Last summer while searching for possible writing workshops, I stumbled across Narrative Magazine, an online-only publication featuring the work of some of the marquee names in narrative writing.
It's been a wonderful source of delight in an unexpected format. One doesn't usually expect to read longer narrative works online only. One of my favorite stories from the most recent edition is Life is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days by husband and wife writing team, James and Kay Salter. I saw in this piece a literary version of mine and my husband's own life with food.
THE MEAL IS the essential act of family and clan. It is the ceremony of being, the long record of marriage, the school for behavior, the prelude to love. Among all peoples and in all times, every significant event in life—be it wedding, triumph, or birth—is marked by a meal or the sharing of food or drink. The meal is the emblem of civilization. What would one know of life as it should be lived or nights as they should be spent apart from meals?
What would we know indeed.
Through trial-and-error the two lovingly learned cooking together. Over the course of their marriage they have documented many of their recipes and entertaining successes in a little brown book that serves as the basis for their book by the same (Callaway Editions, October 2006). Reading through the calendar of their epicurean successes reminded me of the many meals Danny and I have prepared for our families and friends over the years.
I had never thought of documenting those before, but reading their piece made me realize how cooking and food is a fundamental part of our marriage and we should being documenting it for our boys. My mother sometimes jokes that Danny and I have food as a hobby. I suppose that's true. For even when we lack sufficient funds, we're always opening our doors to feed the masses of family and friends.
We have different kitchen styles, and yet they seem to complement one another. I'm the more cautious cook, following extensive recipes and savoring the time-intensive preparation of food using my hands. Danny is more free-wheeling, creating incredible concoctions on a whim by tossing a little of this and a little of that into the pan. He's not afraid to experiment with spices and has found no meat unworthy of consuming with gusto.
Aside from the physical, pheromonal act of cooking, we also enjoy entertaining. We've done everything from basic pizza and wings to lobster tails and linguine with clam sauce. In two weeks we'll prepare our famous Thanksgiving feast for my family, stretching our cookware and serving dishes to their outer limits.
It'll begin with our grocery shopping trip, one that can't be rushed and can't be reserved for the last minute. We'll be searching for the usual as well as some special ingredients to create a traditional meal with a twist. We'll spend Wednesday night before Thanksgiving prepping a few side dishes, but most of our cooking will be done Thursday morning, filling our house with that hunger-inducing aroma of butter, celery, onion and garlic sauteeing in a pan.
Oy, I can smell and feel the hunger pangs now.
See, reading good writing prompts me to think in ways I hadn't previously and this is one example from just one piece I read in this magazine. There's also a wonderful essay written by early 20th century novelist Elizabeth Bowen, titled Notes on Writing a Novel.
And Seattle Post-Intelligencer book critic John Marshall wrote a nice backgrounder on the magazine and its founders earlier this week. Check it out and let me know what you think.