Saturday, January 17, 2015

Little Eskimos

Dear friends

Happy New Year!  I hope you had wonder-filled holidays, even if your wonder was of the "what the hell happened to my life?" variety.  It's cold here and Lake Michigan keeps dumping its wares on us, something Tim warned me would happen.  I don't mind.  It's fulfilling my fantasy about living in an igloo.  My current igloo is multi-storied and has a big rug inside.

I've been reading Ruth Reichl's book, Comfort Me With Apples, which is delicious on every level (and was introduced to me by Kat, of the equally entertaining Eggton blog).  It was Tim's birthday last week, which meant chocolate cake, donuts, and ho-made chicken curry. 

In other news, I watched Valentino: The Last Emperor while Samantha napped.  Talk about an indulgence!  The film is fun, pretty, thoughtful, and kind, though it did put a damper on all those donuts.  Models plus haute couture do not an appetite make.

I love the fabrics in the film, the glamor of fashion itself, but what I really appreciate is the film's exploration of Valentino's "empire", which is nothing short of a portrait of work.  It focuses on Valentino's longtime partnership with Giancarlo Giametti and goes behind the scenes to the seamstresses, set builders, and event designers who make up Valentino's world.  It reminded me of two things: 1) Joshua Wolf Shenk's book Powers of Two, which debunks the myth of the lone genius in our creativity-confused culture, and is the whole reason I heard about Valentino: The Last Emperor to begin with, and 2) How nothing made me happier at my last job than doing behind the scene work so my boss could shine.

I guess the look behind Valentino's curtain reminded me of one other thing, too, the moment in Comfort Me With Apples when five famous American chefs including Alice Waters are to cook a dinner for hundreds in Barcelona and are given nothing but a tiny kitchen and two pans.  Reichl can't help but point out, in addition, that the chefs usually have all kinds of minions to prep and chop their food ahead of time, that they essentially haven't chopped an onion for themselves in a decade.

I love restaurants.  Or, I love them when going out is a luxury.  (When it's a necessity, I just feel lazy, wasteful, and nervous about salt intake.)  I love white plates and sparkling goblets, cloth napkins and beams of proper lighting.  All the same, I have a hard time getting behind the whole chef-as-artist thing.  I guess because I love nothing more than hearty, simple food. In fact, I am still a little embarrassed that once, when visiting Amelia Morris, when asked what my favorite food is, I answered apples and salad.  (See also: what could I do with haute couture if I were taller and ate fewer donuts?)  But it's a little weird that I can't wrap my head around chefs as artists because that is my main motivation for being in the kitchen: to create. 

I appreciate Reichl's writing because she makes food sound so easy and full of love.  And while I would never ever call myself a cook or even a foodie, I can't deny the fact that I fell headlong into Molly Wizenberg's first book, A Homemade Life, and have a hard time looking away whenever I come across Luisa Weiss's book, My Berlin Kitchen.

So I guess this post is all leading up to what my life is leading up to a lot these days: memoirs and, in this case, food memoirs.  I stayed up reading an advanced copy of Amelia's book this week and guess what?  It's beautiful.  I zoomed through its pages like a Dyson vacuum and was tingling when I finished it in the early morning.  I was a bit of a grouch the next day but it was worth it, especially since I didn't have to growl at Tim anymore whenever he picks it up. 

I know I've mentioned this book a lot, and it's true, I'm excited about it.  I had the privilege of reading a few of its pages early on, and have been dying to get back to those pages ever since.  Now those pages and the stories they contain are all growsed up.  The fact that I can live inside Amelia's Going To California tale whenever I want now is just so fun. 

If you want to check out Amelia's story, here is a link to the book's trailer.  In the meantime, be well and be sexy, no matter how much butter you use! 

With love,