A few months ago now, I spent a weekend in Lowell, Maine, teaching writing through the lens of food. Eating and dancing, writing and talking, walking through the woods and gardens. We pressed cider on an old, cranky press. We laughed till we cried. We just plain cried. And just plain laughed. We ate—not quite as much as last year but a lot. And always we came back to stories of food and the language of dancing—two essential ingredients in my definition of the good life.
The key take-away from that weekend was that writing about food opens doors to the deeper, more expansive aspects of our lives, and the people who inhabit them with us. The heart, the pain, the love. The rejection, the discovery, the fear. It’s all there in the mushy white bread, the spinach and boiled onions, the Twinkies.
And that’s true no matter the role one plays in the gathering. Teaching is not an easy, fluid thing for me. Trust me, I know that people see me as feisty and independent and so in charge, totally comfortable in my own skin, but I’m not always. I am, however, always grateful for every opportunity to teach. I come away knowing more about myself—and things that feed the writer in me. Writing is often how I find out the fuller truths. And so some of what I am processing as a result of those two days: me who loves to cook but never could or cared to until I was grown and cooking over a wood fire; yogurt in the green and yellow bowl wrapped in a towel in my childhood refrigerator; the foods across the divide—creamed chipped beef on toast vs. dolmathes; that I’m a first generation American, something that has always been so but I have never really seen as such; and that the timing of when my dad came to the U.S. from Ordu in Turkey on the shores of the Black Sea probably means that exodus is linked to the Armenian genocide. Really? I think so. No one talked in my family. I don’t even know what is Greek and what is Armenian and what else is even on that side of my line. The French and the Irish side isn’t much clearer but a little.
What I know and want you to know is that when I have struggled to write on these pages since I launched this site, it is because I don’t know how to be anything but bone honest—and yet I am a very private person who doesn’t live her life out loud. A writer can’t hide behind the words—and not be found out. We know when someone is skating on the surface, not being truthful, not telling the real story. We use words, and under those words is a pulsing energy of us. See, this is what I feel, what I see, what I think, what I open to. For me there’s no what-I-think-you-want-to-hear—even when it’s this online, open-audience something that is not a poem, not an essay, not a short story, not even a letter.
It is what it is. I am who I am. You are who you are. And frankly it’s all fabulous even when it feels so removed from anyone’s definition of the word. —Annaliese (1/20/14)