Notes from the Kitchen

On the Plate in August: Books to Read

Books to Read in August

Hello and happy Monday! With only a stitch of summer left, I’m woefully behind in sharing some of my summer non-required reading because what do you need more of than more books to read, right?


I’m obsessed with cake right now. As such, I would be sunk without this seminal book that you probably already own or have heard about. My gratitude runneth over that just as I needed to explore its wisdom, Green Apple Books had one copy in the used section. Score! If you’ve ever wondered how ingredients work in baking, Shirley Corriher brings her background in chemistry into a very insightful and well-laid out book. Bakewise will make you wiser in the kitchen.

Chasing a rabbit can lead to parts unknown. I stumbled across a Gary Snyder poem that delighted me and ended up finding out about his new book of letters to and from Wendell Berry called Distant Neighbors. Two prolific poets and writers swap details about their similar but far apart livelihoods in this new book from Counterpoint Press. While I am still poring over the introduction, it already is a beloved book of mine. Snagging an autographed copy from both authors makes me exultant.

On the topic of letters, I also picked up the Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke: 1892-1910. Rilke has long been one of my favorite poets- the spine is falling out from the translation by Stephen Mitchell of his Collected Works- it is the book that accompanied me to Paris the last time I visited that fair city. “Requiem for a Friend” haunted me as I wound my way through the Tuileries, Place Saint-Germain and on. While “Letters to a Young Poet” did not necessarily stir within me great attachment, I am keen to read more of what Rilke was thinking about, what he wrestled with and see more of a candid response than in the measured form of poetry.

As much as I have enjoyed working in restaurants and in the foodservice / hospitality business, the idea of opening my own bakery or restaurant gives me palpitations. It is hard work to keep things running smoothly and can be rough goings on the way to profitability. Molly Wizenberg’s writing has always endeared me to her, so when I learned that she had written a book, Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage, about starting the pizza restaurant of the same name, with her husband, I knew I needed to read this and see how she wound her way through that labyrinth mostly unscathed, still happily married and serving what I hear are excellent pizzas. I expect her trademark humor and grace to be stamped on each page.

Call me a late bloomer (in some ways, very much), but when my friend Pam mentioned she had just finished a book she thought I would love called, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, I agreed that it is a book I have long wanted to check out. Five days later, a manila package promptly arrived. This is a book that will get packed in my bicycle basket for an afternoon lolling in the park reading (is there anything better?!) with me when the sun decides to pay us a visit.



Bookbinding Bender


“We might not be a good match if I write you a poem and you think we’re getting married.”

Wearing all the brassiness and bravado I could muster, I retorted, “Well, what if I write you a poem?”

Thus began the early workings of a relationship in motion. On our first date, out came a beloved spine of Blake poems. We canoodled over Rilke and Jaroslav Seifert.

Our love of words in collusion, our growing love of each other only increased that sharedness of mine ours.

It might go without saying my first gift to Beck at the outset of dating was a journal: the way he took care of his books told me a lot about how he takes care of his women.

To this day, his eyes light up at the sight of fresh journals with the grand possibilities of worlds yet unexplored. My Beck is conquistador and matador of words, spearing them into submission.

For our wedding, it had been my intention to make him a journal from scratch. I headed to my favorite paper store and conspired with my favorite seller of papered goods. I fingered Japanese papers gilt and expensive. Surveying bumpy textures from bright graphics, Sunday afternoons became my delicious secret. Alone to my schemes, I paired papers with book cloth looking for that supreme combination that would spell Beck. After signing up for a class on bookbinding, I felt set.

As life sometimes goes, the wedding had other plans and I put my project on hold. The holidays marched on, class and materials all but forgotten until one day they weren’t.

I met up with my favorite papered products seller to learn book binding 101 at a local arts community space. Over the course of an hour and a half one Saturday night, we cut and folded, affixed adhesive and pressed down the paper and book cloth.



His journal finished, I felt the giddiness of Fred Astaire tapping his heels with satisfaction and glee. Here, this delicious secret gestated until Valentine’s was nigh.

Beck’s eyes drank in the bright blood red book cloth, the black and white geometric tiles. Could he hear the castanets clicking in the distance? The surge of energy as the bulls entered the arena?


I felt drunk with the joy that comes from having an idea and seeing it through to completion. My hands felt invincible and strong. Something about taking the sum of parts and making a whole energizes and replenishes some carnal desire to create.

The next weekend, I had my work cut out. Sure, I’d made this journal under the trusty eye of my favorite seller of papered goods, but could I do it alone? Like a child left alone to her own devices, I pulled out the scissors and made my phone into a ruler. I traced and measured believing myself to be on my way to bookbinding greatness. Scraps of yellow book cloth dissuaded that same impetuous tenacity of response my Beck saw in our first communication. Somehow I’d mixed up a few steps along the way. This project would need to wait until my frame of mind had settled down. My utter excitement at beginner’s luck had gotten the best of me. For the moment…

This Sunday, I’d felt a bit forlorn. Conversations with friends and a movie under my belt, the evening unfolded ahead of me, full of promise and perfect for a project.

I’d drawn and dated the pages for my 2011 daybook… a perfect cap to the evening.




Watch out world. I’m on a bookbinding bender.