Monday, November 9, 2015

paying attention to details

Recently, I found a new-to-me author that I wanted to tell you about. Have you ever read anything by Ruth Reichl? She was the restaurant critic for both the LA Times and the NY Times, editor of Gourmet magazine, and she's written several books from cookbooks, to memoirs, to fiction. For the last month or so, I've been reading and/or listening to four of those books because I can't seem to get enough. I just love her writing. The way she describes food and life is so...mesmerizing. It feels so luxurious (perhaps because the food she's describing is also luxurious) and almost enchanting. I get lost in her descriptions and find myself imagining each and every detail as if I were right there, sitting next to her, experiencing everything for myself. If you're not a fan of details (Wikipedia notes Reichl's "fierce attention to detail and adventurous spirit"), you might find her work a little bit wordy, but as someone who loves them, I can't get enough. 

After reading four of her books back-to-back, I find that her detailed way of writing and thinking has started to rub off on me. For dinner the other night, I made one of our old stand-bys, pasta with peas and a simple salad. Since the recipe for the pasta is one that I keep stored away in my head, and since I don't ever measure anything, opting instead to just taste as I go (a much more difficult task now that my diet is so strict, but one tiny dip of the spoon doesn't seem to hurt), I am free to think about other things as I make the recipe on auto-pilot. As I was doing just that on Thursday night, I found myself, in my mind, describing every minute detail that happened as I was cooking...

"...Adding a slab of sweet, yellow butter to the pan, she watched as it quickly turned to a fragrant, sizzling liquid. She drizzled in the cream, swirling it around and around with the spoon, enjoying the way the colors slowly came together, two into one. Parmesan came next, sprinkled in like snow flakes. Handfuls of tiny green peas speckled the sauce like emeralds, lending their pop of sweetness..."

Obsessive or just paying attention? Maybe both. But Ruth Reichl has me noticing the ordinary and seemingly mundane moments of my days, which I don't think is a bad thing. Paying attention to details keeps me out of my own sometimes-crazy and never-ending thoughts and helps me to focus enough to slow down and enjoy the process.

Remember my peace in the process post? Reading back over that one, it feels like a little bit of foreshadowing what with all the mess I went through over the summer. And I'm big enough to admit to completely forgetting about the words that I, myself, wrote about slowing down and realizing that things will get better and finding peace in the waiting. But now that I'm coming out on the other side of all of this, I can look back and see that there were definitely times where I was forced to slow down. Forced to wait. Forced to be still. And once I started to feel a little better, I tried to jump right back in and keep going and never stop. But I'm still not physically able to do that and the truth is, I don't really want to do that. I want to find a good balance between doing and being. Ruth Reichl and her detailed descriptions of everyday life are helping me to slow down and find that balance. To pay attention to the small stuff. To enjoy the process of feeding my family so that I can sit down at the table feeling refreshed instead of rushed. How many times will it take for me to learn this lesson? I don't know. Hopefully this time, it will stick.

So far I've read, "Tender at the Bone," "Comfort Me with Apples," "Garlic and Sapphires," and "Delicious." I loved all of them and will be heading to our local library later today to see what else I can find. In the meantime, while I'm on a temporary Ruth Reichl break, I'm about 100 pages into Maria Semple's "Where'd You Go, Bernadette" and am enjoying it so far. I love it when a book provides a few hours of good entertainment and teaches me a lesson. Have you learned anything from your books lately? I'd love to know what you're reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment