Recipes for a life take many forms, concocted from the stories we share with the people we love. I’m lucky in this life that I am able to share my stories and to read yours. 2010 was filled with so many good ones, wasn’t it? Below I’ve collected some of the best from 2010 – in my estimation – of my own and as told by others.
Thank you for reading along another year.
Twelve things I wrote in 2010
But in this place, this moment – they are just right. The breeze is powerful and salty and full of clay-earth. It blows the curtains like great flowery sails above my head. I stare at the ceiling, listening to the clock that accompanies me through each siesta.
Wooden Spoons (February)
Theorists discuss lofty things in abstract terms, but most arguments root in a few key themes: the good, justice, fairness, equality. Call my comparison a stretch, but I think cooking does the same basic thing.
Dad visits me in Toronto for the day and lets himself into the apartment to leave a three-litre jar of olives on the counter. He always has an array of garlicky Greek spreads waiting when I get off the train, be damned if it’s two in the morning. One memorable evening, he traveled the entire city of Windsor on a midnight fudge run.
My hair is in the half-wet state that happens when the sun is so hot it evaporates everything but laughter and the quiet in-between. He clicks and the camera’s aperture whooshes. And I take in his pale skin, and then the blindingly bright turquoise water, and then the dangling grey camera string and I push it aside out of the next shot – one of many in the mental stack of photos I flip through.
Here’s what time has taught me: introversion is a selfish excuse for solitude. Being alone is okay. But it’s not okay for me to use a tidy label to hide from others.
Mom carefully unwrapped her flowers, trimmed the ends. Carnations are hardy, so she’d pick through last week’s vases. She’d keep what was good, add the new blooms, stir together fresh water and food. All into the same vases on the same shelves and side tables. It was a sourdough starter that she fed each Friday, of pink and red and white and purple-flecked flowers.
Real Simple is like that friend whose perfectly edited life you’d love to hate, but can’t – because she really is just that fabulous. And don’t we all crop the messy bits from our photographs? Still, reading this magazine always leads to a loaded internal dialogue about how we frame our lives for one-another.
Both arrive and leave before you have chance to notice. You never imagine that all this is going to change soon. Day by day it’s the same, and then you wake and it’s all gone and different and some pieces look familiar, but mostly not.
I made sense of this last night, finally, as I listened. “Cooking is easy!” I say. But I’m wrong. To someone who has never turned on a burner, or bought fresh produce, or learned the basics of storing food, or honed proper knife skills – cooking is hard.
I eat these little fish and I think of all the wonderful things – people, places, foods, experiences – that we never get to know because they are gross, or not our type, or out of the norm. As I am remembering anchovies, I am remembering joys that are gained through an open heart and willingness to be less dogmatic about who I am and what I like.
Was it hypocrisy that my only-from-scratch mom made boxed potatoes – with a Wonderbread crouton topping, no less? It might have been. I wasn’t complaining. It was one of my favourite things to eat, though the dehydrated science-project potatoes were off-putting in theory.
No doubt I learn many things in my literary travels, but it’s odd to treat self improvement and cooking as bedside table fiction. I only learn so much by reading, making the occasional note and filing away the good parts. The space in my brain and black notebook that hosts tips for meaningful mornings and ways to cook fish has become awfully crowded.
Twelve things I read in 2010
Why are you so terribly disappointing? by Mark Morford, SFGate
Maybe this, then, is the ultimate upshot of our endless, self-wrought swirl of sour disappointment, of never having our impossible needs fully met, of constantly being thwarted in our desire to have the world revolve around our exact set of specifications and desires.
Here, There and Back Again by Luisa Weiss, The Wednesday Chef
One day I saw a big, beautiful family eating a simple lunch by the beach. I used to be too shy to do anything but stare sort of secretively at this kind of family, hoping no one would notice me looking at them. Now I think life is too fleeting to keep things like that to myself, so I told them how lovely they were and they broke into delighted laughter, all of them. I wish you could have heard it. I wish I could hear it again.
Roger Ebert: the Essential Man by Chris Jones, Esquire
His last food was probably nothing special, except that it was: hot soup in a brown plastic bowl; maybe some oatmeal; perhaps a saltine or some canned peaches. His last drink? Water, most likely, but maybe juice, again slurped out of plastic with the tinfoil lid peeled back. The last thing he said? Ebert thinks about it for a few moments, and then his eyes go wide behind his glasses, and he looks out into space in case the answer is floating in the air somewhere. It isn’t.
The Art of Lardee by Inhae, My Milk Toof
“Lardee, that’s not how you paint a fish.”
Is food the new sex? by Mary Eberstadt, Hoover Institution at Stanford
Now imagine one possible counterpart to Betty today, her 30-year-old granddaughter Jennifer. Jennifer has almost no cans or jars in her cupboard. She has no children or husband or live-in boyfriend either, which is why her kitchen table on most nights features a laptop and goes unset. Yet interestingly enough, despite the lack of ceremony at the table, Jennifer pays far more attention to food, and feels far more strongly in her convictions about it, than anyone she knows from Betty’s time.
There is Enough by Sarah McColl, Pink of Perfection
The and that’s okay part was what I needed to hear. There’s room for all of us. There’s enough success, money, and love to go around. There is no scarcity, really, unless we choose to look at life through that lens. One person’s success doesn’t take away from our own; someone else’s triumph doesn’t mean less triumph for us. There’s enough for everybody.
The New York Diet: Jeffrey Steingarten Cooks Goat Sous-Vide, Disdains Brooklyn Boosterism edited by Helen Rosner
So you get to the Greenmarket, and if you haven’t ordered ahead of time, people are sold out? That’s wrong! I happen not to be a morning person, but I deserve to eat as much as a morning person deserves to eat. When you prick us, do we not bleed? Seriously.
What Grant Achatz Saw at El Bulli by Grant Achatz, The New York Times’ Diner’s Journal
People often ask me if the style of cooking he pioneered is a trend, fad or flash in the pan. My belief is that every 15 to 20 years, with an obvious bell curve of energy, most professions change. Technology, fine arts, design and yes, cooking, follow the same predictable pattern. A visionary creates the framework for a new genre, others follow and execute, and the residual effects remain, embedded in the cloth of the craft.
In Her Defense, I’m Sure the Moose had it Coming by Aaron Sorkin, The Huffington Post
And you didn’t just do it for fun and you didn’t just do it for money. That was the first moose ever murdered for political gain. You knew there’d be a protest from PETA and you knew that would be an opportunity to hate on some people, you witless bully. What a uniter you’d be — bringing the right together with the far right.
Learning Who You Are Through What You Eat by Michele Kayal, NPR’s Kitchen Window
When she’s not looking, I do surreptitious quality control, re-rolling her grape leaves the way my grandmother used to re-roll mine, until my fingers became so deft, so full of memory that I could no longer recall ever learning it. She rolls, I re-roll, the Arabic weaves in and out of the accented English.
What Biggie Smalls’ Lyrics Taught Me About Food by Francis Lam, Salon
He was bragging about being harder than you, tougher than you, even when he was a child in school. But he was still a child. He loved his chocolate milk. He remembers the flavor of his favorite cookies. The Notorious B.I.G., this spinner of murder rhymes and playboy fantasies, made himself vulnerable.
There is a Horse in the Apple Store by Frank Chimero, frankchimero.com
THERE IS A LITTLE PONY IN THE APPLE STORE. What the hell? A beautiful little pony, with a flowing mane, the likes of which my sister would have killed to get for Christmas when she was 7 or 8. And, NOONE is looking at this thing.
Already, impossibly, almost 2011. The happiest of new years to you.