Now that the colorful glow of Christmas has been packed away, these cold, dark January days can be hard to take—unless, of course, you have your own Enzo to coax you out of bed in time to catch the early morning sky. Not the brightest sunrise, this one—all subtle blues, grays, and lavender, with just the tiniest hint of pink peaking through. However microscopic, I’ll concentrate on that pink, thank you.
Along with all of you, I’m trying to stay hopeful and patient by focusing on A(nything)-B(ut)-C(ovid). In 2020, the kitchen was my refuge. In 2021, it was the arrival of darling Enzo. This year, I’m going to work harder on reading, writing, upping my meal-planning game (I’m notoriously awful at planning ahead), and coaching Enzo through his “chewy” adolescence.
Just to get the year off to a rip-roaring start, the refrigerator quit. Anyone my age will remember that those short, stubby refrigerators of our childhood hummed away for 15 or 20 years with hardly a hitch. Now? Forget it. We reached the eight-year mark with all of our appliances in 2021. As my dear co-worker Betty used to say, “They talk to each other”—as in conspire. In the last year or so, we’ve replaced the washer, dryer, cooktop, ovens, and—preemptively, per Hubby’s insistence, the basement sump pump. In the refrigerator fail, we lost a fair, though not devastating, amount of food. It was disappointing and certainly annoying, but I’m grateful for our back-up basement fridge and even more so for our reliable local appliance dealer whom we’ve patronized for more than a decade. Even more fortunately, John had what we needed in stock and surprised us with same day delivery. In these days of just-in-time-inventory run Covid amok, it seemed like a miracle. If there’s any way you can, stay local and stay loyal!
To start off my reading year on an upbeat note, I chose Stanley Tucci’s Taste My Life Through Food. If you love food writing in general and Stanley in particular, you’ll enjoy it. Don’t expect a tightly structured, poetically written memoir—it’s more like having Stanley is cozied up in your den with a glass of an Italian big red, telling you his life story— unexpected, funny, surprising, poignant, and, of course, all about food. I’m happy to report that he’s pleasantly self-effacing and doesn’t seem to take his celebrity too seriously. Perhaps that was always the case, or perhaps it is especially the case since his very scary bout with cancer. Interestingly, his heritage Calabrese cooking is almost exactly what I grew up with.
After Stanley, I was ready to go deeper. I wanted a book that I couldn’t put down. Time to pull Tana French from the queue. I don’t know how this woman does it, but her exceedingly dark first person crime stories set in and around Dublin are mesmerizing. This one, The Likeness, is the second in this series. I’d previously read Into the Woods and The Secret Place. As I write this, I’m two thirds through and have had to tear myself away to write this post. But I’m also toggling back and forth between two other nonfiction books: France Is a Feast, The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child, by Alex Prud’homme and Katie Pratt, the Childs’ nephew and friend, respectively, and John Baxter’s A Pound of Paper, Confessions of a Book Addict. I don’t know how I missed the Paul and Julia book when it first came out a few years ago, but—you will please forgive the pun—I am taking my time and truly savoring it. I’ve read several of John Baxter’s books about Paris; they’re full of witty observations about that most magnificent city and rich with fascinating, and often uncommon, historic detail. This book, however, is about his life-long avocation as a book collector. I still have that mammoth anthology of Eudora Welty’s short stories to fall back on should I catch myself reading too much of the daily bad news. I (One wonders why “they” don’t just call it that, doesn’t one? When did you last see, hear, or read any deliberately good news?)
I’ve included Amazon links to these books for convenience, but if you have an independent book store in your area, do patronize it, either in person or online.
And here’s another tip to keep you focused on A-B-C: try The Luxury Travel Expert for the most captivating escapist videos on YouTube—the beauty of place, on multiple continents, gorgeously shot, with richly orchestrated soundtracks that will remind you of what movies used to sound like. New videos typically post on Saturdays.