Last Thursday was a traumatic day. The plasterer came to reassemble my living room ceiling after its unceremonious removal on Wednesday, to repair damage from leaking pipes. Imagine our delight when, as the plasterer began his work, water began to drip onto his head from a new leak that had apparently been liberated by Wednesday’s house-wrecking activities. He could not finish, the plumber couldn’t come back until some indeterminate time later than next week but earlier than the Winter Solstice, and I am left with sawhorses and plastic tarps in my living room and the customary contents of my living room shoved into my dining room.
Some time after the plasterer left and I convinced myself that I could Just Be a Good Sport, the U.P.S. man came with a package from amazon.com. It was addressed to me, but I hadn’t ordered anything, and there was no special occasion (aside from National Living Room Destruction Day) so I was a little baffled. Expecting to find that a mistake had been made, and that the box contained books about Greco-Roman wrestling or growing Bonsai trees, I was thrilled to see the word “Panisse” peeking out after my first good rip into the cardboard. It was right in there with my primal memory of ripping into red and green Rudolph paper and seeing the face of the doll I had coveted for six months. My father-in-law Tony had sent me both Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook and The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. He lives in San Francisco, and knew that both are famous area restaurants. After doing a little research, he found that they both had cookbooks and thought I should have them to further my culinary studies.
Since I am somewhat underemployed at the moment, buying hard-cover cookbooks is not something I do on a regular basis. I would so far as to say never. I admire them in bookstores, and I take them out of the library and try frantically to make everything that looks good before the books are due back, but I don’t actually buy cookbooks except at garage sales. These two books are incredibly beautiful; the Chez Panisse book has woodcut illustrations that are so lovely that I find myself wishing I could mat and frame them to hang in my kitchen. Both books are shiny, new, and full of recipes to try, enjoy and blog about, and it makes me irrationally happy just to know they are in my house and they are MINE. Both come from chefs that I admire tremendously, who write lovingly about things that matter to me, like using local, seasonal ingredients and cooking for people as a part of building communities and relationships. Really, nothing could have made me any happier.