Tucked in an unassuming garden space behind an unassuming building in a modest yet typically luscious (the lushness typical of the Pacific Northwest) neighborhood in Seattle is the entrance to an absolute gem of a place, one that calls itself a community kitchen. I didn't go there to cook, at least not in the traditional sense; I joined a community of writers to cook up stories of food and life under the graceful guidance of the inimitable Molly Wizenberg.
Gathered around a single long, rustic wooden table and perched atop tall, robin egg blue aluminum chairs, we poured our experiences with food into pen and page. The name with which that space has been christened, The Pantry, is particularly apt. We had all come to this place, in one way or another, to restock our creative pantries--those tight receptacles we all have, some with neat shelves and some with organized piles, but all nevertheless filled with ingredients with the potential to fill us up. Some of us arrived seeking inspiration for combining anew the ingredients within and others of us (me) came to restock, to feel full again, able to produce in ways that haven't felt quite possible for a bit.
To start, we talked about what food writing should do. Often, Molly explained, writing can be used to examine food. To note its colors, its textures, its tastes, its significance. But our task for the weekend was to re-imagine food as the tool through which we note the textures of our worlds and the things that make them up. And so, through the magnifying glass of food, we peered deeper into the smaller moments of our lives, and little details surrounding them, to see them closer, bigger. For many of us that meant remembering things we'd thought we'd forgotten or stumbling upon revelations we hadn't realized.
In part, one such realization entailed thinking of food writing not so much as writers writing about food, but instead as an occasion of food writing. It's the food, really, that's doing most of the work. It brings us together, it offers us opportunities for putting things together into something that helps us feel accomplished, not to mention things that are delicious, that we keep returning to as reliable meals, and that help us return to moments in time we want to remember or didn't even know we wanted to remember.
What struck me most in reading some food writing--where food actually appears as less than the star of the show, when a writer admits to not recalling the details of a meal but instead all the life details that surrounded it--is how consequential the seemingly inconsequential can be. Food writing; when it does, it magnifies so much.
Now that I've submitted (finally!) the full draft of my dissertation, it's time to write again. I'm excited now, after this workshop lit the proverbial flame beneath my backside, to dig a little bit deeper into what food magnifies for me, to restock my creative pantry, and to find from food the words to help me write again about the significant consequence of the otherwise inconsequential.
Join me, won't you?
Meet me here and we'll share this donut: