked at the mundane photo of a man in chef's whites on the cover, I began to think that the reason I was not allowed to read this book was the vocabulary. I resolved to show my dad that I could read this book with no problem; after all, O. Henry was a breeze, and I sailed through Poe. Thus, with a fair bit of confidence, I eagerly opened the book and took a bite of the forbidden fruit.

Suffice it say that the reason I was prohibited from reading that book was not the vocabulary. I was shown what the title promised: the underbelly of the perfectly coiffed world of professional cooking. I read about the sultry, darker side of chef's work, and learned the ironclad rule that I should never, ever ask for Hollandaise sauce at a restaurant, and that ordering fish on a Monday was absolutely out of the question. Despite all that forbidden knowledge, I could not tear my eyes away from the pages, and I inhaled that book like a starving prisoner let loose at Crawfest in New Orleans. Afterwards, my brain filled with the sordid images of what actually happened in restaurant kitchens, I stumbled back to the den and replaced the book on the shelf.

Days later, I watched a sedate episode of Martha Stewart with a mounting feeling of disbelief. I could hardly believe that the sharp, sardonic, snarky narrative I had just read and the boring, saccharine, meringue-like television program both concerned the same thing: cooking. I knew which side of the culinary world I wanted, so the next time I saw Dad in the kitchen, I walked up, set my arms akimbo, and demanded, "Teach me how to cook."

Thanks to Kitchen Confidential, I know what I want to do with my life. I have always loved writing, and now I know that I want to take my writing into the wilderness of the culinary world by becoming a food critic or a cookbook author. To this day, I have never regretted picking up that book when I was prohibited from doing so, and pilfering the sacred knowledge within. Indeed, curiosity might have killed the cat, but satisfaction most certainly brought her back.