This morning I opened the New York Times with my customary dread and quickly scrolled to the bottom of the front page, where they hide the good news. There I found, to my happy surprise, an article about keeping a diary during lockdown.
WHAT HAVE I BEEN TELLING YOU????
Here's what Sam Sifton, the Times food editor, has to say on the subject (above: Aude Boc, of Antidote Factory, making gnocci in our kitchen in Butte Montceau):
"One thing I wish I’d done back at the start of all this — when the lockdown began and I began to cook three meals a day, seven days a week — is to have recorded the meals in a notebook, kept track of them. It’d be great to look back on the months of experimentation and freestyle cooking, on the dishes that became standbys, on the once-in-a-blue-moon extravagances, the triumphs, the failures. I think that could have been the sort of thing to preserve, a piece of personal history, something to help remind me of the joys and frustrations of this extraordinary and difficult time.
"Instead, I’ve only got memories, fragmenting already. That time someone gave me part of a loin of tuna caught early that morning 50 miles offshore and we ate it on the stoop, with soy sauce to cut the fat. That night when we first double-fried tofu, to make the most amazing sandwiches. The pizza nights we had going for a couple of months, the red sauce studded with diced soppressata, and the brownies and visiting cakes (above) one of my kids made for dessert. I rediscovered tenderloins at one point, beef and pork alike. Salads, too: lemon-mustardy and assembled on the fly. The sandwiches at lunch, so much smaller than the deli hoagies I used to buy. That linguine with clam sauce I hacked, adding cream and Parmesan at the end.
"These are good memories, but there are too few of them. I mourn the meals lost to the hurly-burly of time’s passing, the rhythm of them, the story they could have told my future self. And so I’m starting today, adding another notation to my daily record of meetings and interviews and reminders and hopes: what I cooked.
"Maybe you’ve been doing this yourself already. Some have told us they have. “Someday I imagine having grandchildren,” one reader wrote my colleagues on At Home, “and I imagined them asking me, ‘Mimi’ (or whatever they might call me), ‘what did you do during the quarantine?’ And I thought there ought to be something better to say than, ‘Watched Netflix and ate popcorn.’ "
"She’s got a point. Won’t you join us?"
Sam then invites Times subscribers to sign up for his newsletter and send him recipes from their own food diaries, which is way more about cooking than I actually care to know. The point is: Here's a guy who is passionate about food, and thus FOOD is his window on 2020. It is through FOOD—something he deeply cares about—that he wants to record for his grandchildren the story of how he spent this catastrophic year.
Find something that fuels your passions, that stirs your emotions, that holds your interest—okay, something you're obsessed with—and USE it to focus and fuel your writing. Do it not only for yourself but also for your grandchildren, so that when they ask you how it was during the pandemic, you have something to tell them.
Our Homebound Diaries workshop is hosted by Kimball Library in Randolph, Vermont. We will meet every other Friday through November via Zoom. Next meeting: Friday, October 9, at 10 a.m. E.T. This workshop is free and open to the public. To register: info@KimballLibrary.org.
Sales from our publications, available in our bookstore, help fund our activities.