I finished the cookbook. I got the last three recipes in the day before yesterday, spent a good part of yesterday reviewing and editing for consistency, figuring out how I wanted to arrange the recipes, and polishing up a few of the images that needed help. The thing about what I do is that it’s about 2/5 creativity, about 2/5 persistence, and 1/5 sheer unadulterated teeth-gritting tedium.
And I love it. I love watching a vision take shape, and as I start moving the various book elements around I love watching it come to life. I don’t love the tedium part of it–the checking for fonts I’ve tried and discarded, the deleting unnecessary colors, the press prep–but I do it because it’s what is required to effect the last transformation–from my screen to bound book. If I skimp, I pay for it in extra proofs. Or extra print runs. There’s no substitute for being careful.
Another thing I love about what I do is that I learn something new with every book. I didn’t expect to with this one; after all, except for the Kraut Runza these are all recipes I’ve made and eaten countless times. I should know about everything about them. And yet…and yet…
As I worked on this book I found myself remembering moments in time: Leaning against the cupboard sneaking crumbs of my birthday cheese cake from the cake plate. Watching Dad’s scarred, battered hands, scrubbed nearly raw, as he worked powdered sugar into boiled potatoes for the potato candy. Sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen on a chair I feared would break, watching her make potato pancakes. Walking into my other grandmother’s kitchen and seeing her wide smile and outstretched arms. Walking through the mall with my sister, sipping iced mochas and weighing the relative merits of Iris’ cinnamon rolls and Cinnabon’s cinnamon rolls. Watching my little sister fly around her kitchen cooking, cleaning, and talking, all at once. Looking up into Iris’ face and seeing her smile down at me.
I hadn’t expected the moments, the little flashes of the past, pieces that in some cases have gotten lost in the larger story, or because they were confusing, or because for a while they hurt too much to remember. But now I have. And as my family reads the recipes they will have their own moments, because the shared life of our family is like making potato salad: we all might start out with the same basic ingredients, but we each end up with a different result. That’s why there are four potato salads in my book.
Because that’s the other thing. This book is a record of who we are now, and where we came from. I hope that in another ten or twenty years I’ll write another book, with new names, new recipes, and new variations on the old favorites. And more moments to blog about.
This is my last blog before Christmas. I’m taking off tomorrow to do a little client work, but mostly to bake cookies, tweak the tree and wrap gifts. I had thought to buy more, but we seem to be gearing up for an ice storm here. We may not have a white Christmas, but I suspect it’ll be a shiny one. And a merry one. I wish the same for you and yours.