My nine-hour commute to New York City from Wisconsin included an encounter with an anxious but warm, grandfatherly man who raved about his travels to Singapore, a $15.50 cab fare to travel two miles, and the confiscation of a jar of raw honey and a jar of almond Yumbutter from my carry-on luggage (the officer tried to convince my they were “liquids;” I knew he was just hungry). Sitting for such long stretches is always exhausting; by the time I finally got back to my cute city abode I wanted nothing more than to throw my absurdly heavy suitcase down, climb under my fleece blanket, and dream of tomorrow.
But New York City beckoned me. Not only were the street-side trees newly twinkling with festive lights and not only had the most perfectly NYC-esque Christmas tree stand popped up in my neighborhood, but two of the…country’s…best food journalists were scheduled to speak in the Upper West Side that night, and I was invited.
So throw my absurdly heavy suitcase down I did, but then proceeded to scramble and eat some eggs, bundle up, and head out into the twinkling evening to look into the eyes of two New York Times food writers, Julia Moskin and Kim Severson.
It’s usually hard to motivate myself to go to talks/lectures/dialogues because 1.) I’m still getting over the too-high dose of those I had in college, and 2.) I often zone out after the first five minutes if the topic isn’t immediately interesting to me. But this event held distant promises of humor, insight into my dream career, a longshot at scoring a said job, and free cookies. Always cookies. Watching Julia and Kim throw friendly insults at each other as they discussed their new cookbook, Cook Fight, was all those things. Minus the job offer.
The opinionated women discussed their childhood relationships to food, their emergence into the world of journalism, and what they ate for Thanksgiving. They nonchalantly talked about their cubicles located on either side of Times ex-restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and how they were Pete Wells’ dining companions at the meal that launched his zero-star review “read ’round the world” of Guy Fieri’s new restaurant. They joked about how they might spend a week eating every buckwheat noodle dish sold in New York City, and touched on the frustrations of working in the deadline-driven newspaper industry. “I don’t want it right, I want it right now.”
I sat in the audience, eyes peeled for the entire hour and a half. At the end, I wanted to shout from my audience seat, “IT’S NOT FAIR” through my eyes welled with the somber, jealous tears of a freelance writer. Either that, or approach them and smoothly tell Kim and Julia, “You don’t understand that my excellent writing skills and I are what you’ve been missing all your life,” toss them a business card, a firm handshake, and exit slyly; memorably.
Instead I grabbed a couple pecan sandies and left.
This was not me giving up on a dream, no. This was me riding a spark into reality; it was becoming re-inspired and reassured that I’m doing what I love and finding new and bigger ways to keep doing, eating, cooking, writing, being. Sometimes we don’t need an answer, sometimes we just need a spark to keep us going in the right direction.
Julia, Kim — considered me sparked. I won’t forget that pecan sandie anytime soon. Don’t forget me?