Alison and I attended one of the most New Yorky of all New York events tonight... a book reading. It was a such lovely night with a great kick ending.
The reading was held at Idlewild Books on 19th street (which you should absolutely visit if you haven't yet) and featured Molly Witzenburg of Orangette and her newly released food memoir, A Homemade Life. The event sold out (well, didn't sell really, it was free. But the booking was full) within an hour of its announcement. Hundreds of greedy New Yorkers jumped at the chance to connect with this blogger-turned-columnist-turned-author.
Alison introduced me to Orangette just a few weeks ago and I purchased the book a day later. I finished it within two days-- a record for this very slow reader-- and was thrilled to learn that she would be giving a reading in New York the next week. This is why New York is awesome. These coincidences aren't all that uncommon.
Molly is inspiring in the least obnoxious way possible. I have had multiple conversations trying to pinpoint exactly what makes her so fantastic, concluding that her charm rests on a very genuine tone and unpretentious way of living and writing. She is sincere in a sect filled with irony. She is the anti-hipster. Finally.
Molly also inspired one of the best Saturdays I've had in a long while... Orangette Day. Al and I picked a few recipes from her book, went to the Ft. Greene farmers' market, and cooked a meal that we shared with Annie that night. (It was at that farmers' market that I also found something I've been searching for for over a year-- purple potatoes.)
We made a radicchio, avocado, feta, and endive salad; purple potatoes with shaved parm and fresh lemon; toasted french bread with butter, radishes, and sea salt; and for dessert a lovely berry pound cake. Amazing. And only a little embarrassing that our obsession has gone this far.
The real beauty of this obsession, however, is that Molly has gained a book deal and relatively large following from a blog. She is a blogger at heart, which of course strikes a cord with Little Miss Somuchtofallinlovewith over here. Orangette began as a way to hold herself accountable to writing and thinking, and somehow morphed into a monthly column in Bon Appétit and then a book deal with Simon & Schuster. This route is VERY APPEALING. That is a hint if you are an editor or someone important in publishing or anyone besides my mother and auntie who might be the only readers of this blog. VERY APPEALING. Not that I have ANY right at all to write a book, but come on. VERY APPEALING.
(Oh, and she also met her husband through her blog. I'm not going to advertise myself for that particular route, but did want to throw it out there.)
A Homemade Life reads quickly and familiarly. It leads us through a spectrum of comfort and fear, thought and perception. Both Alison and I found ourselves sobbing on the subway while reading this book... really! Tears streaming down my face! Molly writes from her heart and whips up a tangible embodiment of each story in the form of recipes at each chapter's conclusion. To just go with the cheesiness that is this post I am going to call her writing delicious. Because it is.
So after a drink at Apsen tonight ($5 sangria, yes please.) with Lizzie, Al and I strolled to Idlewild to bring this flurry of excitement to fruition. We were going to meet Molly.
I was definitely prepared for disappointment, as my last book signing event went VERY, VERY badly. (It involved Nigella Lawson and an incredibly awkward photo, I can't think about it any more than that, it was so embarrassing.) I also know from experience that meeting anyone who holds that much admiration will only fail to live up to expectations. But Molly didn't disappoint. She rocked.
She talked about how she came to be standing on that stage with that microphone... about her late father, about Paris, about food. She spoke with much grace and appreciation, and seemed so honestly surprised to find herself the center of so much positive attention. She acted like any of us would have... she blushed.
Then came the evening's highlight: the question and answer portion of the night. Lets remember now that Alison and I both know EVERYTHING about Molly Witzenburg. We read her blog, read her memoir, and look at her photos on flickr. What else could we possibly need to ask her?
Well, after reading the chapter entitled 'Summer of Change' (mocking a Judy Blume title, so funny) Molly turned to the audience for questions. Lets remember that there are over 150 people packed into this tiny bookstore, all of which are obsessed with Molly and her work. But its crickets. NO ONE has a question. Ugh.
So I, reverting back to my college art history courses, grudgingly raised my hand to relieve this poor girl. I hated when Nancy Thompson would stand in front of our class and ask something about Roman columns or Giotto's impact without anchoring a single response, and I hated when Molly looked fearfully out into her entire New York fan base without a peep. I always feel so bad for people in those situations. No one deserves that fearful silence. So, just as I did for Nancy Thompson, I quickly found a suitable question to ask Molly.
'Molly, your book is extremely fluid and readable while remaining thoughtful and fresh. Who has inspired you, and who do you read? Do you have any recommendations in food writing or other topics?' (Wordy, I know, but that's me.) I had just had a conversation with Alison about what we had been reading and was actually truly interested in her response. I have fallen in love with memoirs as of late but have a difficult time sorting through the shelves without any guidance. However, we are both currently reading novels. Alison is reading Netherland and I am reading Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.
"Well," said Molly, looking directly at me, "the book that has had the biggest influence on me and on my writing is Michael Chabon's 'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.'"
I know. Maybe I will turn into her after all.