From the Baker’s Rack: Winter Reading

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The snow is coming down.  The kids are in school and perhaps together we are staring out our respective windows at the same wintry scene.  There is so much on my mind.  There is always so much on my mind — but lately thoughts are coming down like fat snowflakes, swirling then piling high around me.  The only thoughts sticking are the one or two I manage to catch on my tongue.  I am feeling frozen and heavy like the rabbit the kids found in our backyard yesterday.  Before someone goes and gets a shovel (or pokes me with a stick as in the case of the poor, stiffened bunny), I need to thaw and make a move– any move and that is the purpose of this post.  I am making a move, despite the storm blowing outside, I am keeping everything calm and warm and focused inside.  I am getting something written (cue a quiet “hooray!”).

At this moment, the stars seem to be aligned in this cozy, softly lit home.  I have my coffee pot back.  My little French press met its demise two weekends ago, when my daughter accidentally tried to put a wooden pepper mill down on the counter driving it first through the fragile little pot, sending shards of glass into the bowl of salt I keep next to the stove.  I am writing on a new laptop this morning as well.  For months I’d been using an old one – a heavy, bulky dinosaur piece of technology, that believe me, you do not want to have on your lap.  The heat coming off of it alone gives new meaning to “pants on fire”!  I waited patiently (weeks!) for this computer — this light, quick, perfectly unbroken laptop to go on sale and here it is and here I am.

It seems I only know two speeds these days: super-fast, creating a blur of everything around me and sleepy-slow, where I avoid walking anywhere near the couch for fear I may collapse into hibernation.  It is the season to slow down, however I need to keep writing, ideally next to a window letting in a stream of strong sunlight.  I need to stay on middle ground — keep my fingers moving and trust that I am where I’m supposed to be.  There is no other place for me at this moment than with you at my kitchen table.

I also have an “all-or-nothing” type of personality.  Either I give something one-hundred-percent effort or I don’t do it at all.  These days I’ve been doing a lot of nothing-at-all with regards to my writing.  In a clear sign of avoidance (blame it on a lack of Vitamin D?), I’ve been organizing — cabinets, cookbooks, cooking magazines, the linen closet, the kids’ drawers.  And each night in bed, I’ve been reading anything about food:  Saveur, Bon Appetit, Cooks Illustrated.  I’ve cracked open Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, and Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink.  I just finished Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton and am looking forward to picking up the memoir, A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories, by JJ Goode and Chef April Bloomfield next.

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by the late and beloved Marcella Hazan andmy newly acquired treasure, already has olive oil and butter stains marking the pages of recipes I’ve tried.  This instructional cookbook has been compared to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and both Alfred A. Knopf publications were edited by the legendary Judith Jones.  As I’ve read in many reviews, this is the book the authority on Italian cooking.  Any holes in your memory of cooking with your Italian grandmother can be filled by Marcella — the universal Nonna.  Rest in peace, you certainly live on in my humble little kitchen.

The snow is slowing down and so am I, but first I’d like to leave you with a few final thoughts: Food is good–even better when you can take the time to taste it.  Even better when there is someone with whom to share it.  And, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to write about it — to offer not only my food stories, but yours as well.  Our memories of meals is something we all have in common, a place in which we can begin again and again.

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