Public service announcement; or, On food reading

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing these days, and one of the lessons I keep returning to again and again is the durable link between being a good writer and being a good reader. It’s all too easy to prize output over input, to measure one’s progress based on pages produced rather than pages consumed. (You probably know where I’m going with this.)

Reading rainbow, in paler shades of white.

Reading rainbow, in paler shades of white.

This was my recent library haul, from the Free (public) Library of Philadelphia. They’ve got a surprisingly great selection of cookbooks and food writing, and I find it way more pleasurable to take my time reading them at home than at Barnes and Noble, hunched over a stack of pristine, crisp clean copies trying not to microbend the pages. (Though that has its furtive pleasures too, I suppose.) Today, I checked out Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires (because what a perfect title!), Julia Child’s My Life in France (long overdue), Donroe Inman’s Wintersweet (because nothing’s cooler than reading about winter baking projects in the summer), and Chad Robertson’s Tartine Book No. 3 (confession: for the single pastry section, not the many on bread). Hopefully these, and many more, will prove good companions during this long month of writing, or at least give me a few ideas and recipes to add to my collection.

So this is just to say: get thee to a public library! Reclaim that breathless, expanding, quick-spinning bibliophilia of your childhood, or discover it (and how it changes) in the many phases of adulthood. To me, after logging many hours in a university library following trail after bibliographic trail, all this whimsical choice feels so good.

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