Hello everyone! I am finally back after 10 intense months of writing this book! And here is my first column that I wrote upon returning to the business of “regular” life….
If you like the idea of running a marathon in pantyhose three sizes too small and stiletto heels, you may want to consider writing a 750-page book. In my estimation, both experiences seem one and the same.
Had I known, when a publisher asked me to write “The Ultimate Pasta and Noodle Cookbook,” I would have traded those constrictive polymer tubes and stilettos for spongy gym socks and a sensible pair of sneakers and negotiated 2 years instead of 8 months to finish the race.
Learning truly is in the doing of things.
Still. It wasn’t all arduous, distressing work. Some aspects of writing this book were unforgettably wonderful. And though I am still slightly out of breath even now, I couldn’t have imagined or hoped for a more supportive atmosphere through it all.
My husband, a trooper, stoically enabled me to be a spectator parent for months on end. He whined only once – during recipe testing – after the 967th time I asked (and then begged) him to go to the supermarket to fetch some God forsaken ingredient or other that I had forgotten.
My girls, for the most part, patiently endured my in absentia mom status, even as they repeatedly strolled past the back of my head, which more often than not hovered over my laptop or a book. On the upside, they learned that they indeed CAN pick up their own socks off the floor.
My entire family tolerated months of me being too busy to cook a proper meal (the ironic and untold story of cookbook writing, to be sure). This required them to eat pizza ad nauseum. As such, I expect to start receiving yearly holiday greetings from California Kitchen and Newman’s Own, as we must have bought more than our triple fair share of their boxed offerings during that time. With the book writing behind us, I am happy to say I haven’t heard what became a popular dinner-time slogan: “NO! Not pizza, again!”
The folks at my publishing house, Cider Mill Press, were an incredibly encouraging and collaborative group of people and made my foray in the world of book publishing about as warm and fuzzy as I could have ever wished or hoped for. Metaphorically speaking, they were the perky, smiling marathon volunteers that handed out water bottles and peppy words of encouragement at each mile pit stop. This was never truer during the last month, when the looming print deadline made the little hairs on the back of all our necks stand to attention.
Still. Even all the support in the world couldn’t have prepared me for some of the more unexpected by-products of writing a book.
First, as an intrepid extrovert, I discovered that I don’t do well in the solitude that writing a book requires. As I temporarily suspended lunches and coffee sessions with girlfriends, monthly book club meetings, and weekend socializing, I was increasingly left with my own untethered thoughts. Before I knew it, featherbrained musings took over. I began to wonder about baby ants. Where were they anyway? Above ground, all we see are full-grown ones. How come we never see a momma ant steering her little babies around as she proceeds with the business of stampeding the cats’ food bowls? And if they don’t get any on-the-ground training, how do they know to come after our picnics? I also began to consider what character trait determines whether someone walks into a shower BEFORE or AFTER turning on the water. I knew I had had enough alone time when I started imagining the suburban pandemonium that would ensue a ban on motorized gardening tools.
Second, my girls began exhibiting blatant and unabashed hostility at eating pasta and noodles night after night. This reaction peaked during the recipe testing and food photographing phase, which required me to prepare up to three pasta and noodle dishes a day. At one point, upon being served homemade tagliatelle with an herbed madeira cream and pancetta sauce, my little one exploded. “I can ’t take pasta anymore, mamma!” She wailed. “Why can’t I have peanut butter and jelly like a regular kid?”
Third, I fell in love with pasta more deeply and tenderly. Researching this vast topic made me humbly realize that, despite being Italian and a foodie, I had merely begun to scratch the surface. I will be sharing many of the fascinating facts and stories I learned along my journey in upcoming columns.
It will feel like a relaxing stroll through a verdant park…in comfortable shoes.
Below you will find 2 recipes that appear in “The Ultimate Pasta and Noodle Cookbook,” available on the sidebar of my blog (slated for release on October 24, 2017).
pasta with fresh mushroom sauce
pasta with herbed madeira cream sauce & pancetta