The following originally appeared on 4/13/09 at Exit 51.
On our first date, SFC asked me what I like to do. My answer could have doomed the relationship before it even got started. I said, “I like to read”. I’ve always been a reader, as long as I can remember. Books take me to places filled with color and life, interesting people, and grand adventures. They take me outside of myself.
My earliest literary memories are of my grandmother reading stories about Abercrombie, Benjamin, and Christopher or Babbar the Elephant at bedtime. Once I could read the words on the pages for myself, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Nancy Drew, and Judy Blume all followed. It is my opinion that Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret should be considered the official adolescent girls’ handbook.
Even now, I can be transported back to points in time just thinking of certain books. There was my obsession with Stephen King from about 7th to 10th grade. The Talisman? Could not put it down. Christine? I started reading it in the afternoon and did not go to bed until I had finished it around 3:30am. The Shining? Scared the bejezzus out of me in a way the movie could not. In fact, I scared myself so bad reading It that I could never bring myself to watch the movie. Ever. Put a Stephen King book in my hands now and I’m once again a 13 year old with feathered hair, sitting in my bedroom with purple as far as the eye can see, the obligitory unicorn artwork, and a rockin’ Steve Perry poster. What can I say, 13 was a period of transition for me.
My taste in books expands and contracts over time. Some, like Atlas Shrugged, will always be a favorite and have a permanent place on the bookshelf. Others, like The Sweet Potato Queens’ Book of Love, or the latest Vince Flynn thriller, fill a momentary void and are soon passed on.
So books and me, we go way back. Cooking, on the other hand, is relatively new in comparison. Before I met SFC, cooking wasn’t really on my radar. My meals consisted mostly of Lean Cuisine this and spaghetti that. It just wasn’t a focus. When I did try and cook, the results were not what I would call successful. I still have not recovered from my first attempt to cook a ham. No matter how long it stayed in the oven, that thing just would not get done. Hours later, when the thermometer still refused to get to 160 degrees, it was a lost cause since it had been pretty well ingrained into me that you don’t eat undercooked pork or chicken. So when a recipe tells me to cook for so many minutes per pound, I move on to the next option. This is why at our house there is no turkey on Thanksgiving and no ham on Easter. Just so you know.
I would have to say it was after SFC and I started dating that my inner foodie surfaced. Yes, I wanted to impress him with mad cooking skills. I also wanted to stop eating out of boxes and cans. So I rolled up my sleeves and got cooking. If someone were to ask me now what I like to do, I would have to say that I like to read and I like to cook.
Usually, most cookbooks don’t make for enjoyable reading. And most novels don’t add to your recipe collection. But sometimes, those two interests intersect. When they do, I’m all over it. Take A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.
You’ve heard me talk about Molly. She’s the woman behind the curtain at Orangette. I can’t remember how I found her blog. But it was the first food site that I ever bookmarked. Before Food Network and before The Minimalist even. Sorry Ina, Alton, and Mark.
Molly’s blog is full of stories from real life. Her real life. The exciting days and the ordinary ones. But there is joy and beauty in even the most ordinary day that comes across in her stories. And passion. Passion for the people she loves and passion for the food that they share. For me, reading her is like talking to an old friend. Even if I don’t come around to visit for while, we pick right up where we left off like not a day has gone by.
In her book we are an angst ridden teenager. We spend holidays with her family. We leave college and move to Paris. Later, we move to Seattle and start a blog. We meet our future husband courtesy of the blog. We also lose our father, an aunt, and an uncle. We get married. And we cook.
Each chapter in the book ends with a recipe. While I’ve never had a pickled carrot before, reading about how it was only natural for Molly and Brandon to make homemade pickled carrots for their wedding, I could almost taste them in my mouth. Here, I’ll let her tell you…”…spindly and sweet, as small and delicate as a lady’s pinky and just the right height to stand, shoulder to shoulder, in a quart sized Mason jar.” As soon as I find two Mason jars, I will be trying the recipe on page 290.
Each recipe tells a story and each story holds a recipe. Molly brings the two together in a way that will make you cry as much as it will make you laugh. Don’t be surprised if you find that this book calls out for a permanent spot on your bookshelf.