One night in December 2007, I was studying for my organic chemistry final in the dilapidated library at Goucher (I wouldn’t be surprised if the water-stained carpets were over 50 years old), when I got a phone call from my sister. “You’ve seen Stranger than Fiction, right?”–not such an unusual conversational habit for Sarah, forgoing the traditional greeting and shooting straight into the reason for contact. “Remember Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character? She flunked out of Harvard Law and opened up her own bakery. I think you should do that. You know, like what you planned when you were a kid: you wanted to marry me, and we would open up a bakery together.” Tempting….particularly in the middle of soul-sucking premed finals, very tempting. And, while we’re on the topic, can I just express how grateful I am that I have a sister who, eight years my senior, always thought it was more cute than perverted when four-year-old Anna declared regularly that she wanted to marry her first-degree relative. (Sarah also let our mother dress us up periodically in matching outfits, which I’m sure, when I was four and she was 12, must have looked incredibly cool to a seventh-grader.)
Sass reminds me of this option once a year or so, often when we come together around some holiday and find ourselves hunched over the same mixing bowl, “sampling” the frosting off spatulas, discussing whether or not we’ve added enough booze. Alas, I do think I’ve found my calling in the medical profession, so Sarah lets me indulge in the fantasy instead by reading about food, preferably books that she’s already owns and is willing to give and/or lend me…which really doesn’t leave out many halfway decent food books. A few days before Christmas, I emailed to ask if she had a copy of Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. “Uh…yeah, I think it’s somewhere buried in my car. It was disappointing…but you might like it.” Yes, I am decidedly less discriminating than my sister when it comes to food memoirs…or I just put up with sappy writing better.
Well, it’s definitely no Cooking for Mr. Latte (Sass’s x-mas 2008 gift and arguably the most enjoyable book I’ve read since), but I’ve totally relished the easy-read chapters, curled up in a fleece blanket by the Christmas tree. A description of Wizenberg’s father:
He could be pouty, of course, and a real huffer-and-puffer. His favorite weapon was the silent treatment, and he wielded it with impressive skill. But he had more love, and more passion, and more enthusiasm for pretty much everything than you and me combined. He loved being a doctor. He loved Dixieland jazz. He loved the old Alfa Romeo Spider that sat in the driveway and never ran. He loved crossword puzzles, Dylan Thomas, and Gene Krupa banging on a drum kit on the stereo upstairs. He loved omelets and olives; murder mysteries and short stories; and a hideously ugly ceramic wild boar that sat on his bathroom counter. He loved his children, even while he forgot our birthdays; loved a cold beer on Saturday at noon; loved lamb shanks, smelly cheese, and my mother in high heels; loved mayonnaise, and me.
I like it when stories include physicians as side characters…that and mayonnaise. John’s Portuguese grandmother made homemade mayonnaise for Christmas. As she was laying out the ingredients, she asked me in broken English if I was menstruating, because then she would need to shoo me out of the kitchen. Funny, I very rarely mind discussing my bodily functions, but this barely 5-foot grandma caught me entirely off guard.
The progression of this post entertains me.