Hi there. I’m waving hello from our kitchen studio, where the sun is shining brightly outside and I’m in here, sitting on my exercise ball chair, trying to pause from typing every 20 minutes or so. The first draft of the manuscript for our next cookbook, American Classics Reinvented (or is it Reimagined?), is due in 6 days.
This is the fourth book I have written since 2006. Fourth book! There’s magic in that phrase for me — the girl who always wanted to be a writer — and exhaustion — the woman only two years away from 50 with a three-month-old and very energetic almost-6-year-old. For most of the last year, Danny and I cooked and baked and schemed and planned and cut recipes and created foods we’d never made before and want to make again and again. Knishes! Reuben sandwich soup! Seattle coffee cake! California roll salad! Hash brown waffles! Smoked salmon eggs benedict! Elk and morel mushroom pot pie! Pimento cheese sandwiches! Baja fish tacos! Amish chicken and noodle! St. Louis gooey butter cake! All of it gluten-free, of course. We’ve also created a grain-free flour mix we love, which those of you who have to avoid grains can use in any recipe. We’re really happy with this book, even this last week before it’s due.
It has been quite the year.
Usually, by this time of a book being due, I’m a frantic mess. Shower? No time. Food? Forgotten. Writing until midnight and getting up at 4 to write more? Of course. It’s just too easy to put my head down and work, work, work, and then look up and see the day has waned without my seeing it.
This time, however? Forget about that frantic flapping. I don’t want to live that way.
Part of this extraordinary year for me has been looking at my celiac more closely, realizing that it truly is an autoimmune disorder. For me, simply avoiding gluten is not enough to heal me now. Enduring the return to sleep deprivation for the sake of a lovely baby and the hormonal shifts of a woman who’s nearly 50, plus getting some gluten by mistake has made this a rough year, health wise. Still, I think there are gifts in every hard place, the times that question and throw everything into disarray. For me, this has been a chance to step back and decide how much to breathe and see how gently I can treat myself. Stressing out, not sleeping, forgetting to exercise, letting fear and anger and guilt burrow into my gut? Those are not the way to heal from an autoimmune disorder.
I think every day these days about this quote from Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics): “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
Every time before this one I would turn to Danny in the middle of the crash-and-burn ending of a book and say, “Look, when life calms down, after the book is done…” And eventually he’d laugh and gently smack me on the arm.
“Good one, honey. When does life ever calm down?”
Now. In this moment. Danny has taught me that. Lucy and Desmond have taught me that. My celiac has taught me that. Nearing 50 has taught me that. I’m tired of living frantically, waiting for the right moment to breathe. Now. Here.
Here. Now. Time to eat the raspberries picked this morning.
So I’m writing up the notes from recipes all day today, while Lucy is at stilts camp (yep, you read that right) and Danny is at home with baby Desmond, who’s a little under the weather from his first round of vaccinations. I have Cat Stevens playing, a cup of green lemongrass tea that needs refreshing, and a piece of writing I didn’t expect to tumble forth today. This evening, I’m playing softball and going to bed early.
I have a feeling this will be the best book we’ve done so far. Even if it’s not, it will be done soon, followed by relief and joy. Then, we start back to work again.
See you soon.