Thursday, October 1, 2009

foodie lit, or "your kitchen is not a cage"

so i may have gone a tad overboard on Amazon the other day... but look at the truly scrumptious literary and culinary treasures that arrived on Monday! {not pictured: My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme}


pardon the pun, but my appetite for reading has always been of the voracious variety.  i read like i breathe and its a very rare night indeed that i do not fall asleep before reading at least a page or two of something, purely for enjoyment.  admittedly, my bank account balance would undoubtedly be happier if i would just succumb to the economy of the library card, but for some reason, buying books (and keeping them!) is one of my life's simple pleasures.  i go back to my favorites over and over again and i get great satisfaction in reading the titles that accumulate on my shelves.  each one bares a memory... each one is a little friend.

while the relationship is complicated and marred by ugly patches, my love of food stretches as far back as my love of books.  however, the derivation of satisfaction and comfort from actually cooking good food is relatively newly found for me.  with oodles left to learn, i do find myself happier, calmer, and more aware and appreciative of what i put in my mouth when i've spent the time wrestling with ingredients and finding my own footing in the kitchen.

so i suppose my latest literary selections should come as no surprise.  but i'm not so sure... after some musing on the subject, i think there's a bit more to it than "i love literature, and food, and (now) cooking so obviously these are the kinds of books that appeal to me."

you see, i grew up stubborn and pig-headed and hell-bent on being extraordinary - doing what, i didn't know, but in the dream world inside my head, being ordinary was death.  i would live in unique places and do important things - i would be Sex & the City and the Peace Corps wrapped into one.  and while i was obsessed with weddings, i would never be "wifely." oh, and no babies! babies were the end to the modern woman!  that's right: every Friday night, i pranced around the football field, kicking my legs to my forehead in nothing but glorified, sequined underwear and white cowboy boots, smiling and cheering for beefy, bumbling, over-grown boys trying to act like men... but dammit, i was a freakin' feminist! {snort}

then, at the oh-so-mature age of 18, i fell in love.  love (or something to that effect) so crushing that at times i couldn't breath.  the relationship was intense and often volatile, and i forgot all about me.  suddenly, 21 seemed a perfectly rational age to get married.  and babies!  sure, bring on the babies!  career?  i'm sure i'll get around to that.  exciting travels?  maybe later.

of course it ended.  and like only a 20 year old can, i thought no one had ever loved the way i had loved and no one had ever hurt the way i was hurting.  and when the hurt stopped hurting so badly, i got mad.  i looked at the last three years of my life and i saw a weak girl who had lost herself in a guy - something i'd sworn i would never do.

so i stumbled back into an pissed off "ignorant feminist" mindset... i went to law school purely to be something "important" - my way of saying: fuck you, old relationship - i am smarter and stronger than you.  and while i would have never admitted it out loud (or possibly even to myself), i had a general disdain for stay at home moms and housewives.  did i think those women sat around eating bonbons all day?  no.  but because of my own insecurities, i felt that any woman who chose her family over her career must have lost herself along the way somehow.

obviously (before you start throwing darts at my head) this is horseshit.  however, these feelings, as false as they were, marked me in (irrational) ways which i am still discovering.  example: i hate to be wrong.  not all that abnormal - no one likes to be wrong - but i really, really, really do not like being wrong or admitting that i am wrong, especially to Evs,  for some reason, it feels like i'm admitting that i am the weaker link.  well, um, okay, except when you fall asleep while cuddling on the couch with a glass of red wine in your hand that you spill all over your husband (then boyfriend) and he's all "what the fuck?!" and you're all "what? i didn't do anything!".... yeah, its probably okay to go ahead an say "i'm sorry - that was careless of me" instead of insisting for 30 minutes that you did not spill the wine that was in your hand.  not that that's ever happened to me before.

or cleaning!  i actually love to clean - its a stress-reliever and when i'm finished, i feel calmer and able to really enjoy relaxing in my home.  but if Evs even mentions "man, the hardwood has Boomer hair all over it," i go all Crazy Woman, like "this is not 1962, and i will not submit to your will!  your Victorian way of thinking will get you nowhere with me, mister!"  

somehow along the way, cooking - real cooking - was corralled into the category of "Things I Shouldn't Enjoy Doing Because Somehow It Makes Me a Stepford Wife."  which brings us full circle back to my every-growing foodie book collection (took a while, didn't it?).  its not the delectable recipes and the stories behind them that really does it for me - its the women in the kitchen.  strong, funny, flawed women who have all had that "ah ha!" moment: the one where we realize that we are who we are because of our relationships with the people we care most about - the one where we understand we are measured not by how many worldly things we "accomplished," but by how well we enjoyed, laughed, relished, felt... truly experienced.

after mulling it over for a while, it comes as no surprise to me that these women's "ah ha" moments found them in the kitchen, or by way of a steaming platter of something wonderful.  of our most basic survival necessities - food, water, air - only the first is an integral part of celebration and ritual in every culture, society, and nation in the world.

enjoying food is to experience one of our most base pleasures.  and cooking food is a joy - even for a whackjob like me!

23 comments:

  1. i love you...and we both know that we both (and probably every woman in the planet) had their soul-changing relationshipl. but the good news, you weren't entirely lost back then...when you thought you lost yourslef, you really didn't...just a piece maybe. you still managed to find me, didn't you? and law school!!! maybe you didn't go originally out of your strong desire to practice law...but hey, you found evs!! and rory!!! I've been thinking about this a lot and how its kind of amazing that even during those wrong turns and those times in our lives when we "lose ourselves"...so many good things come out of it. Deep thought of the day by your friend who loves you so.

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  2. Bejeezus. You just put into words EXACTLY what I was trying to explain to Mr. Newlywed last night.

    I 100% understand the whole cycle from the crushing end to a relationship to trying to understand "feminism meets my desire to cook."

    ((hugs)) to you. It is exactly a story that I think a lot of women feel but don't know or want to articulate. I think it says words that you can.

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  3. What a fantastic post! I have experienced so many of the things you write about and it feels amazing to know I'm not the only one. Sometimes when we indulge ourselves in those things that we think will take away from the women we are we end up finding who we are meant to be.

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  4. Oh my yes. I have had that whole cycle of thought many a time in my head. I trace mine back to middle school and not being popular and remembering the agony of being deserted by friends/guys/whathaveyou. I struggle with it and am completely unable to think rationally about any future stay at home option (in the far, far off future). There's this part of my brain that seizes up and panics about being THAT dependent on another person because they could go away and then what...[brain shutdown, oh look, cake!]

    Many thanks for writing this.

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  5. This post reminded me of being 16 or 17 and making sure to tell my mom, grandma, aunt and anyone else w/i earshot on Thanksgiving that they'd be "getting pizza" when they came to my house for Thanksgiving someday. I made many such declarations over the next 10 years. I wore my invisible "I can't cook!" pin like a badge of honor. I never gave it much thought but I think my reasoning was nearly identical to yours. I'm 28, and only in the past year have I ventured into the world of cooking -- mostly because I've become increasingly interested in healthy eating. Now I'm obsessed. Check out http://fresh365.blogspot.com/ and http://simplybreakfast.blogspot.com/!! :)

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  6. Great post! I am an avid reader too. It is a new found pleasure as throughout my life I have never had time to read what I wanted to read. My next book I am reading is Julie & Julia, then I will probably go buy My Life in France. I also go buy books, but I am trying to be a library person since we have an awesome opening in a couple weeks.

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  7. Fun post! I battle my pseudo feminist leanings constantly. Though I'm a total Betty Crocker, I'm pretty sure I'm doing all this baking because I enjoy it... not because I should enjoy it.

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  8. This is perhaps my favorite post you've ever made... I love how in touch with yourself you are, you're very aware of the decisions you made that got you where you are today, and whether or not they were the best you are aware that they make you who you are now, and you like being that person... That is exactly how I feel about my life, although the course was a little different (I actually married the boyfriend at 21, put medical school on hold to focus on the marriage and then divorced later).

    Preppy boyfriend is a chef, and I hate taking instruction so much, I hate it. Especially from him, it feels condescending, like he's saying he can do it better (which of course he can, he went to one of the best culinary schools in the world), that sends my feminist self into a red faced rage... I mean sheesh, I'm going to medical school, I'm practically a genius, I have an almost photographic memory, not to mention that I clean, and host parties, always dress appropriate for every occasion, rarely leave the house without makeup and my hair done, and remember things like your moms birthday and which of our friends is doing what when, honestly I can't be effing perfect in every area so shut up and let me cut the damn onion the way I want to! phew... we've had that conversation more than once, but slowly I'm realizing that he's passionate about cooking and he's sharing what he knows because it's what interests him and because he wants it to interest me... its still hard to take direction, but I find I enjoy asking him questions when I'm not cooking and then trying them out while he is traveling for work!

    Enjoy your new collection, and if you want a really great cookbook that is an excellent resource for learning how to prepare just about anything look for "Pro Chef" from the Culinary Institute of America, Awesome book, huge book its a textbook for culinary school, but the pictures are awesome and I rarely have a question or want a recipe that can't be found in pro chef.

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  9. I am a crazy person too and would totally argue for 30 minutes saying I didn't spill the spilled wine. F being wrong!

    The Mr. and I started a food blog today, coincidentally. We're cooking through my grandpa's cookbook, Julie & Julia style. Check it out! http://finalcookdown.blogspot.com

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  10. Isn't it funny how we try and put ourselves into these neat little boxes of who we are? I do it daily. Today I am nicole richie, today I am martha stewart.

    After 6 years of an awful job, I'd be pretty ok as a housewife. Then I'd prob bitch about that too.

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  11. So I have never, ever commented on any of your posts (despite the fact that I read them religiously - I admit it!) but this one really hit home for me. It is far and away my favorite post you have ever written. I agree that many women probably went through that relationship cycle with THE first love, myself included. This was just such a poignant post - every single bit of it hit home with me. I guess I just wanted to say "thank you." For this post and the many that have gotten me through many a contracts class over the past year!

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  12. great post!

    i see you have ruth reichl on your list. i have those same two books on my to read list right now. and i just finished garlic and sapphires. add it to your list.

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  13. I used to tell my Mom that she should never expect any grandkids from me, and when we would have to hand wash the spode every Christmas I told my Grandma to expect paper plates at my house instead. Now I subscribe to MS Living and write a freaking wedding blog! Ah, youthful ideals. They're so pretty.

    All of that was to say that 'A Homemade Life' is one of the best books I've read recently. Molly does an amazing job of tying food to memories and making you want to test every last one of those recipes.

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  14. Wonderful post. I whole heartedly agree and relate on every point.

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  15. I'm reading My Life in France right now too. It's everything I had hoped that OTHER book would be and wasn't (to me, I know I know.)

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  16. I think a lot of women struggle with similar issues (including myself). Sounds like you are finding a nice balance though!

    Have you read Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl? If not, it is a quick and easy read with recipes at the end of chapters!

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  17. This is such an awesome post. Not only do you know yourself very well, you can express it beautifully to others and we all benefit. I love you!

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  18. I wish more blogs out there were like these books, and I increasingly focus my time and reading energy on the blogs that do what these books and others like them do... telling a story of creation and growth and what's real. Not what you buy, not what you wear, but what you do and what you believe. That's all very inspiring to me because it's about what really matters.

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  19. Food is to close to life to be subject to political theories. Or so I would wish. Like sex. Like having babies. On the other hand, I've got no trouble with getting way reactionary around cleaning.

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  20. This post is exactly why I love reading your blog. I love your honesty and intelligence. :) And I'm definitely going to have to pick up a few of those titles.

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  21. I like your "whack job" posts. I'm a bit of a whack job myself. :)

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  22. ms ruth reichl just published her Gourmet magazine cookbook in the past few weeks. 1008 pages of greatness.

    i ran out to buy it to keep the great things coming out of my kitchen. the $35 for the book included a years subscription to Gourmet magazine. today publisher Conde Nast announced they are axing Gourmet. so much for that free subscription. poor ms. reichl. out of a job. even a great food critic is seeing tough times in this economy

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  23. If you are getting sick of foodie lit, I am reading a great book, especially of interest to a Texan lady lawyer. Have you read Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley? It's quick, fun and smart, and a little insider-y.

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happy little comments!