Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Head In A Book

Out in the country, you really have to choose what your spare time will be spent doing. At least, it seems to be true in this part of the world. Most people around here have serious hobbies that usually border on careers. For many, this hobby is hunting with dogs. I don't really get it, especially since a lot of the dogs seem sadly malnourished as they run around the woods with radio collars on. For some, the hobby is antiquing, which involves mostly overpriced kitsch with a few great finds every now and then. That's how they get you.

I've always been a little bit more of a busybody, and I have to divide my time between lots of things. I'm like this with cooking. I can't just pick a ginger cooky (am I the only one who thinks we should bring this spelling of "cookie" back?) recipe that I like, and I've made a good many amazing ginger cooky recipes. I'm always looking for the NEXT ginger cooky recipe. I bookmark the ones that are good and then compare, and then...I still look for others.

With hobbies, the idea is the same. I'm antsy. I need lots of room to move around, lots of hobbies to choose from. But recently I've been absolutely buried in a good book, and it feels really nice to have no greater ambition at the moment than to finish this really great book. I wish most books weren't disappointing, but they are, so when a good one arrives on your doorstep in its demure brown box, it's a special treat. Sort of like a second slice of flourless chocolate cake for the brain.

So, this may come as a shock to you, but Julia Child is one of my heroes. I love the woman, and I feel pretty confident that we would have gotten along famously if only I hadn't been born eighty years too late. I like her style--in cooking, in talking, in writing. No fiddle faddle, no pussyfooting, no flim flam. She was utterly herself, which is more than can be said of the vast majority of people. John met her once, so I guess I sort of met her by extension. But regardless, As Always, Julia is probably the best book I've read in a long time. It's just a collection of letters between her and her friend Avis DeVoto, but how marvelously written! As an avid letter writer, it's a truly inspiring book. It really makes you think about how friendships are cultivated and how letters are just so powerful. I mean, I don't have too much against emails. It's how we are able to communicate most efficiently. But there's no charm to an email in my romantic brain. I find that as soon as I type in someone's email address, I want to speak in monosyllables and abbreviations, and I become scarily less concerned with tone and diction. Not healthy. I try to temper all the emails I have to send (since it is the currency of words these days) by writing letters. And if you think writing letters is a simple thing, try writing a really charming, thoughtful one that spans more than a couple paragraphs. It's yoga for the brain.

Rabbit trail. But, great book. It's a lovely thing, too. Great dust jacket with a photo of the gigantic Julia stirring something in a tiny pot on a tiny stove in a tiny kitchen. High-quality paper, gilt writing on the spine, silvery end papers. And aesthetics matter to book whores. This is a book for book whores. Or those of us just looking for a really good read to go with our good eats.


Cynthia S. said...

Okay, will try to find... wonderful book combining cooking and letters! By the way, all your letters will eventually need a bigger box, perhaps a whole closet!

meg said...