M.F.K. Fisher, on hunger and love

“People ask me: Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, about love, the way others do? The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it. There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.”

 — M.F.K. Fisher

I love that: “So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it.”

My favorite thing: cooking with a friend, curating the music while things finish on the stove, drinking champagne, eating it all later. With more champagne.

#MeToo

bone
by Yrsa Daley-Ward

From One
who says, “Don’t cry.
You’ll like it after a while.”

and Two who tells you thank-you
after the fact and can’t look at your face.

To Three who pays for your breakfast
and a cab home
and your mother’s rent.

To Four
who says,
“But you felt so good
I didn’t know how to stop.”

To Five who says giving your body
is tough
but something you do very well.

To Six
Who smells of tobacco
and says “Come on, I can feel that
you love this.”

To those who feel bad in the morning yes,
some feel bad in the morning

and sometimes they tell you
you want it
and sometimes you think that you do.

Thank heavens you’re resetting
ever
setting and
Resetting

How else do you sew up the tears?
How else can the body survive?

The quest for home

Krista Tippett in conversation with Junot Díaz, author of the novels Drown, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and This Is How You Lose Her (interview via the On Being podcast). I mention him previously here. Emphasis mine.

Ms. Tippett: Also, back to the matter of intimacy and love — I mean somewhere you’ve said that the quintessential American narrative is the quest for home and that — but that’s not just about shelter. It’s about intimacy. It’s about love. I mean are those — as you think about walking through this American moment and expansively, having a large view, a long view of time in this long-term project we’re in, how do you — is “love” a word that enters your imagination, that enters your conversations these days, and what can that mean?

Mr. Díaz: Well, of course. I mean what are we in this game, if not for love? I can’t speak to anyone else, but if you’re — if someone tells me there’s no love in the universe, I’m — well, what interest is there in the universe, then? What’s interesting about the universe? For me, perhaps overly simplistically or perhaps overly sentimentally, love matters. I do believe that human beings are, without question, social creatures. Our biology seems to dictate that.

But I would also say that there is a challenge, in being human, that we have vulnerable needs, but we also have minds that can deceive us that these needs are unimportant. And for many of us, to be able to trust somebody else, to be able to have faith that someone else or that the future or that the community can take care of us, that we will not be destroyed when we lower our defenses, for many of us, that’s a challenge. And yet, you can’t have any kind of love, whether we’re talking about civic love or we’re talking about interpersonal love, without first dropping those defenses, without first making yourself vulnerable.

I mean ultimately, when you look at it — you don’t want to be too simplistic, but the nature of having these chats is, you oversimplify — but when you think about it, look at the whole debate around climate change. The whole debate around climate change is a bunch of lying fools sitting around, almost all male, but whatever — a bunch of lying fools saying, “The earth is not vulnerable. There is no injury.” And there’s just a repetition here; there’s this mantra that comes out of these hegemonies, which is: “We are invulnerable. We’re not vulnerable. There is no loss. We don’t need to change anything” that just is — it’s just destroying us, man. And it’s so dull and wearying, and yet, we’re all caught up in this madness, simply because of our pride, our inability to be like, “Hey, man, that hurts. Hey, man, that’s scary. Hey, sister, that’s humiliating.”

As Krista mentions in the interview: How refreshing that here is a Dominican man talking about vulnerability and love.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what home means to different people. How much the word is defined by how you grew up, what you yearn for, and the ways in which you have been hurt. What types of intimacy create safe space. What types of intimacy should be reserved and which should be freely given to all.

Also relevant: I have noticed a big difference when someone has the ability to look at me (as the earth in Junot’s example) and face the damage instead of denying it: “Yes, there is injury here, so how do we fix it now? Let’s fix it together.”

fare la scarpetta

Full-leafed trees criss-crossed the Tuscan countryside, interspersed by flat fields of green. Every now and then the land was punctuated by grape vines.  There were hints of red leaves scattered in ribbons across the hills, and the taller cypress trees lined the roads to buildings or villages; first planted as landmarks to help find your way home. I read that cypress trees have been used as a symbol of immortality to signify sacred space and a detachment from the everyday mortal world.

For every meal, the truffle or porcini that accompanied meat or pasta was picked just that morning. “It’s mushroom season,” the locals would declare with a smile. Their happiness was infectious, as if they knew a secret. And share it with us, they did.

I return often to Pico Iyer’s reminder that our greatest aspirations and virtues have always relied on a measure of inner equanimity. Some of the best moments were sprung upon us without plan — the ones that, for example, found us gazing at a lightning storm during an otherwise calm night, all of us trying to take photos or video. Despite our varied success in capturing the lightning with our various cameras, the best success was watching it in each others’ company under the open night sky. 

Though we still had the occasional everyone-sitting-around-on-their-computers moments, there was something about the remoteness of where we were staying that reminded us to be present, to sleep in, to look up at the sky.

***

For our final meal, Francesco created delicious dishes that were served during sunset. A friend used his last slice of bread to sop up the juices of the mushroom broth. Francesco came outside at that moment and grinned while watching the sopping. “That’s precisely how to do it,” he said admiringly under his breath. “Scarpetta!”

I have heard “Scarpetta” used as a restaurant name and I don’t know enough Italian to know what he meant. I’m not sure anyone else heard him say it, but I noted it to look up for later.

The next morning at an earlier hour than we all preferred after several bottles of wine, we wiped away sleep as we said goodbye to the countryside and rode towards Florence. We watched the sun rise over the Tuscan hills, our eyes sweeping over the landscape one last time. The pink-bottomed clouds leaned against the edges of horizon and even the freshly-tilled dirt looked golden.

I remembered the word from the night before and looked it up:

“Fare la scarpetta” is a phrase in the Italian language that’s close to the heart of everyone who has enjoyed a delicious plate of pasta with sauce. Meaning “make the little shoe,” it refers to the small piece of bread used to mop up the last of the sauce on your plate.

It’s not only an essential part of an Italian meal, but it is seen as a way to extend the pleasure of the repast.

***

At the airport, we hugged each other as though we were scooping up the very last bit with all our might. Fare la scarpetta, soaking up every last drop. But also, we hugged like we knew that we’d be seeing each other again very soon. Our friends around us like cypress trees, their presence meaning we have already found our way home.


cheryl strayed on memoir-writing

There is nothing easy about doing all you have to do to make people and emotions alive on the page or screen while also scooping out the truth of your own heart, while also making a serious attempt to tell it like it actually was. And I couldn’t agree with her more about a good memoir being the opposite of narcissistic.

I’m so bored with arguments against memoir. They’re almost always simple-minded and ignorant. I tend to know people are in trouble when they speak in categorical terms about anything like an entire literary genre. Yes, there are memoirs that are narcissistic and awful! Just like there are novels that are narcissistic and awful and there are poems that are narcissistic and awful and there are plays that are narcissistic and awful. Narcissism and awfulness has absolutely nothing to do with the genre itself. I think some people are threatened by the idea of memoir. Like “how dare someone who isn’t famous get to write about his or her life and expect others to read it!” But the truth is, we’ve been using our lives as material since the dawn of literature, in every genre.

— Cheryl Strayed on memoir-writing via Lit Hub