I am in a reading rut.
Nothing I pick up really keeps my interest. The synopsis looks
promising; I read a few pages, then I put the book down. Repeat.
Repeat. Repeat. I think I know what the problem is: there are a few
books I am meant to be reviewing. Every time I catch myself reading
something else, the guilts take over. Nothing like a review deadline
to put you off your game.
Times like these I take refuge in my cookbooks. I grab them from my
shelves, I borrow them from the library, I print out more recipes from
online. What intrigues me most aren’t the recipes themselves, but more
the stories behind them and what they mean to the creator of the
cookbook. “Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg is one of my favorites,
with an equal blend of food and feeling. I have cooked many meals from
those pages. But sometimes I just pick it up without any intention of
assembling ingredients or being inspired to pull anything from my
pantry. Sometimes I just like to see the process, the how of it all.
My latest obsession is Alana Chernila’s “Homemade Pantry.” I fell in
love at the introduction. The part about the cursing that took place
when she accidentally plunging her hands into boiling water made me
realize how very human and real the writer is. Her honesty about her
kitchen and reasons for cooking was refreshing. I found myself
beginning to daydream about these recipes. I admit, I got a little
moony fantasizing about making my own nut butter. I began swooning
over thoughts of square marshmallows, potato leek soup and ginger lime
seltzer—though not all made at the same time. But maybe…
It must have been the 5th or maybe 500th readthrough that I realized,
it’s not easy to put together a cookbook. How many times must you make
these recipes to feel comfortable with publishing them? There is the
assembling, the mixing, then the baking or cooking of the same thing
over and over again. Maybe you don’t even want to eat it anymore,
maybe you’d rather have someone magically appear with take-out, but
yet you persist. The tweaking, the changing, the revising over and
over again until you get it right. It sounds like fun at first, and
then at some point– it’s not.
I think we all have these moments of wanting to pursue what we
love,thinking about making it our whole world. Giving it our all, and
realizing we’ve accidentally smothered the dream, smushed the
butterfly we’ve been trying to gently hold on to. How does one balance
out what you do for a living with the dreams you want to pursue? Life
is just so short.
I’d like to think that someday I’d be writing my own book. There are
days when it is the thought that threads its way into every waking
moment. I see myself at the desk, pencil in hand, paper covered in
scribbles. But I know it takes work, I know that there are shitty
first drafts, and in a perfect world I have the ability to revise and
rewrite them into a collection of shimmering sentences.
When I need a little writerly inspiration, a reason to keep going, I
often think of that scene in “Julie and Julia” where Paul is consoling
Julia about being rejected. I clapped at that scene in the movie
theater. His brusque language and intense need to help his wife
touched me deeply.
So too do these words, (beautifully illustrated by Lisa Congdon)
Happy 100th birthday Julia, you’ve been such an inspiration. Too all
the cookbook writers out there, keep up the good work. We need you,
sometimes more than you know.