When I was working on my MFA in Creative Writing, I had to make an annotated bibliography, a big list of works that inspired and informed my own meager collection of short stories.
In preparation for this big annotated bibliography, my thesis advisor challenged me to talk to her about the authors who inspired me, the authors I loved. Whose style did I jive with? Who did I learn from? Who did I get swoony over?
Most of those authors – Virginia Woolf, Ellen Gilchrist, Jane Austen, Betty Smith, to name a few – made it into my annotated bibliography; others didn’t. But making that initial list of beloved authors felt a little bit like making a list of literary fairy godmothers, good witches who watched over me and taught me, who pointed me down a yellow brick road. Authors who took me home.
As I’ve busied myself with preparation today for Thanksgiving – roasting sweet potatoes, prepping brine, boiling eggs – I’ve paid attention to the women I’ve brought into the kitchen with me: Ree Drummond, Irma Rombauer, Ina Garten, Oprah, and my mother. Their recipes send me down a different road but all are encouraging voices – a pinch of salt here, a squeeze of lemon there. All leading me to dishes that feel like home. That help me make a home.
In so many ways, the recipes we choose to use, the chefs we choose to consult with for our own cooking, is as personal and as deeply felt as choosing which authors articulate the stories and rhythms of our heartbeats. Who do we bring into our home? Who do we trust? Who understands our tastes? As Anne Shirley would say, we look for kindred spirits, to cook with, to story with, and if it helps to imagine them waving magic wands and showing us the way, (of course it does) well, all the better.