A good, good place

Tomme for lunch at Alpine Lakes

This month, I have an intern. (Stop laughing. But I admit, I think it’s a bit ridiculous, too.)

She’s learning how to write a recipe, sure, but I can see her absorbing the same things I took in when I interned with cookbook author Kathy Gunst a decade ago—which kinds of peas are easiest to string, and how to give salmon a good pan-searing, and why dried Bings aren’t always interchangeable with dried Rainiers. She’s finding, like everyone does, that for every ten things you learn when you research something, only one or two end up being important, and there are one or two more that you miss entirely, until you find them.

But more than anything, she’s teaching me. She’s teaching me that I’m doing what I love. She’s reminding me that I’m no longer a compliance analyst for an asset management firm, and that even though I stink at balancing work and life as much as anyone deep in the trenches in [fill in the blank] might, the fact that the two are seamlessly intertwined for me is still thrilling. And I hope, more than anything, that beyond teaching her how to get the fishmonger to cut a nice, even piece from the head end of the halibut for grilling, I’m teaching her the importance of doing something that motivates her to wake up at 5:30 a.m., without an alarm, simply because she’s excited for the day. Because no matter how much I bitch about the parts of my job that aren’t quite as glamorous—dishes, invoicing, pitching, taxes, and always more dishes—I still have a pretty major crush on how I spend my days.

One year ago, I wasn’t feeling so lucky. My body wasn’t cooperating at all. My previous cookbook proposals had fallen flat. I was constantly sore and nauseous, thinner but weak.

But today—Annie, honey, you may have been on to something that worked for you, but today I don’t really need tomorrow, because the todays have been so much fun. Today, I’m healthy, for once. I’m juggling more projects than I should, bouncing between photo shoots and recipe testing marathons and writing binges, allowing myself to fall behind my normally strict self-scheduling for the first time in a long, long while—something so unlike me that it makes me wonder if perhaps, in this good, good place, there’s a new me to be found.

IMG_2691

And this week, I’m starting a new project. It’s another cookbook. (See? Madame Jacqueau was right. Everything comes in threes. Last fall, when I wrote about being phoenixed, I knew this was coming, too.)

Dishing Up Washington will be a thorough, entertaining, and delicious overview of the state’s foodways, told through recipes (150 of them, to be exact). It seems like an enormous number to me right now, but February 2012 also seems like a long, long ways away. (Apparently the advantage of writing your first book in 5 1/2 weeks is that from then on, every deadline seems generous.)

Lara Ferroni, the gorgeous eye behind Cook and Eat (among other things)—and someone I feel a special kinship with because she’s the only person I know who’s also survived writing a doughnut cookbook—will be the book’s photographer.

This week, we captured spring. Tuesday, she photographed a silky pea soup with nettle-sorrel pesto and pea vines, and Amy Pennington’s minted pickled asparagus, and grilled spot prawns with a curried caramel dipping sauce, and saffron clam chowder from Lisa Nakamura at Allium.

Catha link holding Cutie Patootie

Today, we took a giant road trip, out Route 2 toward Leavenworth, down to Wenatchee, and back on I-90 with a stop in North Bend. Catha Link, the cheesemaker at Alpine Lakes Cheese, surprised us with lunch before taking us down to meet the lambs – that black one up there is Cutie Patootie, who cuddled into my lap like a golden retriever after greeting Catha, all licks and nuzzles. There was salad with Catha’s intense sheep’s milk tomme melted onto apricot jam-smothered toasts. Afterward, down the road in Cashmere, we bit into fat, creamy lemon bars at Anjou Bakery. If this is Washington, I will live here forever.

Someday soon, I’ll probably whine about my life. I’ll say I’m overcommitted, or uninspired, or tired, or just plain cranky.

But right now, I’m in a good, good place, and I couldn’t be happier.

Coffee and lemon bars at Anjou Bakery in Cashmere

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16 Comments

Filed under commentary, recipe

16 responses to “A good, good place

  1. Oh, Jess–this makes me so damn happy. Seriously, delighted for you. And it’s a good reminder for me (who has been in the doubting and second-guessing and yes, moaning a bit, phase of things lately) that it really is a grand gig we’ve got here. Beats the pants off most jobs I can think of.

    Now if only I could get an intern to do my invoicing for me…:-)

  2. Jess, I adore this post and will refer back to it often when I’m feeling an inkling of sadness for myself.
    I am so thrilled for everything that you are doing, but not surprised. You are such a talent.
    If you ever figure out the whole work/life balance thing please tell me how. :)

  3. Mary

    What a lucky intern she is!!

  4. This post makes me so happy. What is the opposite of schadenfreude? That’s what I feel for you right now: Happiness at your happiness!

  5. Kim Thomson

    Jess,
    The Joy in your post has reached me. Sounds like a lucky intern, I’d like to sign up for a stint with you too.
    Kim

  6. annie

    Glad you’re feeling so great, Jess. You sound full of energy and enthusiasm, but just remember to pace yourself to keep up with the energy levels. Keep well and eat well!

  7. A decade ago? NO WAY!! So happy to hear all this good news and so happy that we are still so much in each others lives!!! No one can have an intern like I did–all grown up and rocking the food world!!

  8. I loved reading this. And hey — I want to be your intern too! You’ll have a line of us with that kind of description.

  9. Grammy Nan

    So happy to hear that life is sweet! Keep singing that aria; I can hear it in Maine. Lucky Laura, Graham & Jim!

  10. Wow! How inspiring and happy this post made me. Sounds like you are really doing something you love, and shouldn’t that be what life is all about? :)

  11. Julia

    YOUR OPRAH MOMENT! Sort of kidding but I feel like I am stepping into the right direction as well. Its awesome! Congrats!

  12. Shauna mentioned your post on Facebook, makes me grateful to be reminded about the web of writers and creators out there.
    Lucky intern indeed. Makes me jealous she can get the inside scoop on your new book. Looking forward to it!
    And yes, life has a way of being happy when we are feeling great.

  13. Wonderful news! And it’s lovely to read about being in a good place … very inspiring. Cheers to you!

  14. Wow! You are an inspiration. Congrats on all of the big things coming to fruition. I can’t wait to follow along…

  15. So glad to hear, Jess! Such a touching story, too. Especially right now. I thought I was the only one. Glad things are going swimmingly now.

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