On food, wine and books

Today I did the things I love to do, with the enthusiasm and confidence that I enjoy them, I do not do them as a living and I will never be expert in their execution.

It’s shocking to think that, frankly, that is the definition of a hobby. If we are expert, the things we do to pass our time enjoyably would probably cease to be enjoyable. And if we are too starkly amateurish, we haven’t the confidence to conduct these activities with a degree of interest and experimentation. It seems to me the most rewarding hobbies have that degree of exploration, of trial and error, but with a vague semblance of capability.

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Tonight, I cooked and I read. Not completely at once: there was ample wine-sipping and dishwasher-unloading in the process, but it occured to me at the conclusion that I had passed an hour in utter but not unfruitful enjoyment. Just an hour – and yet it fed me literally as well as figuratively. It was not time wasted, but it was not an overly industrious hour, which would have turned it into a chore. The food tickled my taste buds, and the reading tickled my thoughts.

Recently, I became riveted with In Jennie’s Kitchen, a lovely blog full of heartache and heartsong, rife with recipes and related music pairings. What a completely fantastic concept, I thought, as I scavenged her site to get to know her beyond the words on the screen. It occurs to me that I’ve tried to crossover my loves here before (Books to Devour), but floundered a bit because I hadn’t yet identified my aim. Who knows what will come, but I know that tonight I feel giddy at the thought that my hobbies – my loves outside my family – of food and writing long to be intertwined.

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I consider the great things I’ve read when I’m cooking, and how I consider it the ultimate indulgence to read while I eat… devouring a bite and processing its nuances, and then devouring a sentence and its intricacies. When I look at the recent series on Northern Indian Food at the elbow of my friend Srividya as I soaked up her kitchen and everyday life, I realize now I would pair it with The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni as the assigned-reading pairing.

I can’t get enough of the thought that an excellent meal deserves an excellent read.

I feel incredulous at my basic discovery of the idea that food pairs perfectly with words (and wine), and yet it should come as no wonder, since a quick inventory of some of my affections very clearly amplify these crushes. Like Water for Chocolate: novel with recipes. Chocolat: film and epic story with ample doses of taste. Memories of my honeymoon and favorite dates with my husband come crashing toward me, centered predominantly around meals enjoyed together. His exasperation and, finally, resignation that I’ll always discuss the next meal during the current: “What would you like for dinner?” I’ll inquire while lifting my lunch fork to my my mouth, or “What did you have for lunch?” during a phone call to family when we are apart.

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Last weekend, my sister stopped by with her husband and another couple to say hello on a lazy afternoon as they headed out to enjoy a night at our parents’ lake house. We sat on the couch together (will we always band together, observing the world together on one end of the room as sisters while those we love sit across the room? Probably, and I hope this for my daughters…). I turned to her and asked what they were having for dinner. Her face lit up with humor and irony. “Swordfish!” she replied with delight at the chance to report it. We turned to the others in the room, expecting their crinkled brows, and laughed. Talking about food, and having an interesting response to the question of what’s for dinner, passes as a great topic of conversation in our minds nine times out of ten.

Tonight, as I slurped my homemade roasted red pepper and corn chowder (recipe forthcoming), I read the June 2013 issue of Real Simple. I inhaled a poignant essay by young adult author John Green, an introduction to the article “50 Books That Will Change Your Life.” Aside from the fact that we seem to have graduated at the same time and perhaps sat in high school literature classes finding our souls just months apart and the fact that, in the hour since I discovered his existence I have decided we will be best friends forever, I was riveted by his words about recently revisiting one of his all-time favorite novels:

Just as it had all those years ago, the book tore me up and then stitched me back together, different and better. I am pleased to report that the magic of stories is alive and well, if we only give them the attention they deserve.

Indeed. You few but mighty and enthusiastic readers can expect food and reading recommendations for the forseeable future. I recommend that you blame John Green.

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2 comments

  1. I’m looking forward to that soup recipe!

    1. Put it up today, Robin!

      Put your own twist on it and let me know what you think. Can’t wait for our little excursion for some more foodie fun! 🙂

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