Saturday, October 24, 2009

Old New England Foodstuffs

Good Day, My Friends!

Last evening I went to a lecture called "Baked Beans and Fried Clams, How Food Defines a Region". The talk was given by author Edie Clark. You fans of Yankee Magazine may know her from her many articles penned for them. She was quite enjoyable, funny and witty. It's a series of lectures from the NH Humanities Council. If you don't know how this works, basically, they provide lectures on different topics in a catalog of sorts. When a group wants to have a lecture come to their area but can't afford it, they can apply for a grant from the Council to pay for the speaker to come and give the lecture. I'm not sure about the finer points of how it all works, but that's my basic understanding.

Since the lecture was posted to start at 7:00, but had been told to some that it didn't start until 7:30, I had a chance to chat with Edie for a few moments. She was lovely and I got to hear bits of her life in Dublin, NH. She had some of her books with her and I browsed them. Got to tell her about the cookbook I've been working on for far too long now and she was very encouraging that I should complete it. When I told her I have no idea if it would ever get published, she told me "you never know, keep going". To be honest, this cookbook is a labor of love for me, and even though I don't have enough time to work on it with my life and adding working 30 hours a week to the mix, it's never far from my mind. I'm often working on it in my head and planning and trying new recipes and always wondering if they are good enough to make the cut. I know to my test kitchens, it may seem that the project is dead at the moment, I assure you good folks, it's always in the forefront of my planning. Right now, it's just not possible to find the time to make it happen as fast as I'd like. This is life with 5 & 6 year olds and working and all of life's duties, it's gotta be in the planning stages a lot right now.

I enjoyed Edie's lecture quite a bit. She has some wonderful and funny anecdotes about Julia Child and Fanny Farmer and author named Pearson whom I was unfamiliar with. After hearing some of the passion he had for food, I've got to find his now out-of-print books to bone up on the history of New England cooking. Hearing how he felt about his corn meal mush actually made me want to fry up a slab! He had a love affair with New England cooking that may be unrivaled these days with the advent of global eating upon us. Edie told us of some of her cooking escapades and in giving the history of a few of the most regional dishes, like Indian pudding and fried clams, made me want to put fingers to keys and get some of my recipes down. I also realized that there is much more history to be gotten before I can call my recipes traditional in the sense that I need to experience more about them. I've never had corn meal mush, scrapple or bean hole beans, so I definitely need to make a point of learning the finer points of the preparation of these recipes. Yes, there's more research to be had.

I know to Edie that this conversation with me was probably a passing moment in her life, she probably won't remember me in a bit. But for me, having a very published author, say to me, keep going, you never know...well, that was amazing. I love that my family and friends read my blog and enjoy my cooking and encourage me, and that means the world to me. But you know, they are going to do that because they love me, aren't they? That they would encourage me anyways, even if I was a mediocre cook or just write with no talent, they would do the same. And this is why I love them back. Because they have faith in me that I sometimes don't remember to have in myself. But to have an author that I know many, many people have heard of and read and published, tell me, keep going. Well...that's just an amazing touching of my soul. She somehow gave validity to that dream, that dream that I've been working on for 4 years now, that is really important to me, that preoccupies me to distraction and frustrates me with it's insistence, a dream I hold dear. That's a gift I can't ever repay, is it? It cost her nothing but to give a word of encouragement to an aspiring author, but it was bigger to me then a whole lot of things money could buy. It led validation to a dream and made it seem possible. And that's what life is all about, isn't it?

One of the other things that was great about her, her trust in a total stranger. I did not bring cash to this event, as is the way of most people these days, I don't carry much, I use my debit card for most purchases. But, I really wanted her Baked Bean Supper book as it gave a lot of the history of New England food along with some of her favorite recipes. I asked her if I could purchase her book locally as it's produced by a small publisher and not carried by larger bookstores. I explained that I didn't bring cash with me, but wanted to purchase one. She said, "I trust you to mail me a check and this way I can sign it for you if you'd like.". A defining moment of grace on her part, and I was humbled to think she would just do that for me. After her informative and fun lecture, I went to grab a book and she autographed it for me, handed me her card and I assured her I would send her a check in the mail tomorrow. It was not until after I got home that I read that inscription, and it set tears to lids.

It read simply, "Vonnie, Good luck with your cookbook" Edie Clark.

Humbled and renewed, ~Peacemom

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