Saturday, May 26, 2007

Reading. Hesser.

I found Cooking for Mr. Latte at a particularly difficult point in my life; everything was in limbo, and I didn't know what I was going to do next. I didn't know that soon I would find a job - actually, I begged for it - or that three years later I would be writing here. Actually I would say the genesis of this blog would be Hesser's book, a diary of the first year or so of her relationship with Tad Friend, the Mr. Latte of the title, later to be her husband. (I see from the first post in the present incarnation of "Conclusive Evidence" that I had originally started writing here in the summer of 2003, posted once, and then forgotten all about it). It is not so much about their relationship - although it is the main part of her story, the connecting thread that runs throughout the book - but about Hesser's relationship with food and how it permeates every part of her life, her work (as a food writer and critic for the New York Times), to her relationships with family and friends and the way she views the world.

...what I eat is inextricably tied to where I eat, when I eat, why I eat, and with whom I eat. Eating well, Hesser tells us in her introduction, is not as much about good food as it is about the people you share that food with, the room you dine in, what you talk about, and the emotional hungers that you bring to the table. M. F. K. Fisher wrote, "Our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. Four years on, and it has become more and more clear to me how important food is to me, how integral it is to the way I see the world, the way I write, the way I relate to the people close to me. At the time Cooking for Mr. Latte was incredibly important to me, in ways I can't begin to articulate. (And the recipes were fabulous, some of which became part of my own repertoire, oven-fried chicken and caesar salad, rigatoni with a white bolognese and vanilla bean loaves that drown the senses in a shockingly aromatic wave of vanilla).

Food is love. I have always known that, and because love in my family is something silent and unspoken of, but nevertheless felt, food has always been the means by which I express love, or accept it. At some point words become unecessary, inconsequential compared to a bowl of noodles or a fried-egg sandwich, or a freezer stocked with triple-chocolate Dove bars. Sometimes the silence as you sit around the table and eat your broiled fish and steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables is as comforting as the food in front of you, the sounds and scents of dinner cooking as you walk in the door wrapping around you as securely as a mother's arms.

Hesser, Amanda. Cooking for Mr. Latte. W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. p 13.

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