Photo Courtesy of Tangerine Drawings
My cookbooks, most of them anyway, have moved on to a more deserving home. Their departure wasn’t planned, and the decision to unload them was incident driven and came about by accident. You know how one thing can lead to another? Well, that’s what happened here. Unlikely as it may seem, the books’ departure was triggered by a much-loved pair of red suede shoes and a cleaning spree that was more thorough than originally planned. I must admit it got out of hand. I live in a relaxed community and the dress code here can best be described as informal. Anything can be worn for an evening on the town or services on a Sunday morning. Most of the folks who live here came from more formal places, but the sanctioned urge to dress down strikes quickly and with killer force. I call the syndrome going native. I’m no different than the others who have found their way here. I love the informality of this place, but deep down in my core, I know that God and country rely on me to uphold the standards of the empire. So, back in the recesses of my closet you find a collection of rarely worn shoes and a dress or two that are worthy of a New York restaurant. They will also help explain the sad tale of my red shoes.
Bob, known to most of you as the Silver Fox, invited me, and I’m using his words now, to “dine” with him. Not eat mind you, “dine.” I went to my closet and pulled out a sophisticated sheath with clean lines. Paired with my pearls, I knew it would be perfect for our evening out. I also pulled out my red suede heels, choosing them and a matching clutch because I knew they would give my outfit the perfect pop. I slipped on the dress, and to my horror, it hung on me. I had no better luck with the shoes, though the problem was different. My feet, it seems, have grown as my body shrunk. Actually, I think both problems can be attributed to my current lifestyle. I’m a walker, and these days my feet enjoy the freedom of Rockports or Birkenstocks. Heaven knows they both are roomy and make for happy feet, but those feet no longer know how to behave in more civilized shoes. I grabbed a few more things and it quickly became obvious that the treasures in the back of the closet needed to be reassessed. Closet space is at a premium here and once identified, anything that can’t be worn, beautiful or not, has to surrender its territory. By the time I finished, no high heels remained in the shoe rack and I had not a cocktail dress left to my name.
Once I started the paring down it consumed me. I next attacked the “prop” shelves that hold the dishes I used for blog photographs. They are kitty-corner to my only remaining bookcase, and, my now clear eyes could see they were jammed to overflow with books of one sort or another. I first stripped the novels and completed book club material. That made no dent in the accumulation, so I carefully went through the travel section, removing anything not related to our plans for the current year. The shelves still buckled under the weight of what remained, so I had to take a hard look at the books that were left. What remained were my favorite cookbooks. First, went the large “picture” books. I know there will be angst come January. Our winter weather invites a blazing fire, hot chocolate and the turning of well-worn pages to help wile away the hours and fight the Oregon damp. Unfortunately, nothing is forever, and since I’ve prepared all the dishes I wanted to make, it was clearly time to part with my picture books. I gave them a last look-see before putting them in the growing donation pile. Next, I sorted through the culinary memoirs I’ve accumulated through the years. The only one I saved was On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis. I read it at a time when I was still refining my skills and the direction my kitchen would take. I loved it then and now. Then came the books themselves. Julia and Ina went but I kept all my Patricia Wells’ cookbooks. I also kept Gloria Bley Miller’s encyclopedic Chinese cookbook, all of Mark Bittman and The Gourmet Cookbook that was edited by Ruth Reichl. Still remaining, but on borrowed time, are two volumes from the Culinary Institute and a copy of The King Arthur Baking Companion. I actually can see the shelves of the bookcase now and have room to add any new purchases I might make.
Many of you have read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’d love to tell you that my quest to bring order to a chaotic world is based on what she has written, but that is not the case. I am, by nature, a neatnick, and save for personal weaknesses like shoes and cookbooks, I conquered clutter a long time ago. Not because I think that’s virtuous, but I know it makes life easier and gives me more time to do the things I actually enjoy. For those of you who are still trying to tame clutter, this article from One King’s Lane will will help get you started. It summarizes the principals Kondo outlines in her book. She advises, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart.Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.” Her advice may not change your life, but it certainly can do no harm. I do, however, have a final thought to bounce against the wall. Even if you love it and it brings you joy, make sure it fits.