Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Snack-and-Read Sundays

I love to read. I don’t just mean that, given nothing else to do, I will read in lieu of twiddling my thumbs. I truly, absolutely LOVE to read. And I worry constantly about instilling this same love of words in my children. I can only assume this compunction came from my mother. She too loves to read, and devoted her entire career to libraries. It didn’t hurt that we didn’t have a television during my early childhood, and with the exception of the few months that we lived with my uncle and his stepchildren, I was never really around other children. So, with no one to play with and no TV to rot my brain, I read. And I read. And I read.

And it stuck with me. Up until the past couple of years, I preferred suspense novels to all else. Lest anyone think I’m over-intellectualized, it should not be overlooked that I leaned towards the mass market pulp: John Sandford, Stuart Woods, James Patterson. Even during my twenties, when I went out every night after work to shows or just to hang out with friends, my favorite pastime for hours spent alone was reading. I would curl up on the sofa in sweatpants and read an entire day away. I loved the escape of immersing myself in a fictional character, living for just a few hours in a world that existed only within the confines of a book.

I read the newspapers during my lunch breaks or between classes, and of course dragged myself through the pages of countless textbooks, but for leisure, for true relaxation, fiction was all I wanted. When I would talk to my mother, we always discussed what each of us was reading at the time, and I began to fear she was losing her mind. She had always read fiction when I was a kid, but she was suddenly beginning to only read non-fiction. And it didn’t make any sense to me. She complained about feeling manipulated by fiction, but it was exactly that which I loved about it. I didn’t want to think. I didn’t mind being strung along by some author I had never met. And actually enriching my mind was nothing more than an afterthought. I got enough of that from my professors. I certainly didn't want to waste precious reading time on learning.

Mom said it was an age thing. I had no other response than ‘whatever.’ Clearly, growing up wasn’t going to be any fun at all if it meant I would no longer be interested in fictional stories.

Then I started dating The Carnivore. At first I was so utterly attracted to the fact that he was a reader (unlike previous boyfriends) that I didn’t notice he only read non-fiction. He read every word of the newspapers, the local music rags, and any political books he could get his hands on. When I finally noticed that he didn’t ever stick his nose in a fictional best-seller, I started to get a little worried. It turned out he agreed with my mother. It was an age thing, he said. Oh dear, I thought.

And somehow, ever so gradually, it crept up on me as well. I didn’t wake up one day and think to myself, “Today is the day I will stop reading novels.” Rather, I first got hooked on cooking magazines, and then I dove headfirst into a sea of food lit and didn’t ever, I mean ever, want to come up for air.

It began with Julie and Julia, a book written by a food blogger and which my mother found for me shortly after I began blogging about food myself. And I loved it. I howled with laughter at the author's antics and read whole sections of it out loud to The Carnivore. I fell madly in love with reading food blogs themselves, which turned me on to other food lit. I read Anthony Bourdain, Gael Greene, Ruth Reichl, Amanda Hesser. I scoured Amazon for similar items (man, I love that feature) and I started devouring every chef biography I could find (thank God for used books).

I didn’t REALLY want to give up fiction altogether though, or so I thought. When the most recent Patricia Cornwell novel came out, I eagerly snagged it and couldn’t wait to jump back into the Scarpetta character that I’ve gotten to know over the past 15 years or so.

Imagine my dismay when I realized I no longer cared about Scarpetta. Or her sidekicks, or even the story itself. I just had no interest in them anymore. I had (oh, say it isn’t so) grown out of it. And all I could think was that I wanted to hurry up and finish it so I could move on to the newest book that just arrived in the mail, one which I had been looking forward to for the past few weeks: The Amateur Gourmet. Yep, another non-fiction food lit-type book.

I wonder if it is an age thing.

Sundays are snack-and-read-days around our house. For only one day a week, we release ourselves from all obligations other than attending church, and we prefer the early service so that we can be home by 11am and have the entire day ahead of us to lounge in our pajamas, read the newspapers and whatever books we’re in the middle of, and play with the kids. There are no chores beyond making the bed and doing the dishes, and there is a non-negotiable moratorium on money-related tasks. The Carnivore will do no bids. I will neither communicate with my clients nor tinker with our own budget. And I will not cook dinner.

That’s right. Even I want a day off from cooking. Oh sure, The Big Boy and I might whip up a batch of peanut butter cookies if we’re so inclined (like we were this week), but any cooking is limited to desserts or snack foods. It’s a hard-and-fast rule, and we stick to it religiously, even planning our Saturday dinners so that there will be leftovers for Sunday lunch.

Ah, but we love to snack while we read (or while we watch Planet Earth – our latest addiction). Salsa and tortilla chips is my usual favorite, but it’s all but impossible to find decent tomatoes right now, and we’ve already run through the stash that I froze at the end of last summer. The Carnivore leans toward creamy blue cheese dips, and in my long-running quest to find the perfect recipe for him, I have gotten hooked as well. Finally, a few months ago, I happened across a winner in the AJC “From the restaurant of…” column, whereby the food section obtains readers’ favorite recipes from local restaurants. And honest to goodness, after attempting countless permeations on blue cheese dip, it is a great relief to have finally found one that The Carnivore deemed worthy of ending the quest.

Oh, and it is such a satisfying way to spend the day. With a couple handful of carrots and a big batch of blue cheese dip, we curl up with our children and our books and loudly crunch away.

  • 1 cup Hellman's mayonnaise (yep - it has to be Hellman's, I've tried others with bad results)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbs cold water
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 7 oz crumbled blue cheese (I often add more)
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients.
  2. Stir in the blue cheese.
  3. Chill at least six hours before serving (it takes that long for the flavors to develop).


Thistlemoon said...

Wow! Such a great post. I realy enjoyed reading it - it sounds so much like me, yet, I haven't gotten to that stage yet - the non-fiction - rather I DID go through it but came back to fiction. Too much school I think. My fiancee is my age and all he has EVER read was non-fiction, but now he is getting into fiction because he found he enjoys listening to ebooks while he works. So I am not sure if it is an age thing. More likely a stage thing.

Anyway, sounds like fun, curling up with a good book! Even though I do it every night! LOL!

Anyway, welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

Jen said...

We are totally hooked on Planet Earth--what a great way to spend the day!