The Empty Page

The Empty Page

Dear Diary,

Can we talk? Privately, I mean? I imagine you as being just like the beautiful pink diary I received for Christmas when I was ten: the one that said DIARY in golden letters across the front and came with a tiny golden key that fit into its tiny golden lock. The beauty of getting a new diary at Christmas was having exactly a week to contemplate its 365 blank, lined, empty pages ready to be filled in the coming year with the kind of thoughts that would occur to the person you might not be right now, but would be, starting on January 1. The new you. The better you.

Diary, I have to confess, I haven’t been a very committed Foodie lately. Oh sure, I finished the two eggs I fried for breakfast this morning with truffle salt, and yesterday I felt terribly sad looking at the bagel with nova lox that I was about to eat until I realized that all it needed was a little more color.

Sometimes you just need to accessorize.

Sometimes you just need to accessorize.

All it needed in order to become cheerfully appealing was one little teensy whimsical frond of dill! But I’m not talking about garnishing. I’m not talking about finishing. I’m talking about starting.

Can I make a terrible confession? When the guest who was going to bring the main course to a potluck dinner party at my house this weekend cancelled at the last minute, do you know what I did? Well, what would Martha Stewart do? Oh, wait, she wouldn’t be having a potluck, because she actually employs a professional kitchen staff to produce the dinner parties she hosts! So…what would James Beard do? Yeah, he’d just make the damn paella himself. He actually stared at me from the front of the James Beard Award medal that lives on a little shrine in my dining room along with my Julia Child Spatula and more or less hollered, “Make the damn paella yourself!” And you know what I did? I just called the remaining couple who hadn’t bailed on the dinner party and told them to meet us at a restaurant instead.

I don’t think JB liked that very much. I don’t think JB has been entirely pleased with his sojourn in my house since he came home with me last May. I think he watches the multiple cooking magazines to which I subscribe as they rise in increasingly precarious stacks from the dining room table with all the promise of their Scottish Crab Bisque and Kimchi Smashed Potatoes and Charred Pear Sorbet with Goat Cheese and wonders why he couldn’t have gone home with some other, more highly motivated cook. Someone who might build an indoor ribs-smoker and make wonton soup from scratch (two things which I do, from time to time, imagine doing.) In case you’re curious, March has brought us DELICIOUS DONUT RECIPES YOU CAN TRY AT HOME, A COOK’S GUIDE TO EXOTIC RICES, and a visit to the “misty Andalusian hills” where a hostess who left her “fashionable London life in the late ’70s to renovate an abandoned 16th-century villa near Seville, Spain” is serving up Slow-Roasted Andalusian-Style Lamb and Potatoes, Tortilla de Patatas, and Marmalade Ice Cream in which “a swirl of orange marmalade adds a welcome bittersweet
note to vanilla ice cream”–made, of course, from scratch.

Listen, Diary, I know these magazines don’t mean to make me feel guilty. They mean to enhance my quality of life by making me a Better Foodie. The same way those women’s magazines I used to read in my 20s wanted me to starve myself and make myself up and buy fashionable clothes and find out What Makes Him Tick in the Bedroom because they genuinely wanted me to land my Mr. Darcy so I could live Happily Ever After. And then, there you are right smack in the middle of Happily Ever After and you don’t have to be a size 4 anymore and you realize that part of living Happily Ever After is: now you can eat? And not just Cheez Doodles and Cheddar Cheese Ruffles that you buy in a bag at a conveniently located 7-11, but Slow-Roasted Andalusian-Style Lamb prepared just the way normally you would have to visit a formerly fashionable London family at their formerly abandoned 16th century villa in Andalusia in order to experience?

Diary, when I put it that way I see there is no conceivable excuse for someone with a James Beard Award Shrine in the dining room and a Happily Ever After stage of life NOT to devote some serious attention to attaining a better quality of life through food literature.

And Diary, you are going to help me start: now.

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