In the very first issue I worked on for the very first magazine I worked at, I got to write the captions for a fashion feature. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was a big deal. A very big deal. Editorial assistants, let alone fashion assistants like me, never got to write anything. We made photocopies, we sent faxes (yes, faxes), we answered phone calls (yes, land lines), and we organized the mail. I did work on the computer, too, since I was the only one in the fashion department who had a computer (due to the fact that I was really the only one in the department who knew how to use a computer). I created databases for contacts and organized images of fashion shows into folders, all for naught since old-fashioned Rolodexes and giant drawers of slides from the shows reigned supreme. This was 1999 after all. But I was an eager beaver, over-achieving NYC girl fresh off the boat from college, so I jumped in head first and convinced the fashion features editor to let me help her with the article since she was so busy. It worked. It was an article about how fashion mimicked art and it couldn’t have been more in my wheelhouse. I researched those captions with abandon and handed my work in with pride — and with all my research attached. The editor laughed a little but seemed very appreciative. And so it went, the first writing I ever did that went to print.
Luckily for me, the fashion magazine I was working at, Mirabella, started a home section while I was there and needed someone to — you guessed it — write the captions for those stories. I got to attend photo shoots in some of the most fabulous apartments in NYC and meet some of the most fabulous women in NYC (most of whom I was too young to appreciate at the time), and then run around the city looking for the furniture they had in their homes so our readers could buy it, too. (The modern pieces were easy to source, the Louis XIV vintage, velvet-covered furniture, not so much.) But once again, I approached writing those captions with abandon and loved my job. My 12-hours a day, eat baked potatoes at every meal, $20K a year job. Because I got to write captions.
Fast forward 20 years to today, past my jump into the “Internet” and all the jobs that followed, which thankfully paid more than $20K a year (some only slightly more), and the countless captions, articles, and video scripts I wrote over those years. My most memorable and proud writing feats included interviewing Rihanna, LeAnn Rimes, and Kiera Knightly (all in person!) during my days as a teen magazine editor. But then something happened. As I climbed up the corporate ladder to becoming an executive, moving to London and then to San Francisco to further my career, I somehow stopped writing. There was no time for that anymore. I had teams to do that now. I had too many brainstorms and budgets and board meetings to prepare for. I loved my jobs but I missed writing, and I was too busy to even realize it. When life at work got stressful, I baked scones in the office kitchen that was meant for video shoots. (No one really minded because, well, hot scones.) But it wasn’t enough. I left my corporate life behind, moved to Ireland to live on a farm, and learned to cook properly. I started a blog, mostly just to remember what I cooked and how to cook it! When I returned stateside, I had no idea what to do with me life. Strangely, writing didn’t even occur to me. But then a friend called me up to help her cook for a photo shoot, and serendipitously my new life began. I met an editor on that photo shoot who was about to go to the same cooking school in Ireland I had just returned from (some could call it coincidence, but I call it fate), and without even realizing it, I was on a path back to writing again.
My first cookbook was published last October, a week before my daughter was born. The day I went into labor, I went into the Williams Sonoma store on Chestnut Street in San Francisco and saw it on display. It didn’t seem real. But my husband was with me to witness that it was. (Maybe the excitement sent me into labor?!)
I have been rubbish about telling people I wrote a cookbook. I blame the sleep deprivation and altered state of reality that comes with having a newborn. Some friends text me pictures from Williams Sonoma stores and say, “You wrote a book?!” Others ask me if I have any good recipes for the Instant Pot and I say yes, in fact, I wrote a whole book with recipes for the Instant Pot. I also hear many stories about people being too scared to take their Instant Pots out of the box (Ina Garten included), so I tell them that I was on a video series called That Expert Show where I explain how to use it and highlight some recipes to help them get started. But since my second cookbook is now in Williams Sonoma stores, I thought it was about time I stopped being so rubbish about telling people I wrote a cookbook. Or two.
My mom passed away in January and I think about her a lot. She loved my blog. She always asked me to print it for her so she could have it in a book. No matter how much I explained that was counter intuitive to the digital medium of a blog, she didn’t care. She wanted it printed. She wanted to hold it. She always said to me, “You are such a beautiful writer, you missed your calling.”
By the time I could give her a copy of my first cookbook, she was too sick to read it. But I take comfort in the fact that she knew I had written it, and she was finally able to hold a book I had written. She never opened it, but she knew what I had accomplished. I knew she was proud of me, and that gave me the permission to be proud of myself. And to tell people what I have accomplished (and to tell them to take their Instant Pots out of the box!). I’m writing a third book in the series now, and my daughter is finally old enough to eat some of the dishes from it. Life is coming full circle and writing is fulfilling me on new levels that I never even thought possible. Well, Mom, I guess I didn’t miss my calling after all.