The Wiser Choice

You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job, and not be paid for it.

– Oprah

My apologies for the lack of post yesterday – let’s just say, it was a rough week, and a long one at that. Yesterday’s activities included a long walk, delivery sushi, cookies (!), and lots of mindless television. Just what the doctor ordered.


I thought now might be a good time to explain what, exactly, I do at my internship with WiserEarth.

When I made the decision to move out here for another internship, the first thing I started to focus on was finding a paying job. I took a weekend to fly out and look at apartments here, and managed to schedule a couple job interviews  – but none of them worked out. When one of them followed up with me, I was informed that I was one of hundreds of applicants – for a part-time administrative position. Great.

I realized that though I know I am capable of doing a job just as well if not better than most people, employers looking at my resume will be much harder to convince. I was feeling completely lost about what direction I wanted to go in – stick with social media? branch out into public relations? stay in the non-profit sector, or just look for a company I like? In the midst of this career identity crisis, a couple people mentioned off-hand that I might consider getting into grant writing. Between my writing skills and my insistence on working for something (not just someone), it made a lot of sense. And what better way to get into a field than internships? If it ain’t broken, right?

I’m pretty sure this was meant to happen, because when I searched for “grant writing internship” in the Bay Area, one popped up immediately: WiserEarth, a non-profit based in Sausalito, was looking for a grant writing intern – and it was paid. I’m not sure I could have asked for a more exact fit. I honestly didn’t think I would get it, but it sounded a lot better than waitressing or answering phones and I’m a huge proponent of the “why not?” mindset.

I flew out here on a Tuesday; I had an interview with the Executive Director on Friday, and was offered the position on the spot. THAT was a good day. It took a week to figure out the commute, which is…well, we’ll just call it “scenic,” but overall it’s been a really wonderful experience so far.

WiserEarth is essentially the “green Facebook” – its website,, is the social network for sustainability. (Its nickname is Wiser – just easier to say!) It was founded in 2007 by Paul Hawken, who is kind of a big deal in the environmental/social entrepreneur scene. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel just a tad stupid when I didn’t know who he was before, but luckily my mother knew exactly who he is and enlightened me. ANYway, WiserEarth was founded based on the idea that there are a bajillion people and organizations out there working towards very similar (if not the exact same) goals, but they have no idea each other exists. Just imagine if all of these like-minded organizations all over the world had a place to talk to each other, share resources, say “this is what worked for us, this is what we accomplished, etc etc etc” – their progress and impact would be so much greater. This concept is one I just love – I’ve been in the non-profit sector long enough that I have often thought, “damn, X and X organizations should really work together to get this done.” The other major project of ours is the WiserLocal programs, which are meetings that happen in various cities all over the world where individuals can meet colleagues in their areas and do exactly what they can do on the website, but in person. The idea is that through collaborations, people & their organizations can make a much greater impact, and while the global network of connections is important, the local level is where all of these solutions can actually be carried out. Everything is free, and our data is open-source so it can be repurposed by organizations who need a similar infrastructure but can’t pay for it. [Side note: My job is largely to communicate all of that, usually within a character/word limit, and make it even more coherent than that…it is NOT easy!]

My work there is all development, all the time – I research potential new foundations for grants, write letters of inquiry for grant proposals, assist in the actual writing of the proposals, and work in most aspects on the fundraising/donor support for the organization. I was hired first and foremost for my writing skills, and I love that – especially since I get to do a lot of proofreading, which I really enjoy. [I even got paid to do it in college. THAT was awesome.] Since starting in March, I’ve written my first LOI, helped write mid-year and closing reports for past grants, see the beginnings of a major donor campaign, and done TONS of grant/foundation-related research. And for reasons I am still trying to uncover…I really like it. This is another post entirely, but I find the whole fundraising world really interesting and that is not something I ever saw coming, like, ever. Seriously. WTF, me.

All jobs have their flaws, but I have really enjoyed the work I’ve been doing at Wiser overall. It’s not sustainable-food-focused, but the nice thing is that it is about sustainability in general, so it’s included under a larger umbrella. It’s also just an awesome organization to work with. Besides the fact that it’s a global network (making my inner travel junkie very happy) for a cause that makes so much sense to me, it’s a very well-run operation. Especially so considering our staff of 7 is literally all over the world: besides the ED and program director here in the Bay Area, our marketing/communications director is in Paris, our online community manager is in Australia, and we have three other staff in India, Indonesia and West Africa, respectively. We have interns everywhere (China, Germany, and the US at the moment), and an incredible number of awesome volunteers. I have been SO impressed with the responsiveness and constant self-evaluation of the leadership- the phrase “small but mighty” describes Wiser very well.

It’s definitely been a whirlwind, and I’m a little confused as to how it is JUNE right now, but I’m just trying to go with the flow and learn as much as I possibly can.

Now, did all of this make sense? Because I’m dead serious when I say most of my job is about explaining what Wiser does in as few words as possible, and I am ALWAYS looking for feedback as to how I can make it clearer. So let me know if I can clarify anything – it helps me! I think that just about covers it. Have a lovely end of your weekend!

As usual, all original sources of the photos are linked to the photo itself!

Pros & Cons: Internships

I am a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon’s late night show. Mostly because I’m a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon, and specifically, his impression of Barry Gibb:

Once a week, he does a segment called “Pros and Cons” where he lists the – can you guess? – pros and cons of a random recent occurrence in pop culture (for example, when the President was his guest). It’s always quite entertaining and I thought it might make a fun blog post theme.

So, following up on this weekend’s post on internships, here is my list of the pros and cons of taking an internship. Agree, disagree, add to the list. Happy Wednesday!

PRO: It’s one of the best ways to figure out what you want to be when you grow up.

For reals. Read all the books, articles, and websites you want. Take every single career quiz you can find. Talk with people in the field. But I promise you that NONE of those will be as helpful as actually going in and seeing a career or industry first-hand. I’ll give you a good example: when I decided I wanted to go to culinary school, I knew exactly what I would be getting myself into. Chefs with egos the size of Viking stoves, early mornings spent trying not to burn myself while taking fifty loaves of bread out of an oven at a time, painfully monotonous work days. All this I could handle. But it wasn’t until I took internships in the food prep field that I saw why I couldn’t do it: food, to me, is way more than just something to slice, dice, bake and fry. I love the prep aspect, but not near as much as I love talking about it, writing about it, and exploring it from all sides. I needed more intellectual stimulation from my career. But I wouldn’t have figured that out if I hadn’t done the work myself.

CON: You will be asked “oh…so when are you going to grad school?” 522 times.

Well, I can’t promise that number is accurate. I can, however, tell you that choosing internships as an alternate form of education freaks people out. It’s normal – everyone has a different threshold for dealing with derivations from the norm. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get sick of explaining it.

And of course, there are thousands of students who intern while they’re in school, after receiving a higher degree, or still plan on getting one. The real thing to consider with grad school is the usefulness of the degree in your career field. If I were to go and get a master’s in food studies, it would be more for personal reasons; the field is so new right now that most employers would probably prefer to see the experience an internship provides than a fancy expensive degree.

(And for the record, I’m a huge fan of continuing education…I’m just saying it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t seem like the right choice for you.)

PRO: You meet lots and lots of people.

When you intern anywhere, you’re going to meet people. You’re going to attend conferences, make phone calls, write emails, interview a bunch of different people who do a bunch of different things. Networking is a beautiful thing. Even if an internship doesn’t result in a job with that organization, you still get awesome references and connections you would have never even known about before that will come in handy some day when you’re sending out resumes everywhere.

CON: It doesn’t exactly pay the bills.

If you’re lucky enough to find a cool internship that is also paid, it will most likely not be much more than a small stipend – and 85% of the internships I see nowadays are simply unpaid. This can be tough for a reallllly long list of reasons. Beyond the obvious “and I’m supposed to support myself HOW?” issue, there are psychological/emotional issues that can come up as well. I personally have really struggled with feeling valued versus feeling downright exploited, and that can turn a decent internship into a nightmare quickly if you let it. What I have found is that this starts happening after about three to six months, depending on how much you’re enjoying the experience. My advice: talk with your employer/supervisor people. The experience they are providing you with is very important – but not as important as your own comfort and self-worth. I wouldn’t recommend taking an internship that lasts longer than six months, unless there is clear discussion of job opportunities at the end or you love it that much.

I will say this though – internships are hella cheaper than any tuition around.

PRO: It’s fun.

Of my seven internships, I absolutely adore (still do!) 3 of them – and those 3 made the others beyond worth it. All of them have had major life-changing effects on me, and I like how interesting my resume looks. It’s given me tons of confidence and adaptability, to the point where I’m quite sure you could plunk me down in any professional position and I’d have it figured out within months. And it’s also the perfect answer for a recent graduate who can.not.sit. in one more damn classroom. I won’t lie – I graduated completely and totally burnt out on academia. It is liberating to feel like I am doing work that makes a positive impact on something other than a GPA.

CON: It ain’t easy.

Internships present completely different, even opposing, challenges than academia. You have to deal with bitchy customers/members and adapt to dramatically different office vibes. You have to prepare for interviews via phone, Skype, and in person. You have to write cover letter after cover letter, spending hours on a piece of paper some HR person will spend 5 minutes reading. You’ll be ignored. You’ll get frustrated. And you’re doing all of it for free. It’s enough to have you wondering why you ever left college.

BUT in my experience – and quite a few others of which I know personally – it will pay off. I have had a crazy year, but there so many wonderful things have happened. I uncovered a ridiculous and rather nerdy passion for sustainable food thanks to my time with these guys. I moved across the country on my own. I ate some really good food.

There are lots of reasons to choose grad school or internships or both or neither. I don’t think one is better than the other, at least not in general; I think everyone has to choose what’s best for them according to what they want. Of my friends, I’m the only one not in grad school right now – except for one who joined the Peace Corps and is pretty much the coolest person I know. And all of their decisions were the right ones – one wants to go into research, and two want to be professors. Higher degrees are THE way to get what they want. I’m still trying to figure out what I want, so jumping around and trying different things made the most sense for me.

And that was Pros & Cons. Got any to add?

Experience Preferred

Internships. They’re a pretty hot topic nowadays, what with the recent court cases and all. And I can’t say as I’m surprised that this controversy is hitting the fan now, when my newsfeed is consistently being bombarded with articles all about how completely and totally screwed my generation is job-wise.

The real issue is about – what else? – money. Companies – for- and non-profit alike – strapped for cash in the current economic climate realized that unpaid internships were a win-win: college kids get that oh-so-desirable “real world experience” for their resumes, and they get work done at no cost to them. The trouble is with the guidelines for internships from the US Dept. of Labor, which state that unpaid internships have to do 6 things:

  1. The training has to be educational in nature – i.e., similar to what a student might receive in school,
  2. the internship is for the benefit of the intern first and foremost,
  3. the intern isn’t displacing any other employees – they might be supplementing work, but they’re not doing anything that’s not being done by a regular paid employee,
  4. the employer providing training gets no immediate benefit from the intern’s work – and, in fact, may actually be at somewhat of a loss for it (because of time, effort, mistakes made, etc.),
  5. the intern is not entitled to a job at the end, AND
  6. both employer & intern understand that the intern is not entitled to getting paid for their time.

Let’s be frank here – a very large majority of organizations run on intern support, and there is no way all of them adhere to these written rules. I know this from experience. I’ve been working for free for one full year now, and I’m on my sixth and seventh internships – the latter of which is the first one I’ve had that is stipended (“paid” – nowhere near enough to live on, but it covers my grocery bill and a few other expenses here and there). I didn’t learn about these “guidelines” until I was on my fifth internship, and found them very…thought-provoking, at the least.

Up to now, I’ve been pretty lucky with my various positions in that either they were fantastic, positive, and highly beneficial experiences for both me and the employer, or they sucked badly enough that I wasted no time in quitting. In fact, in a strange way the “unpaid” aspect can play to your benefit – if the internship is a poor fit or just not working out, it is MUCH easier to have the talk with your employer when you can say “it’s not working, and you’re not paying me, so…PEACE.”

Recently I’ve found myself in quite a different position, one that really doesn’t adhere to many of those guidelines up there (except, maybe, number 5). Don’t worry, I won’t be suing anyone any time soon, it’s just a matter of confrontation, which is not something I particularly enjoy. It’s not quite time to go into details, but suffice it to say: I’m in a bit of a pickle.

There’s another even more interesting issue at work here: who can afford to work without pay – and how do their friends and peers see them?

It’s ironic, really, that I (or anyone) should feel guilty and spoiled for working without pay for any amount of time, but that is precisely how I’ve felt. It was one thing to do them while I was living at home – that made perfect sense. But the reaction I get when I tell people I moved to one of the most expensive places in the US for an unpaid internship is a little more difficult to play down. No, it’s not normal that I’m able to do this – just like it’s not normal to have graduated from college without loans – and that can be downright embarrassing to discuss. I see myself as very fortunate to be in the position that I’m in, and that I’m in such an oddly financially-on-top-of-things family. I don’t see myself as spoiled – but I do think that’s how others will/do see me, and that’s a difficult and complicated thing to face.

When I read this article, it was absolutely cathartic. Hell, I could’ve written it myself. This quote especially had me nodding vigorously:

…I can’t even count the number of times people told me “it’s ridiculous that your parents are just letting you live in the city and make no money.” But was it ridiculous? In today’s world you’re expected to graduate with internship experience and if my parents decided to spend their hard-earned money paying for me to live in NYC and reach my dreams, was it wrong for me to take that opportunity? Should I have spent my summer waitressing instead? I don’t want to come off like a whiny bitch, but I want some answers on why I should feel bad that my family can afford this. Isn’t complaining about unpaid internships the same as complaining to a friend when her family goes on a week long resort vacation?

Furthermore, internships are becoming increasingly expected – I can’t tell you how many position descriptions I’ve read that say “previous experience in _____________ preferred.” That really pisses me off. You’re not paying me, but you expect me to have experience? WHY DO YOU THINK I’M APPLYING FOR AN INTERNSHIP? That, to me, just screams “fun with exploitation.” So if you oversee interns and you’re reading this, take note – nothing makes you look more like an ass than those 2 little words, “experience preferred.”

So if internships are so problematic, why bother? I could’ve gone to grad school. I could’ve spent a year teaching English in another country. I could’ve chosen a dozen other paths…but I didn’t. First of all, I kind of fell onto this path without realizing it. When I was planning to attend culinary school, getting food prep experience was an entry requirement, so that was my first step. Then my entire post-grad summer fell apart, and I was just looking for things to do; volunteering sounded good, and then I learned about internships, and boom! here I am. And you know what?

It’s been pretty awesome. I have learned SO MUCH in the last year – everything from social media best practices for non-profits, to how to recognize when it’s time to quit a job. These experiences have been more valuable than any advanced degree I could’ve pursued, and quite frankly have given me more clarity on what I want to do with my life than I could have found in any classroom. I am so, so grateful that I’ve been able to do this for the past year – it has been beyond worth the cost.

BUT – and there’s always a but – I’m kinda done working for free. I am coming to realize that all this experience has paid off, and I am incredibly well-prepared to start a real job. I’m young, have lots of energy to put into my work, have tons of ideas, and yet all that fancy book-learnin’ I got in college is still fresh in my memory. I really think there should be more recognition of the psychological toll of working for free on employers’ parts. To all my fellow interns out there, just remember: it’s a two-way street. Yes, you want experience – but they also want the free labor. The second you stop getting something out of the experience, whether it’s knowledge, connections, or skills, you need to rethink your time there. I suggest frequent check-ins with your supervisor to reevaluate your goals as well as theirs. Ask questions. Write things down. Go to the weekly staff meeting. Be proactive and do as much as you can on your part to get an amazing experience, but be objective – if you want to learn more about event planning, or marketing, or research – speak up. If they’re excited and open to getting you the experience you want, you’re in the right place. If they frown, mumble, throw more of the same work at you – reconsider your position there. I think Confucius said it right:

Were/are you an intern? Paid or unpaid? What has your experience been like?

[Note: all photo sources are linked to the photo itself; click for the original. None of the above images are mine.]

Pains, Trains & Automobiles

Photo from this post on Grist.

When I told my parents that I didn’t want to bring my car with me to California, I was pretty relieved. Don’t get me wrong, Daphne & I are bffs – we went through a lot together over the year and a half that I had her, and she gets fan-freakin-tastic gas mileage to boot. But I hate driving. Like, hate. I don’t use that word lightly. It’s part of the whole sensitive personality thing – it completely overwhelms me. I totally get how it’s fun for some people, but the fact that I have to pay attention to all other 50 cars around me while maintaining the correct speed, checking all my mirrors ALL with a strap around my stomach and neck…nothing exhausts me quite like driving. The day after long road trips I would literally walk around with a limp because my hips hurt so bad from the stress I was under the day before in the car. And it is for this same reason that I refuse to ride a bike, which is what most people here do. Non-conformism all the way.

But public transportation and I…we get along.

When I was offered the grant writing internship with WiserEarth, I couldn’t take it fast enough. I was so.effing.excited. I knew Sausalito was not exactly the most accessible place in the Bay Area, but I can be quite stubborn when I need to be (thanks Mom), so I knew I’d just find a way to make it happen.

Map picture

The pushpin on the right is where I live. The pushpin on the left is where the WiserEarth offices are located.

What’s that you say? That there MUST be a ferry to zip me right across the Bay? Yeah, that would be logical, wouldn’t it? And therefore, it doesn’t exist. To go the ferry route, I would have to take Bart to Oakland, a bus to Alameda, a ferry from Alameda to San Francisco, and a ferry from there to Sausalito.


Basically, there are two options to get from East Bay to Marin county (which is where you are when you get to the other side of the Golden Gate):

  1. Go north and across the Richmond bridge (that 580 sign you see over the water).
  2. Go into San Francisco and then across the Golden Gate bridge.

Option 1 involved taking Bart to a bus to another bus. Option 2 was just Bart to a bus. That decision pretty much made itself.

Most people hear about my commute and are all ,“WHOOOA, that must SUCK,” but  it’s really not as bad as it sounds. So, I made you a slideshow of my commute, and you can tell if it sounds AND looks that bad. Of course, it’s not sustainable and because I’m hopping from one sublet to the next, I am going to start looking for places in the city, but for now it’s perfectly doable. Really.

So without further ado, may I present…

(Not sure why the player isn’t working, but if you click the link you’ll see it!)

A Lot.

The glory of the disposition that stops to consider stimuli rather than rushing to engage with them is its long association with intellectual and artistic achievement. Neither E=mc2 nor Paradise Lost was dashed off by a party animal.

– Winifred Gallagher

More on that quote in a minute. First, I have news. A lot of news.

A few weeks and a phone interview ago, I got an internship I applied for in January with MESA – Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture. Basically, the MESA Program brings farmers from various countries all over the world to the US and connects them with a host farm here, where they learn sustainable farming techniques to take back to their home country and spread the sustainable goodness. I’m pretty excited about it, because I feel like it will position me very uniquely within the world of sustainable food. I’ve focused on sustainability from the chef’s perspective, and now I’m off to look at it from the farmer’s. Plus, it’s got that international aspect that I have so desperately been looking for in the sustainable food world.

And, MESA is located in Berkeley, California. Yep, that’s right – I am moving to the birthplace of the American Local Food movement, mere steps away from the great Alice Waters and the hollowed grounds of Chez Panisse. Or, at least, a bus stop or two from there. I knew it was time to leave Boston, even if only for a few months, and finally an opportunity was in my hands (after many, many letdowns, I might add).

While I won’t be moving there until March, I have started to work for MESA as their Member Resources & Social Media Intern. I’m doing a lot (or at least, I hope I am!) for their Facebook & Twitter presence, and a few other email-centric tasks. All things I’m good at and comfortable doing – and, dare I say, enjoying it to boot! Six months of doing the same with Chefs Collaborative has made me somewhat of a social media maven, and I’m looking to make that more or less into a career at the moment.

Though my tenure with the Collaborative is (sadly!) drawing to a close, I’m still working there two days a week and working on a small project that I’m hoping will benefit future interns there as well. (I’d like to create a solid outline, like a system, for our social media endeavors so that future interns can learn the ropes a bit quicker! Basically, I’m using my OCD tendencies to benefit the next Communications intern and to really dig into the usefulness and many ways to use social media to its full extent…because I want to. More on this later, too.) Projects make me happy, and keep me focused on a single task, and they help me feel efficient and accomplished while helping someone else.

What does this mean? It means I’m on Facebook and Twitter for several hours every day, am constantly checking all 6 of my email inboxes, reading and searching for as many informative sources on sustainable food news as I can possibly find – and in the evening, I’m spending hours on Craigslist trying to find a roof that is 3,000 miles away to put over my head in about a month when I finally move out there. And a good portion of this is done in between letting the dog outside sixty times an hour and making sure she’s not eating plastic, toothpaste, or a pair of expensive shoes.

So what’s the deal with the quote? I recently bought this book:


This is a book that every introvert should own – and every extrovert should read.

I needed to introduce this topic before diving into a dedicated post because this book has made me realize that every action, every thought, every doubt, every thing in my life is somehow connected to the fact that I am an introvert.

All the stress in my life right now – a to-do list that never gets shorter, my four unpaid jobs, looking for interesting paid work in the Bay Area, trying to find housing, the prospect of moving across the country for 8 months – all of the stress I feel comes from how I, as an intense introvert, am perceiving it.

Actually, in an odd way, this book has been both a huge help and huge stressor – I am connecting to what Cain is saying on such an intensely deep level, it’s a little overwhelming in and of itself.

I’ve used the word intense a couple times, and for a reason – it’s really the only word I can find that properly describes my life and myself right now. I say myself because it has taken reading this book for me to see just how intensely introverted I am and the impact that part of my personality has had on my life.

This is a topic that is incredibly important to me, and something I am more passionate about than I perhaps realized. In fact, part of the reason it’s taken me so long to post is because I said on Facebook this book would be the topic of my next blog post and I felt that I needed to honor that, but as I have been reading and generating ideas to discuss, the things that the author is bringing to light are making me, among other feelings, downright angry. Anger is a good place to draw inspiration from, but not a place to write from, and I feel that I need to get past the anger to a more thoughtful perspective before getting an essay series down.

This is a long-winded explanation for why I haven’t posted in a few weeks, but it was the only way to do it! I actually have a format for a short series of upcoming posts on being introverted, which is actually a topic I have wanted to post on for several months. When the Barnes & Noble announcement for Quiet appeared in my inbox, I took it as a sign.

I hope you enjoy the series. I’m putting a lot of thought, heart and soul into them because this is a topic I wish more people would talk about.

To conclude, let me explain why I chose to connect the book with all the changes that are happening in my life right now.

Introverts, in general, do not handle overstimulation well. We’ll go to parties or class discussions and enjoy them just as much as anyone – but maybe we need to leave earlier, or go somewhere where we can be alone for a while afterwards. Introverts are not necessarily shy, either – we are just as capable of telling a few jokes or contributing to the discussion as the next person. What sets us apart is that while the extroverts in that classroom will walk out feeling energized and ready to take on the rest of the day, introverts will feel drained from all of that stimulation and need to go somewhere to recharge alone. This isn’t a bad thing – no matter what our extrovert-obsessed society may tell you – it’s just a different way of interacting with the world.

So all of what I am currently facing on a daily basis – the move, the work, and everything in between – all of those stimuli that I am attacking with fervor leaves me completely and utterly exhausted and overwhelmed. It’s just a lot. This is not to say that this wouldn’t be difficult for an extroverted person, either – moving is one of the most stressful things a human can do, regardless of personality. The difference here is the cause of my stress; the fact that I am tackling all of these things at the same time, with the same perfectionism that I bring to everything and most importantly, that every single one of these things requires me to deal directly with other people.

And that is where this post ends and the next will begin.

A Different Kitchen


In case you’re just catching up – I know I am – here’s what’s happening with me:

  • I am home in Boston with a new puppy and a lot of new prospects [none of which, I should mention, are paid, but they are all very interesting and right now that’s plenty].
  • I am looking at a Master’s degree in gastronomy instead of culinary school.
  • I am guest blogging on this blog about my local farmers market with recipes to put all those yummy veggies to good use.
  • And NOW I am interning at Healthy Habits Kitchen!

Today was my first official day as an intern at HHK and let me just say, I could get used to it. It’s a really cool company that prepares healthy dishes for the busy parent to buy and throw together in 5 minutes. Basically, we (I can say we!) portion out the components of a dish and pack it all together so all the customer has to do is cook the rice or pasta and heat up & mix the rest together. They (we?) also do farmers markets and have quite a few corporate relationships.

It’s essentially a food prep internship and I spent the day chopping steak tips for farmers market samples, prepping the asian pineapple sauce that goes with brown rice, and things like chopping, bagging, and labeling. Quite happily, might I add. I’m one of those people who actually enjoy administrative tasks and I’ve always liked chopping for its zen-ness. also going to get the chance to work in recipe development because the owner wants to expand her dessert offerings, which I am wicked excited about. And, it’s a lovely, airy kitchen despite the lack of windows and everyone has been really nice – they have interns a lot, so they’re used to training newbies, which was a HUGE relief to me.

And thus far, it is nothing like my last food prep nightmare experience. Where the restaurant had bags of onions and potatoes haphazardly stacked amidst mismatched bowls and half-broken spatulas, this kitchen has shiny metal racks with perfectly stacked bowls and a separate tray for each measuring spoon – and the produce has its own side of the refrigerator. Where I had to ask 5 different people what to do next after finishing a task, now I walk in and have an index card with a to-do list written out and my name at the top. There is an industrial dishwasher and color-coded cutting boards. Oh yes, I could get used to this.

I am gearing up for what could potentially be just as crazy a fall as any semester in college. Between raising the puppy, at least one and hopefully two internships, 2 blogs and another potential writing job, I should feel perfectly normal. And I’m still facing big decisions about my future education, the progress of which you lucky devils will get to read all about 😉

This summer has been transition after awkward transition, and unfortunately this blog has reflected that. One of my goals this fall is to really solidify the purpose of this blog and dig into the nerdy side of food that I am so obsessed with, including cookbooks and issues like sustainability, but still holding on to things like my weekly recipe challenges and photos. I’m saving for a fancy schmancy camera (because grad school will be so cheap….denial? who?) because I know how much of an impact it can have on the quality of a food blog. And I’m just going to stick with it.

Now that I’ve rambled your eyes off…

If you’ll excuse me, I have a dog to exhaust before bed.


Yes, that is toilet paper. We’ll see who exhausts who first.


One Blind Intern, Part II: Chives and Chides

I think it started with the chives.

Have you ever had to shave chives before? Yeah, me neither. At least, I hadn’t — until I started working in the back of a small restaurant in middle-of-nowhere Georgia. Where,  apparently, chive-shaving is mandatory.

The tiny, near-translucent, paper-thin ovals of onion-y greenery are really only used as a garnish, and usually only on the iceberg “salad.” Salad here being a loose term referring to a quartered hunk of lettuce drowning under a liberal bath of gloppy bleu cheese dressing and freshly-fried bacon bits, with a few cherry tomato halves sprinkled around the edges of the plate desperately trying to avoid the white lumps that threaten to consume the plate itself. A little ground pepper and – yes, you guessed it – a small sprinkle of thinly slivered chives.

Now perhaps I’m just being overly cynical, but every time the short muscled sous chef came over to look disapprovingly over my shoulder as I butchered the chive, slicing them into rounds of far too large a width to be acceptable, I had to think that I’m not so sure those ordering this…salad are going to be focusing on how many millimeters thick the chives are. Actually, I’m pretty sure many of them were more likely to ask what those green things were doing on their bleu cheese dressing.

Unladylike thoughts aside, I do understand the need to maintain a certain level of consistency and the importance of the aesthetics on a plate of food. I am totally one of those people who think that pretty food tastes better, and I respect the chefs that have the eye for detail to look at something as small as chive width. I really do.

But I can’t say it didn’t elicit a few eye rolls. I’m only human.

After multiple attempts on others’ parts to correct my poor chive-chopping skill, and far too many chive corpses deemed unacceptable and tossed in the trash, the fun continued from there.

To his credit, the chef I worked under did introduce me to the resident pastry chef/only other female in the kitchen (4 days a week and only until noon). While I enjoyed working with her very much, it only became more evident that I was at best dispensable, at worst in the way. And more often than not, I felt the latter. I went from person to person asking what else I could help with, trying to maintain a balance between helpful and quiet, yet charming and well-suited to the job. The fact was, I was none of those things.

The fact was, I had just graduated college valedictorian of my class, was suddenly completely isolated from my friends, and found myself shaving chives badly for free under a chef I was learning quickly to dislike. It was an increasingly unpleasant situation. But, one that I was ready to see through to the end. It was, after all, a means to an end – that end being culinary school. Which I wanted. Because…well, because that was The Plan. I would live with my aunt, get the necessary experience, move home for the holidays, and ship out to California to start my degree program in March. Solid, smart, stable.

What’s that saying about the best-laid plans? Something about how they always work out exactly as expected? They DON’T?

Huh. Well, that would’ve been nice to know.

Somewhere between the constant remarks about being overstaffed, the perpetual feeling of hopelessly in the way, and the general lack of patience with an intern who had been very up front about her total lack of restaurant experience, I decided enough was enough. I was miserable, unpaid, and done.

I know a lot of people who would say, “well, that’s what an internship is for!” And while there is truth to that statement, I think had I started out in a more accepting and pleasant atmosphere – or at least felt like I was even contributing something – I might not have had the sudden change of heart. But I think something else happened this year that I didn’t give enough attention to because, well, I had The Plan. I love baking with all my heart and the thought of spending 21 months with fellow food-lovers learning how to develop recipes and create the perfect chocolate buttermilk cake thrilled me, I was no longer sure that it was the right career path. I chose culinary school because I saw it as the only way to develop my passion for the food world, and I’d pick up a solid marketable skill as a sweet side effect (no pun intended). The problem was, it was no longer the career path I wanted to take. It just stopped making so much sense.

Please know that this restaurant is a perfectly respectable business that provides a truly unique and top-notch product to its customers. I met some real characters and even made a few of them laugh, which I considered quite a triumph. And I certainly got some good book material. All chefs have a reputation for being divas, and for good reason – they have to be to get anywhere in the biz! But at the end of the day, life is too short to be miserable. It just is. And when I walked in to the 3-foot wide office to tell the chef I was quitting and was promptly ignored, I knew I had made the right decision.

And that’s where the Italian school comes in. But that’s a horse of a different color.

One Blind Intern, Part I: The Walk-In

Imagine, if you will, a large white box the size of two upright refrigerators, sitting on a cement block behind a white brick building across from a generator and a dumpster.


The handle to the door is a silver bar that must be tugged with every available arm muscle to open. Thick plastic flaps hang down from the doorway to keep out the flies and must be heaved aside to reach the inside.


The contents of this box are dimly lit by one cheap, shivering bulb and sided with that metallic snake-skin texture, with a button the size of your palm that you must push to re-enter the world of light and temperature over –10 degrees. There is about enough room for one or two grown men to stand inside, though heaven help either of them if they actually want to move or, god forbid, inhale. Industrial black-barred racks packed full to the metal ceiling line the walls; at least, one assumes that there must be something holding up the various boxes and containers that look ready to avalanche onto the few visible inches of cement floor.

Multi-gallon plastic tupperware containers with a piece of tape indicating the date of preparation on the top are stacked on top of each other on the floor and wherever they will fit on the shelves. Huge pans of baked apple crisp filling, a couple pie plates of cheesecake and a few beige masses of scone dough all wrapped tightly in plastic wrap balance tumultuously on top of each other in the far left corner with only a layer or two of more plastic wrap between each other. Yesterday’s soups and plastic-wrapped hunks of deli meat ready to be sliced mingled closely with tomorrow’s creme brulee filling and fresh-made mayonnaise. Cardboard shipping boxes stuffed with heads of romaine, bell peppers, grapes and cherries fight for space on the left racks. To the right, wheels of gouda and cheddar cheeses the size of small pizzas (and the width of large dictionaries) are piled haphazardly atop cartons of heavy cream and tupperware containers of separated egg whites. Not even the eggs still in their shells are safe, sitting in their cardboard cartons with no tops to stop a rogue industrial-sized mustard jar from smashing several dozen and ruining their dreams of becoming a key lime pie or Spanish omelette.


It is a cramped, frigid little world of produce and plastic, cardboard and chaos.

It is an OCD nightmare, a hazard to humans and vegetables alike, and my personal version of hell.

It is the walk-in refrigerator, where I found myself running in and out of every ten minutes during the long four weeks of my internship at the restaurant.

And that is just the beginning.