This was a few weeks ago, packing while watching Metropolitan. I had just concluded a purge of sentimental correspondence and objects from late adolesence and so was gratified when one character said, "I don't want to go through the rest of my life with the mail I got when I was sixteen." Truthfully, she's a rather unsympathetic character, not the kind you'd want to take cues from, but I'm having an anti-paper moment. To go with us, books and letters must really mean something, or at the very least offer the possibility of a few hours of future amusement.
I have had a stack of very old Cooks Illustrateds getting dusty on an absurdly tiny table in the corner of my kitchen the whole two years we've lived in this apartment; the whole two years I've been meaning to punch holes and stick them in a binder. Not long ago I finally steeled myself for that task and discovered that I didn't even want to keep them. (Most of them.) They were a great help when I was learning to cook, but now I don't have the patience. And I have my own ideas. I kept only the ones with sentimental recipes (spinach lasagna! Chinese chicken!) and a few about grilling, a new technique for me to explore now that we'll have our own little patch of grass.
I'm at the point in packing where I am confronted with dozens, nay, scores of little problems such as this:
a tiny box containing an escort card from a wedding (marriage long since dissolved), buttons from an old dress of my mother's (popped off when I tried to squeeze in while pregnant), mateless pearl and fake diamond earrings. Should I purchase a Caboodle for odds and ends that can't be tossed? It's enough to make me turn back to the papers and the books. Having bestowed the flower of my youth upon the publishing industry, I'm a champ when it comes to boxing up books. I'm surprised, though, by how unnecessary most of them seem now. Like those Cooks Illustrated magazines, they mosly sit around unnoticed and unlikely to be reread. I've fallen in love with ebooks. The only books I really need to be able to hold, I think, are children's books, cookbooks, and big gorgeous books with lots of photos. I'm sending as many of the others as possible to the secondhand store.
We're still taking dozens of boxes of books with us, of course. After all, I am the kind of person who discovers while packing that she has stashed two cast-iron skillets under a shelf in the family room.
Two steps forward, one step back! I was less chagrined about the extra (and extra-heavy packing) than about the fact that I have a small skillet perfect for toasting spices and somehow didn't know it. I put it to work the very next day to make pork and poblano tamale pie from a year-old Bon Appetit that had been hiding among the Cooks Illustrateds. This was a very popular dinner with the eaters; to the cook it seemed a bit fiddly and complicated for something so down-home, but even she had to admit that it was tasty.
And speaking of Bon Appetit, someone told me she thought the first issue under the new editor--"the Italy issue," cover featuring spaghetti sans Gwyneth--was not so great. When I bought it to investigate, it turned out to be full of things I wanted to cook, which is all I really care about. The prose (if captions and headers can be called prose) is often a bit affected, it's true, assuming a just-one-of-the-people attitude that comes off as condescending: New York editors trying to figure out how to talk to the rest of the country instead of simply assuming that readers are intelligent and interested in food. Why should a food magazine have to make a show of being anti--forgive me--foodie? Anyway, I really liked Oliver Strand's pasta tips, although I haven't tried the recipes yet; I did make and enjoy this Amatriciana. (Bellinger trivia: in our first few months together, Andrew made me spaghetti all'Amatriciana one night. When I complimented the dish and asked him where he had learned to cook it, he looked confused and said, "I learned to cook it by eating it." And that is how people with very different personalities end up together.) As for Gwyneth as covergirl, I can't address that now except to say that I am surprised by how upset people are--and I'm a former Gwyneth-hater! It's just Bon Appetit, people. If seeing Gwyneth there is enough to irritate you, then the rest of your life must be a bowl of farmers market cherries.
So I can't give up either of these copies of Bon Appetit, old or new; there's too much to cook. My other beloved magazines and clippings I'm trying to scan when I can't take the packing anymore. Wouldn't it be sad to lose track of this?