Why read me?

Does the world really need another blog? And one about food (among other things)? Maybe not, but here’s a list of reasons why I’ve created Words to Eat By:

  • The urge to write, and cook, is not new to me—I’ve been writing fiction since high school, where I was an earnest, quiet, fat kid, baking cookies for my girl-crush: the English teacher who encouraged me to write it all down.
  • In college, still fat, I majored in creative writing, won the fiction prize at graduation, and expected to be published in The New Yorker within a few months. (This was the era of Bret Easton Ellis, when it seemed like all the hot new writers were under 25.) You can guess how that turned out.
  • Fast forward twelve years, and I’m a VP at one of the many divisions of Random House. Haven’t written a word in a decade that’s not related to someone else’s book, and, truth be told, not even thinking about it all that much. All I can think about is how miserable I am. Throwing dinner parties and baking cookies for my department (eating most of them myself) is not cutting it.
  • I’ve gained enough weight that when I finally decide to do something about it, I have 100 pounds to lose. It takes three years and some of the hardest work of my life, but I do lose it. Throughout that time, and even now, food is a challenge and a pleasure.
  • When Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) comes in to discuss her upcoming cookbook, she tells her story: She was working in the Nixon White House, of all things, and saw a classified ad for a gourmet shop in East Hampton, NY. She checked it out and, pretty much on a whim, bought it. As I listened to her talk about the ups and downs of her life since then, I found myself thinking: I WANT THAT. I want to make people feel good by feeding them. I want to make other people’s lives easier and fuller at the same time. I want to see the results of my effort firsthand. Most of all, I want the enterprise to be mine, not some giant German media conglomerate’s.
  • Time passes, and while I’m still fiddling around with a business plan, I’m told that I have to reduce my department’s overhead by 10%. This means laying people off. It’s a gift from above, I decide; I lay myself off. I get severance, I get to leave a job that’s making me miserable, and I get to save the jobs of three other people who want/need to be there.
  • Two weeks later, I start to write fiction again. It feels good. Really good.
  • I take a job with a woman who owns a restaurant and takeout shop. I’m to be her Director of Sales and Marketing. It sounds like a lofty title for such an operation, and indeed it turns out to be too lofty for her cash flow. Six months later I’m laid off, having learned a ton about the food business and very grateful for the experience. I do not want this to be my life, after all. I want to write.
  • Freelance copywriting jobs come my way from my former colleagues. Between that and my savings, I decide I can give myself a year to write a novel.
  • 150 pages into that novel, I join a workshop. It’s helpful and motivational, and I feel my work getting better even as I’m writing it. I also realize that my 150 pages are crap. I can do better.
  • In the time it’s taken me to get to this point, I’m pretty sure my entire being has changed. I’m looser, I’m certainly calmer, and I do a lot more baking. Now when I bake, I eat the batch of cookies slowly, over days instead of hours. When I meet S, the man who will become my husband, things seem to fall into place. There is no angst. I am happy. I cook for him, soups and roast chicken and American Chop Suey and pasta primavera and he eats it all and has seconds. Brownies, many variations on chocolate chip cookies, breads, blueberry crisp, popovers…I am a baker. I don’t need to sell my wares; sharing them with S is enough.
  • Almost exactly a year ago, S proposed. I was knee-deep in a major freelance project, we had extensive work to do on his apartment (the bigger one) before I could move in, and we were planning a wedding. One element in my life had to go, temporarily, so I stopped writing. Again.
  • Now, the work on the apartment is nearly finished (though I moved in eight months ago), the wedding and honeymoon were months ago, and I’m finishing up another major freelance project. The time has come to refocus. What do I really want? I fantasize about opening a used bookstore-café. I fantasize about actually writing a novel, a different one I’ve been toying with in my head all this time. I fantasize about becoming a food writer.
  • I’ve decided that, if nothing else, at least a blog will keep me disciplined about aspects of each of those things. Even if nobody else is reading, I’ll pretend you’re out there waiting to hear from me. I’ll cook, and bake, and eat, and write about it. Hopefully, you’ll like it and want to hear more.