I finally held it in my hands. My baby was blue and teal with a little orange, and adorable colorful magnets as the title.
While my friends were still birthing real children, I gave birth to my very first book. I think I started dreaming of becoming an author after I read my first Beverly Clearly books in the first grade. I finished all of the Judy Blume books by fourth grade and was onto Danielle Steele, The Thorne Birds and my brother's sci fi books by the fifth grade (my parents gave up trying to monitor what I was reading by then. I'd just check them out at the library).
I still say words incorrectly because I first read them in books, instead of hearing them used in conversations.
Except for my graphic designer and a handful of friends who helped recipe testing, I created the book entirely by myself.
It was one of the most difficult challenges of my life.
How hard could it be? I asked myself when I started. Cocky little shit that I was.
I wrote my first book outline in 2005 during a writing course. My class and teacher trashed it. My writing teacher, Charles Salzberg - who I'm totally outing here because he was such a dick to me and totally deserves it - told me I'd never write a book.
Admittedly, my first outlines were disasters. I didn't have a clear vision for the book. Would it be for older children? Children with adults? Adults who want to cook FOR kids?
Having an idea and clarifying it on paper are two entirely different things.
I worked for THREE years on my writing and my outline for the book. THREE YEARS.
Even though I left that writer's workshop in tears more than once, I stuck with it.
The best way to get me to do something is to tell me that I'll never accomplish it.
My eyes will narrow. My small shoulders rise defiantly. And I'll say "yeah? Well fuck you, because NOW I WILL DEFINITELY DO IT."
Maybe it's because I was always the sick little kid that wore bifocal glasses in the fourth grade.
Maybe it's because I was the weird child who always had a nose in her book, dreaming of adventures around the world.
Maybe it's because I'm just me and I hate when people tell me that I can't do something.
After Charles told me I'd never write a book, I dug my heels in and kept at it.
Even though it cost me my nest egg, my health, and several years of my life.
I did it.
Writing a cookbook is no easy feat WITH help. Writing a cookbook with no help and a small budget is even more difficult!
This is when I discovered that I didn't like recipe development. Even so, I still worked hard on the recipes that I'd been teaching in my classes for years. A friend recently introduced me to her kids as the "lady who wrote that cookbook." Her boys and I discussed which recipes they liked the best.
Seven years later, they still cook with it! This makes me very, very happy.
I'm still really proud of it. I think the design is fantastic, the recipes are still solid meals for families who want their kids to learn how to cook and eat more vegetables. The only thing I hate are the photos.
I was taking these photos in 2009 with a shitty little digital camera. I should have used an iPhone! But I had a blackberry back then and I didn't understand lighting or how difficult it is to take food photos.
If I ever get around to making a second edition - which I'd like to do since I self-published through an awful company called Authorhouse - I'll redo the photos.
I also discovered that I'm not a very good salesman. I'd sit at school fairs or other locations trying to sell it and had no skills whatsoever.
I COME FROM ALL SALESMEN. Both my grandparents were in sales. My mom has worked in retail her entire life - she's sold jewelry, worked at Nordstrom and helped my dad run his box business for forty years.
My dad has worked in sales for as long as I've been alive.
I'm the worst. "It's ok, no worries, I know it's expensive for a kids book!" I practically talk them OUT of buying it. Friends push me out of the way and finish the transaction.
Eventually, I'd like to give away digital copies. Then if people want to buy the hard for gifts, they can do that. I don't know. That whole life seems so far away now. My kids and cooking life.
Even writing about it here feels strange. To talk about it as if it's in the past, because it is in my past.
It belongs to another woman from another lifetime.
That was the whole point of this exercise, wasn't it?
To make peace with the old me. If I never do anything else with that book, then that's ok too.
I have to give myself that option. Otherwise, I'll drive myself mad thinking about what I should or shouldn't do about it.
For now, it's something I'll try to remain proud of instead of connecting it to my health problems.
I wanted it so badly. I wanted to know that I could DO it.
People keep talking about these blog posts being turned into a book.
But I'm wary now. I don't know about that. I'm writing on the Internet, people say they are enjoying my posts. That's all I care about.
It's not an easy thing. To stay true to our art. My desire to "make it" got tangled up in my desire to "make art." It warped things. I let ego get in the way of everything else.
I allowed this book, and my work, to become my shield against intimacy, and closeness.
I made publishing this cookbook become the most important thing in the world.
I never want to do that again.
Or, maybe this is all unfolding exactly as planned. So I'd be in this very position to help healthcare.
Either way, I am proud that my book made it into Sam Kass's hands and I'm hoping Michelle Obama, I gave him a copy to give to her, Mark Bittner, Amanda Hesser, Gd I've given it to so many of my food heroes, I can't even remember them all!
The above photo was taken in California with the great Alice Waters, the woman credited for starting the farm to table movement.
It was the perfect last photo to take of me and my cookbook. A short time later, they found all the cancer.
My food career was about to end. But I'm grateful that I was able to sit and smile for the camera with the woman who helped launched the food movement.
I'm grateful for all the experiences this cookbook has brought me. It may not sell much, but it's gotten me a lot of jobs. It's basically my portfolio.
Thanks to everyone who has bought it over the years. I'll probably try to sell the rest of the copies before Christmas if anyone wants a copy! Here is a link to purchase it.
We're almost done with the 30 day writing experiment. I think I'm going to miss it.
I'm so glad so many of you are still reading....thank you for your wonderful feedback. Keeps me going....
PHOTO #27. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth