The Storyteller's Summer
I’m at Bourgeois Pig -- a local cafe I love for late night writing -- and the ghost of Abraham Lincoln is staring at me. Well not at me exactly -- but he’s certainly looking into the bowels of the cafe, searching the space with that honest gaze, and I can’t help but feel he’s peering into my soul. Or is this my writer’s block talking?
The cafe is empty aside from a couple who are “studying” but clearly are calculating the least awkward way of ditching their chem homework and going home together, and I can’t help but notice that the dude has a sultry voice which is no way matches his appearance, 110 pounds soaking wet and shoulders the width of a tootsie roll. “The bus is coming in 10 minutes so like maybe I’ll…” and he trails off, hoping to be interrupted.
I - of course - am here to work, and have no business tracking this conversation, but my eyes are darting between the abandoned last sliver of key lime pie in the case and these two.
I’m fizzing with that electric, sedated, pickled, almost-kimchi energy that you can only have when you’re 30 years old and *living with your parents* -- in a life plot twist that is increasing feeling like something between a wild, wonderful adventure and sideways science experiment.
I have packed up my NYC apartment (goodbye Carroll Gardens! ILYSM), sold all of my furniture and earthly belongings, shipped that dusty Verizon equipment back to its god forsaken home in Arlington, Virginia and officially began a new chapter.
Why am I here, and what am I doing?
I am beginning my life as a writer, and professional creative -- and it’s both funky sweet and terrifying.
My habits are new - I drink less, run more - and Friday nights are filled with musty book sales at the Newberry Library, where I’m somewhat shell-shocked from all the food, wine, and travel editions I want to pick up, stacking up 8 books for a grand total of 17.73. “This is my Christmas” I say to the volunteer in the oval glasses. “Yeah. I hear that a lot” she says, stamping my receipt.
Am I aging rapidly? Am I living my truth?
Maybe none of the above. One thing is for sure: I’m obsessed with narrative, and with how different people tell their stories. Cookbooks, memoirs, Instagram, magazines, soggy paperbacks - you name it, I want it.
My mornings are filled with podcast consumption - lately it’s “How I Built This” from NPR - where Alice Waters coos at me through the interwebs, and describes foraging for wild strawberries, which frankly sounds like ASMR, followed by The Daily. After this, it’s a crapshoot. I’m plugged in for hours - TED Talks, Brene Brown on Oprah, Emily Weiss on the building of Glossier and being a woman in business.
Nights are spent with Ruth Reichl and a notebook as I work my way through “Garlic and Sapphires” -- her memoir about beginning as the Restaurant Critic at the NYTimes and eating her way through the city in disguise (a Newberry find).
I’m fascinated by these women and how they share their experiences. Because it’s clear that everyone is just following one thread of an idea to the next, until an opportunity or shared experience or cultural zeitgeist starts to build. It’s an intangible mixture of intuition + intellect + experience + joie de vivre that seems both organic, unplanned and highly strategic in hindsight.
And I’m in that swirl myself. I’m on a path, following the groove, towards some divine culinary existence, or so I hope. The last six months have been a patchwork quilt; I’ve written a ton, worked with food photographers, interviewed food writers and cookbook authors (I have a profile tomorrow am that I’m jazzed to share with you!), worked in a few kitchens, put together my own culinary and experiential events, felt pretty lonely, read a ton of writing about self-hood, identity, community, travel and food, researched cheap and expensive wines, and generally worked on figuring my shit out. Sometimes it’s really challenging, and sometimes -- it feels like the entire world is actually my oyster. I’ve ditched stability for passion, and it isn’t glamorous but it also sort of rules.
I just finished Season 2 of Fleabag (run, don’t walk if you haven’t seen it) and it’s yet another content format I’ve stashed away to study. It’s eccentric, crass, hilarious, intimate and bizarre and could only be told by the show’s creator, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Who else could invent a hamster cafe, create a landscape in which two women get their noses broken at dinner, and seduce a priest? It’s brilliant, and one of a kind.
So what is the point, dear Remy? Ah yes! The point. What I’m driving to is that it’s that cool to just do you, and follow your style and story. This has always been my love affair with food -- to see someone else’s point of view, learn about their anthropology, feel their mood, and delight in their vibe. Food is the vehicle, powered by the truth of the creator. Magic.
And so, if I call you to talk about my obsession with early girl tomatoes from the Logan Square Farmer’s Market, or show up at your doorstep with a mango con chile popsicle, please know that it’s about way more than the morsel I’m bringing to you. It might be that the chick who handed me the popsicle had bejeweled braces and a kind face, and that I saw something behind the ‘employees only’ sign I really gotta tell you about. It might just be the start of something I can’t quite yet articulate, and I need your help.