In school I used to pine for snow days. Now, I have to admit that, beautiful as the winter wonderland might look, I am a bit frustrated at its ability to shut everything down. Coming back from a month off, and some inspiring travel and adventure, I am ready to work. Here, on Martha’s Vineyard, the restaurant is closed and I feel a bit shut off from the world. I’ll have to put on my snow boots later and see how the world looks out there, outside these glass windows. I am sure it will be refreshing.
Luckily, I am finding some inspiration inside my home, inside of books.
Today I feel motivated, by the Deans and DeLucas of the world, the Alice Waters’, the Ben and Jerry’s’….those people who just do it. Not to be confused with the Nike ad, although maybe that company started off with similar naïve passions. I am starting to wonder if our society puts too much emphasis on education, on learning from the experts, rather than on trying, and maybe failing, but then trying again.
As described by the United States of Arugula, Chez Panisse was started by the completely inexperienced, but passionate motley crew of Berkleyites in the late 60s and early 70s. It was a hodgepodge of talent and vision and hard work, and it worked. And people learned on the job, I‘m sure.
I was perplexed by something a friend told me recently. Figure out what you want to learn, she told me. What do you mean? I thought. I want to learn everything. I want to learn to cook everything. To make everything delicious as it can be. But then I realized this “everything” mentality is something I’ve had my whole life, that leads me to being overly eager, but maybe underly accomplished. Even as a little kid I convinced my parents to buy all kinds of books for me, about the milky way and planets and scienctific subjects which I wanted to know all about but never got around to reading.
We only have one life, at least in this lifetime, and 24 hours in a day. Time does present a kind of limitation. And so my friend’s advice was probably sound. What do I want to learn? Everything is not a sufficient answer, to start off with. I need something concrete.
To end with my thoughts for the day, here is a paragraph taken out of my book, The United States of Arugula by David Kamp, page 207-208. It really made me laugh. It’s quite brilliant:
The weekend crowd embraced the Dean & DeLuca lifestyle so readily that it was sometimes more than the stores founders could handle. Their original counterman, the expert cheesemonger Steven Jenkins—who claims he was the first to apply the word “artisanal” to cheese—recalls a busy Saturday in the early years when a few staffers failed to show up, forcing a furious DeLuca to join Jenkins behind the counter. “It was total chaos, and Giorgio was slicing some preservative-free bacon, and he lopped off the top of his thumb,” Jenkins says. “He started cursing and rushed off to the clinic on Spring Street. Once he was gone, I decided to merchandise the piece of thumb, which still had fingernail on it. I put it on a little piece of marble in the display case with some rosemary and thyme and put up a sign that said ‘Gaetano Crudo’”—crudo meaning “raw” in Italian, Gaetano being DeLuca’s middle name. Fortunately, no one asked to taste the product, though Jenkins says a few people inquired as to “what the hell it was.”
Now let’s go out and see what is shutting this island down so completely!