“If you could write about anything at all, what would it be?” I was asked. Without thinking I responded, “I’d write about food.” I startled myself with my answer and even laughed as I said it. But my smile faded when I realized it was true.
I’ve always liked to cook and bake, and I look forward to canning jars of spaghetti sauce or rhubarb
jam. I like blocking off half a day or so to try new recipes that I think my family will like. I feel victorious when a new dish is a hit, making the pile of dirty pots and pans worth every second. More to the point, I suppose, is the fact that I like to eat. I like tasting new foods, and I look forward to old favorites. I have my go-to comfort foods (Oreos and milk) and I rather like poking around the grocery store, discovering new and exotic treats (the pickle aisle is a good place to start).
Cookbooks are another source of delight for me, for they are as much literature as is a classic novel. I suppose they lean towards the graphic novel genre, since they are illustrated, or at least the good ones are. I see a photograph, read the ingredients, then picture the play of salty off of sweet, savory off of sour. But even better are food magazines. Talk about a frustrating medium! Food magazines should be scratch-n-sniff enabled, allowing the reader to smell the hint of sage that rounds out a pork roast, or how a squeeze of lemon can perk up that leftover turkey soup. The writers are forced to use mere words to describe what is almost impossible to describe and is tasted differently by every tongue. Food writing is all about the senses because we use all of them when we eat and appreciate a good meal.
So, why do I want to write about food? It’s a challenge to combine words with something that requires all of our senses to appreciate, and I enjoy a good challenge. But it also has to do with the social nature of food, and of meals lovingly prepared. I want to share the description of Aunt Nell’s buttery, lemony pound cake, as well as the story of how, as a girl, she learned to make it while standing on a stool so she could reach the counter. I want to mark the story of how my dad and his four siblings ate borscht every day for lunch during the Depression, not because it was their favorite, but because it was the cheapest thing they could make to fill their bellies. Telling the story is just as important as passing on the recipe.
Tonight, as you sit down to dinner, whether it’s homemade or fast food, take a moment to really taste it, smell it, touch it. Let it remind you of a story.
Lori Berezovsky is the library’s outreach coordinator.