If this site could have a single prologue, it would go like this: It all started out so innocently. Because doesn’t it always? I wanted something simple but got carried away. A search for a lasagna I could love became a Mount Everest of a Lasagna Bolognese; a hankering for a great game-day snack became a mash-up of Welsh rarebit and pull-apart rye bread; and a hunt for a quiche that could serve a crowd became a 4 1/2 year vendetta until I triumphed over those 137 square inches of buttery flaky shell. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. I’m likely scaring away people who just wanted something simple to cook (I promise, the next recipe will be so simple, you might, like me, weep and wonder where it’s been every rushed weekday night of your life thus far.)
If I could have a breakfast rallying cry, a breakfast mantra, if you will, it would be, It’s not cake! It’s breakfast! It would be rather dull, naturally. I know that the line between Cake For Breakfast and our various formats of Breakfast Cakes (muffins, coffee cakes and pancakes) is thin, I know the distinctions on either side of it are, at best, tiny, but they are what allows me to pretend I’m eating cake for breakfast when I’m really not, so I cling to them.
Yesterday morning, at last, I handed in my cookbook’s edits. And I know, you’re thinking, “but I thought you already handed your book in?” and I had. Copyedits, which come back six weeks later, are like closing costs (or so I understand) when you buy a house. You think you’re all done and just have some papers to sign/designs to approve and then wham! Comparatively, writing a book is a cinch. Writing is like splashing bright paint all over a giant white canvas — look at all of those lovely words all lined up! Aren’t they darling? Copyedits are like measuring the space between each mark of paint and having to answer questions like, “This splatter is .25 inches from that splatter, and you call it a ‘blue splatter’ but this one is .5 inches away and labeled ‘splatter, blue’. Was this intentional?” There were about three of these questions on each of 390 pages, and yet despite the fact that this work consumed the last 21 days of my life, I frequently wanted to HUG this poor copy editor who managed to wade through my blather and find small adjustments that made sentences sing. She is a saint.
I have this affliction or maybe you could call it a fixation with latkes. And I know you’re probably thinking, potato pancakes? With shredded onion? They’re good, but are they really worth obsessing over? But you’d be using the literal definition of latkes and to me, latkes are not so much a singular recipe with a finite ingredient list but an approach to pancakes; an approach that could include anything that can be shredded and fried. And oh, when you start from this vantage point, they most certainly will.
Everyone’s got their superheroes; I’m sure when I was younger they were things like Super Grover and later, Jem but these days, they’re decidedly more humble: I admire the hell out of people who manage to put homemade meals on the table everyday, as this has never been my strong suit. It probably doesn’t help that I’ve spent the last year or so developing recipes for very specific things — a side dish, a salad, a tart — that don’t exactly add up to be a dinner, and that NYC makes it quite easy to order in whatever parts of your meal you haven’t made at home. I’m a terrible multitasker — really, no fan of it at all — and when I’m making brioche, I’m making brioche, and not brioche with a side of a pot of beans with something braising in the oven, no matter how much I wish I were.
One of the things that has surprised me the most as I’m chugging my way along to my manuscript’s finish line is how little clear my vision was for it from the beginning, and how little I’ve erred from my original list of recipe ideas, as in real life, I am a bafflingly indecisive person. “What should we order for dinner?” can send me into a tailspin. “Which colander looks best from Amazon?” will lead me to read 30 minutes of reviews. And yet, half the recipes that are lined up for the book right now (except the breakfast section; we should definitely not discuss that again) are pretty much as I scribbled the ideas while my then-newborn was napping in the fall of 2009. It’s probably for the best I jotted it all down then because my brain has probably not been so centered for 5 minutes since.
I had a little crisis on Father’s Day, and unlike the week that proceeded it, it did not relate to a feverish toddler who landed himself in our bed (and proceeded to be well enough at 5 a.m. to stand up and announce the different parts of our face as he poked them “NO” “EYEAR” “AYE” “MOUF”), the gutting of our (single) bathroom so that plumbers could access a wayward pipe in the building or the thin film of dirt left on every surface of every room when they were done working. No, by Father’s Day, most of those things had thankfully righted themselves, leaving only crises of less grave proportions: the blueberry pancakes I’d always known and loved no longer worked for me.