I refer to Alice Waters The Art of Simple Cooking with an obsessive devotion. Her recipes are so simple, elegant, and delicious that I quickly became addicted and wanted to cook only as she said to do it.
So when I saw her book for children at the Boston Athenaeum, I scooped it up to take home with me.
It’s written from the perspective of Alice Waters’ daughter Fanny who grew up at Chez Panisse. Sort of Eloise-style, without the spoiled brat and the pug. (I love Eloise, but I think we can agreed she’s a bit of a brat.) I read it like an-easy-to-read memoir, thinking “what would it be like to be the daughter of a restaurant owner like Alice?”
This is what it would be like:
The illustrations are by Ann Arnold and they are so lovely you want them to fill your kitchen. The text is cheerful and all about food. Below, an illustration of composting:
She includes 46 recipes at the back, mostly really classic things like pizza dough, candied orange peel, and plain white rice. I was in the mood for a new bread recipe so I tried it. It’s a good one! A nice mix of whole wheat and white flour, hearty with salt and just a touch of milk. I recommend checking it out.
if you want to find a great novel I don’t think you can go to a bookstore anymore. I think you need serious recommendations. My younger brother Wilson is in his freshman year of college, the territory of professors either directing you back towards the books you heard about in high school or directing your forward into the books culture is actually talking about. Fortunately his English professor is the
former latter (will those ever make sense??).
When I saw the list, and recognized five books I’d read and loved, I knew I’d have to read them all. Meet my list for 2013, fresh from a text message from Wilson:
The Wendesday Chef, one of the cooking blog greats, will be at the Harvard Bookstore on October 2nd (Tuesday). I’ll be there, anyone else? Should we bring baked goods to share? (photo by xobreakfast)
The Smithsonian is sponsoring a free museum day this Sunday. All sorts of museums on there, and they email the ticket to you. We picked the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Can’t resist that old fashioned place. But the Great House at the Crane estate is also on there…and the Gropius House…
Also on Sunday, this fun yard-sale in Cambridge hosted by my friend who is an amazing stylist. I’ve always wondered how she’s managed to have the perfect thing for every shoot.
Looking forward to anything this weekend?
The season finale of GIRLS happened this past week, and one highlight for me was book-spotting grumpy Ray reading I Capture the Castle. Have you read it? It might be one of my Top 10. It was written in 1948 by Dodie Smith about a poor family living in a washed-up castle, making do and having fun. Coming of age of a seventeen year old girl, journal style, eccentric father, unexpected visitors…I know that sounds predictable but truly, it is a charmer! I recommend, as Ray did by saying, “This book is so fucking incredible. Anything by a British woman is just…fuck.” (or you could read my longer review here.)
Very apropos too, because the Summer Solstice plays a lovely role in that book and I always wish that I had some sort of tradition or rite to do on the longest day of the year. Is there anything you like to do to mark these kinds of holidays?
Frequently I wonder what my children in the future will think of my internet presence now. If my mom had a blog, I wonder, would I find it and go back through the archives, reading all of it? Would I ignore it? Would I be embarrassed by what she shared there?
So I was delighted to read this bit from Sam Lamott, whose mom Anne Lamott famously wrote an entire book about Sam’s first year of life. In the preface to their new book (about his son, Anne’s grandson), he writes how he feels when reading the last book:
To this day, that book is the greatest gift anyone has given me; I have a very special relationship with it. When I read any of my mom’s books, I hear her voice talking as if she were in the room right next to me. But when I read Operating Instructions, I hear and feel my mother’s love for me, her frustration and dedication, her innermost feelings and favorite moments of my first year with her. I will always cherish these memories of our funny family and our friends, and I will always be able to come back to them even when my mom is too old to remember them herself.
a great tribute to the possibility of blogs, right?
I literally do the same thing every day. I believe that discipline and self-love are the total secrets to freedom. I sit down at the same time every day because I don’t want it to be an issue. I’m like a teenager. If you give me a chance to negotiate around sitting down at 9 a.m. and beginning the piece, I’m going to be like a 15-year-old. I may have a reason why that doesn’t really make sense and why you’re trying to bum my trip.
My dad taught me that to be a writer is a decision and a habit. It’s not anything lofty, and it doesn’t have that much to do with inspiration. You have to develop the habit of being a certain way with yourself. You do it at the debt of honor. I’ve written 13 books now. It’s not really important that I write a lot more books, but I do it as a debt of honor. I got one of the five golden tickets to be a writer, and I take that seriously. I don’t love my own work at all, but I love my own self. I love that I’ve been given the chance to capture the stories that come through me.
-Anne Lamott, interview on goodreads.com
Comes out March 20th.
Aleksandra also makes grilled cheese sandwiches with Gruyere and a sprinkling of white wine (before broiling), sliced comice pears sauteed in butter and sugar, coconut sticky rice, pasta with ‘just a little butter, Parmesan and black peper,’ and before bed a mug of hot milk sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg….
In the winter, I have made hearty salads of smoked mackerel and red-skinned potatoes and accompanied them with braised leeks. I like to saute sausages and eat them with a mound of broccoli rabe, a lemon wedge and olive oil; and assemble platters of prosciutto, mortadella and duck liver pate with a tuft of parsley and caper salad. I might roast carrots and beets, and dip them into ricotta seasoned with olive oil and sea salt.
-Amanda Hesser, Cooking for Mr. Latte (currently reading)
This book is in the guise of a dizzy girl memoir, but it’s actually a beautiful pitch for savoring all the food you eat, and relishing the treats you allow yourself.
It’s true that babies sleep occasionally, and give you a chance to do something for (with?) yourself.
For me right now it’s reading this delicious and oddly modern sci-fi from 1956. (that’s pre-Sputnik, of course. Just imagine what they thought of space then.)
a section from our burgeoning bookshelves—this one is closest to the couch—that I like to admire and think of all the good times we had together.
I opened up Patti Smith’s Just Kids last week and read it nonstop until it ended and left me flipping back through to my favorite parts. It was wonderful. I recommend it to anyone who is harboring an artistic spirit, or wondering what happened to theirs, or torturously pondering what to do next. It’s about her life with Robert Mapplethorp (both pictured above) as late teens-early 20s in NYC—so poor, so unknown, and yet eager to greet their future. Their belief in their artistic ability and the worthwhileness of becoming artists, the joy they took in their city lives, the way they styled their working habits; it all inspired me to take firmer hold of my own artistic ambitions. It’s also an amazing primer on bohemian Greenwich Village, the Factory, the Chelsea Hotel….basically New York City in the ’60s.
I really didn’t know anything about Patti Smith, aside from her name, when I picked up the book, so don’t let that stop you. This isn’t a fangirl review.
Just Kids won the 2010 National Book Award for nonfiction. In her weepy acceptance speech she said,
Publishers: never abandon the book….There is nothing more beautiful, in our material world, than the book.
Next up: Netflixing the documentary Patti Smith: Dream of Life.
Photo by Katie Simon, 1979.