[Melissa Senate’s (The Secret of Joy, The Mosts YA, the rest in Bibliography) latest novel, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, releases in two weeks on October 26, 2010. Another Trending: food book? The answer is yes and no. In today’s guest post, the author reveals her inspiration for the book….a pinch of this, a wish of that sifted and stirred into immeasurable love.]
Motherhood, Julia Child, and “please can I have a mouse, rat, hamster or rabbit” made a cook out of me
The epigraph of my new novel, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School (pub date: 10/26) comes from Julia Child: “I was thirty-two when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” I came across this quote by the legendary chef a long time ago and it stuck with me–and gave me hope. Until my son came along when I was thirty-six, I wasn’t much of a cook 1) because anything I did attempt to make came out awful and b) because it was “just me.” My typical dinner in those “just me” days? A knish with a squirt of mustard from a street vendor on the way home from work. A bowl of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios in cold milk. If I made anything in my tiny kitchen in my Manhattan studio apartment, it was an omelet. Any other attempts: #foodfail. I love food, all kinds, all ethnicities, particularly Mexican and Indian and Italian, but even my how-can-you-mess up chicken and cheese quesadillas were something not to behold—or eat. Pasta, no matter how simple the recipe, was always overcooked or undercooked. And my ambitious attempts at my beloved chana masala? Inedible.
So I was happy enough with my knishes and omelets and ate out a lot. But when my dear son Max was born, I knew I had six months to get my act together (in that lovely space when babies eat liquid food only). I bought How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and learned how to make the basics. My toddler food—from chicken fingers to meatloaf—wasn’t half bad. By the time Max was two and we moved to Maine, to a kitchen that you could actually turn around in, Max began asking to cook with me. Cracking the eggs for scrambled eggs and brownies. Laying chicken cutlets in breadcrumbs. The concentration on his little face, his happiness at being with me in the kitchen, and his pride at not sloshing eggs out of the bowl made me realize what had been missing from my time in the kitchen all those years: a sense of fun, of caring deeply what I was doing, of wonder at the very process of cooking. Before I began cooking with my son, cooking was about the end result. Now it was about much more.
A few days before his sixth birthday, Max was cracking eggs into a bowl for his beloved bacon frittatas, and as he began working on his gentle beating technique, he said into the bowl: “Please let Mommy say yes to getting me a mouse, rat, hamster or rabbit for my birthday.” Beat, beat. “Please, please, please. I really want a rat but I’ll take any of them.” Then he added in the pinch of salt and made his wish again.
And the idea for The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, about a neophyte chef whose cooking class, with its special recipes that call for adding wishes and memories into every pot and pan, changes the lives of its teacher and students, was born. Right in my very own Tuscan-inspired kitchen in a small town in Maine.
P.S. Max did get his wish, two little fancy pet rats he named Jeffrey and Timmy.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Richard Hine’s Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Richard Hine and Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.