On literature, food, and poetry in all things.

I want to talk about writing

Ah yeah, la littérature !

Non non, pas la littérature : l’écriture.

Ah, mais c’est la même chose no ? 

No. L’écriture c’est le procédé, la littérature, c’est le résultat. 

Ah, alors, L’écriture produit de la littérature ?

Parfois. Mais parfois l’écriture produit de la merde.

 A café in Arles, France

A café in Arles, France

It is the start of one of those many conversations, the ones that provide background and rhythm to our days as we walk around, street to street, café to café, bench to bench. 

I want to be able to write, I said, in the same manner I talk to you. I never feel as witty, as smart, as interesting, as I do when talking to you. Both deep and unpretentious, serious and lightheaded. Once the page is before me, or in most cases the keyboard under my fingers however, my mind seems to become a never ending wailing emptiness. 

Where do they go, all the thoughts that swarm inside of me constantly, driving me crazy from time to time, keeping me awake far into the night, giving me vertigo ? Where do they go once I am finally ready to give them a semblance of life, a right to reality ? 

Thoughts are not friends, they betray you, they harass you only to better escape at the first opportunity. I have never trusted them as much as I do words. Words are comfortable, tangible, they are there for me to look at, to turn around in my mouth, to spit out, to write. 

They are filled with stories, with meanings, they carry the weight of all those who have used them, a history, a truth.

 A restaurant in Montréal

A restaurant in Montréal

Once upon a time, long before knives and pans and greens became my life, pens and words and books paved the road that stretched out before me. 

I studied literature, participated in poetry competitions, read and wrote with every minute I could spare. I even found myself quoting War and Peace characters thinking they were conversations I had with friends. 

My life was split between two realities : mine, a concrete one, and that of words, of literature, a safer place for me to lodge myself in. I relished in it, but gradually it seemed to be getting harder, having those two realities of mine fit together. 

Outside of my own body, where they coexisted joyfully, they seemed to conflict everywhere I looked. Or, to better put it, the people and actions that constituted my outside world were standing a ground were my fantasies and friends made of words had no place. 

My excited explanations were met with boredom, my sparkly eyes when describing Proust’s sentences with mocking smiles. 

And slowly, but surely, I began feeling out of touch, like this world of mine, carefully built and purposefully chosen was keeping me from seeing what was out there, right in front of me. My refuge had suddenly become a threat, of missing out on reality.

As one grows out of love, silently and secretly, only to wake up one day with the urgent need to walk away, so it happened to me : I woke up one day with an almost painful feeling in my chest, and I put down my books and my pens and picked up cookbooks and pans. 

There I found a new love, and a devouring passion, a world inside the world, but one that others could grab, see, touch, digest. A passion I could share. I have not yet seen the end of it, its limitations. 

Today however, I woke up with yet another weight in my chest : the need to heal the fracture I have felt ever since inside of me, the breach that was opened the day I looked at my professor and said « I will not finish my thesis, I am going to cooking school », with a determination equal to the fear and sadness I felt. 

Poetry is a literary genre, but it is also a feeling, an emotion, a characteristic that can be found in the smallest events of the mundane and profane. Poetry is intense pleasure, it is that moment when everything seems to align and the world makes sense, not for any direction it is taking, not by a meaning, but for the single most important of the useless attributes : beauty, absolute beauty. It could be found in light, in darkness, or a balance of the two, in romanticism or in dirt, in the lines of Sylvia Plath or in the warmth of a café, it is everywhere if we dare look at it. 

Food too can be poetic, when the combination of textures and flavors is just right, when it manages to surprise, to shock, or to comfort. 

Egg in Milk
 Fried rice paper, Roquefort mousse, Nori

Fried rice paper, Roquefort mousse, Nori

I see now better than ever how writing and cooking can be two sides of a same coin, to tell stories, to capture atmospheres, to convey emotions. And I wonder in dismay how I can possibly have missed it for so long.  

This, right here, is my best attempt at it.

 Roquefort raviolis, warm hazelnut milk, Cima di Rapa

Roquefort raviolis, warm hazelnut milk, Cima di Rapa