Thursday, April 03, 2008

Two New Challenges

So, I gather some of you would like me to hurry up and write that novel. I just met with a friend in Connecticut yesterday who wants me to hurry up and write that children's book whose plot I've discussed with her. She wants her Emily to be able to read it while she's still a child. I've (sort of) been learning to knit. This is an absolutely crazy month in which I've just been up to New England and back and am only home for three days before I take off for Salt Lake City for another week of conferences. Thus, what better thing to do than to take on two more challenges (especially since I have yet to finish one book for the science book challenge, although I've started The Double Helix)? But I really just cannot resist either one of these two new challenges (maybe I'm a challenge slut as well as a book slut?).

The first is Kate's modest poetry challenge. It's not a difficult challenge at all. In fact it's a perfect challenge for someone who has only started getting her poetry feet wet over the past couple of years. We're just going to post something about poetry (either a critique of a particular poem, or a review of a collection of poems, or something about a poet) sometime during the month of April (you can eagerly await my post showing up at 11:59 p.m. on April 30th). That doesn't sound too difficult, especially since at my favorite bookshop near the office, I picked up two poetry collections on Tuesday: May Sarton and Margaret Atwood. Oh, and if worse comes to worst, I can just change the date on my recent Emily Dickinson post. Everyone's already forgotten it, right?

The next challenge is GREAT fun! It's Ex Libris's Soup's On! Challenge , which involves not only reading 6 cookbooks (something I pretty much do every year anyway) between now and March 31, 2009, but also cooking and writing about at least one recipe from each book. Where else am I going to get the chance to pretend I'm Nigella Lawson or Mark Bittman, cooking away and then sending my articles off to The New York Times? The question is: should I choose really, really difficult recipes, thus resulting in what will probably be funnier posts for everyone to read, or just go with the ones that sound too delicious to ignore? I guess I'll have to think about it as I start reading.

Anyway, I'm hoping some of you other chefs out there will join this challenge. I'm also hoping some non-chefs will join (because I'm sure some more-hilarious-than-I-could-ever-write blog posts would result from all you talented writers out there). Most importantly, I'm hoping everyone will invite me to dinner at their places once the challenge has been completed.

Here are the books I'm planning to read and from which I'll be cooking:

The Best of Amish Cooking by Phyllis Pellman Good, because of my recent move to Amish country
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, because I'm in love with Mark Bittman, and we don't eat a whole lot of meat in our household
The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken, because I haven't read it in years, because I'm also in love with Peg Bracken (she's SO funny. If I remember correctly, she sometimes has instructions such as, "Light a cigarette and stare dreamily out the window while meat browns"), and because I want to try adapting some of her "so-1950's" recipes to suit the 21st-century (maybe even turning some of the meat-based dishes into vegetarian ones)
Mrs. Schiang's Szechwan Cookbook by Ellen Schrecker, because I'm tired of not being able to cook Chinese food as well as my husband can, and it's one of the cookbooks his family has always used
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon, because I'm not only into cooking but also into nutrition, and isn't this just such a great title?
The Wonderful World of Indian Cookery by Rohini Singh, because Lancaster County, PA doesn't exactly have a good Indian restaurant on every corner

Stay tuned throughout the rest of the year...


Anonymous said...

The cookbook challenge sounds fun except for the cooking part. Does it count if I read the cookbooks and have my husband cook things from them? :)

Anonymous said...

I am actually intrigued by the cookbook challenge but I PROMISED myself NO challenges this year! Argh, what are you doing to me?? By the way, in my last comment to you I MEANT to write "your" readers, not "our" readers - so embarrassed. You must have thought I was crazy presumptuous or something!

Anonymous said...

the cookbook challenge is just so tempting.

after all, what could be better than food and books? two of life's greatest pleasures :)

Eva said...

I haven't read a book for the science challenge either! I picked out all books from my library, and although they were all there when I made the list, every time I visit they're checked out. :( Very annoying!

The cookbook challenge sounds like fun, but I'm trying desperately right now NOT to buy cookbooks, so I'm avoiding it (it feels like cheating to only use cookbooks I've already read). lol We'll see how long I last. Can't wait to see what you have to say about the vegetarian one-say for meatless meals!

Emily Barton said...

Stef, you know, I'm sure somewhere there are cookbooks with very easy appetizers you could prepare...

Court, don't worry. I'm an editor: it's my job to know what the author meant. I didn't even really notice. Don't join the cookbook challenge. You've got a novel to write (oh yeah, so do I). As much as I'd LOVE to hear the results of your joining this challenge, if you're going to break your no challenges rule, I'm hoping you'll save it for my Ecojustice challenge coming later this month (for Earth Day).

RR, my thoughts exactly!

Eva, yes, but once you get your hands on them, you'll read ten science books in the time it takes me to read one. Technically, can't cookbooks sort of count as science books? Cooking's all about biology and chemistry, isn't it?

Anne Camille said...

IMO, baking is about chemistry. Cooking is about --- art, maybe? At any rate, a little less exacting than baking. Since I can sometimes get it right with cooking, but have yet to succeed with baking after 40years of trying, I'm sticking with this distinction!

I do like reading cookbooks though and have over 100 (ridiculous for a non-cook, isn't it?). Don't know that I'll do this challenge completely, but I may read & write about one or two of them.

ZoesMom said...

I can see how the cookbook challenge would be a lot of fun if you like to cook, but I can't even imagine reading a cookbook, let alone 6 cookbooks and having to cook 6 recipes. Yikes! Cooking is so not my thing. This challenge is something I wish my husband would do so I could reap all the rewards with none of the work.

The poetry challenge is much more up my alley. I just may be up for that one. I just picked up a book of poetry by Raymond Carver...

Eloise said...

They sound like a great collection of books, I love the Sally Fallon title. I think I'm going to have to join the poetry challenge too, so much for my no more challenges resolution!

Anne Camille said...

I just followed the links to the Science Challenge. I really like its purpose and that they are compiling the reviews in a wiki.

One book that you might like to read for this challenge is Francis Collins' book The Language of God. You might consider it a good companion to The Human Genome as Collins writes about his work with the Genome Project and how he balances that with his belief in God. A good argument for how science and religion are not in opposition.

jns said...

You know, Emily, I suspect that a cookbook could be read like a science book with the right attitude! I've always found Madeleine Kamman very analytical, for instance. Or perhaps a book by Harold McGee--I'd love to have a note about On Food and Cooking.

My second passion is cookbooks. I like to cook, but I loved to read cookbooks even more and the collection is bursting out the doors. I may have to consider this challenge.... But how to choose a title?

I am horrified to discover that I neglected to include your name in the Science-Book Challengers when I made the page up at Ars Hermeneutica. If you'd send me a note saying okaying it via this comment form, I'll rectify that situation right away.

Emily Barton said...

Cam, you're right. BAKING is more about chemistry, although cooking does involve things that are familiar from chemistry lab, measuring (well, for some people) and boiling points. But I much prefer to think of cooking as an art.

ZM, don't you have some kids' cookbooks lying around the house? Making PB & J sandwiches with Zoe wouldn't be THAT much work :-)! Meanwhile, will look forward to reading your poetry challenge post.

Eloise, funny how many of us have made "no more challenge" resolutions. Maybe we should really be making, "be more picky about challenges" resolutions?

JNS, choosing the titles was the hardest part. I decided to go with: one brand new (Bittman), one re-read (Bracken), one geared toward nutrition (Fallon), and two "international cuisines." Meanwhile, don't be horrified. I figured I'd notify you once I'd finally read a book. For some reason, though, the link you've given me doesn't work. You can email me if you'd like: emilymb95 AT gmail DOT com.

Rebecca H. said...

How great that you're joining in on the poetry challenge! The more I think about it, the more I like the challenge, as so many people seem needlessly afraid of writing about poetry. It's really not a difficult and frightening thing!

Susan said...

I joined the Poetry challenge!
You talked me into it....I did a poetry critique already, though it was a bit nervewracking, it's been 20 years since i last did one!! On to Ted Hughes, then....will join the cookbook challenge shortly. I think we are challenge sluts too!!!

Feminine Feminist said...

Forget the writing about it... I want to be there for the TASTING!! Preferably accompanied by a glass of rioja or something appropriate. Good to catch up with your thoughts. I've been composing an email in my head to you and B... you've both been in my thoughts recently and I can't explain why (but I'll try to in my email).

Love FF xx

Emily Barton said...

Dorr, you're right: people don't write enough about poetry. I think many of us were made to feel intimidated by bad, pretentious teachers who seemed to want it to be incomprehensible. I came to appreciate it a little more when I had some professors in college who were obviously passionate about it.
And now, with all these passionate bloggers, well...need I elaborate?

Susan, may I raise my glass to a fellow book and challenge slut?

FF, well, you know you have an open invitation anytime to come do some tasting (although, I think it's really time for Bob and me to come over there, if we can ever drag him out of the pulpit). Thinking about you a lot, too (must be memories of spring in NYC), and can't wait to get your email. oxoxoxo E