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.
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.
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.