Early on when writing The Chef's Secret, I knew that I had two stories to tell, that of Bartolomeo Scappi in the past, and that of his nephew and apprentice,...
“Notice that autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Autumn is, to me, more than pumpkin spice, falling leaves and shelves of Halloween candy. It is, instead, as Nietzsche reportedly said, a season of the soul, rather than that of the world shedding its greenery to settle in for a long winter. I have always looked at this time of year as one of personal change, of restarting and rejuvenating the self, of burrowing into projects and really getting things done. And this season has been thus far one of big change.
Big change #1: OMG a blog post.
Well, COVID really did a number on us, didn't it? And it still hangs on, desperate to keep us divided, hurt, sad, and on our toes. I don't know a single person who wasn't emotionally affected by the virus. But being vaccinated opened the doors again for me, and gave me the opportunity to step back out into the world. More about that in Big Change #3.
Big Change #2: Moving after Living 20 years in one place.
That's right. I had been in the same house for nearly 20 years, and for the majority of my marriage to my awesome husband, Joe. We stuck it out there for so long because our elderly landlady never raised the rent and we knew that we wouldn't find another place with rent so low, or a mortgage that would even come close. She passed away this year at the age of 98 and thus we were forced to find a new place to live. Our move takes us only five minutes from our previous abode, and it's a much nicer, quieter location. But the move itself was incredibly stressful. Some of you can imagine how easy it is to pile up stuff in the attic, but the amount of packrat behavior we had exhibited during our time there was ridiculous. We spent a crazy amount of time at the Goodwill drop off, as well as purging and selling things. The 75 boxes of books we moved was after giving away at least 30-40 boxes to a books for troops charity and to the local library. The new place is amazing, but we learned a huge lesson: Less truly is more.
BIG CHANGE #3: Traveling During a Pandemic
I've just returned from a wonderful two weeks in Italy where I was doing some much needed research on two novels and taking additional promotional photos for my previous books. It was a different trip than I could have imagined, what with wearing masks everywhere (mascherina in Italian) and having to show my vax card at restaurants and museums. But I also felt much safer than I might have imagined, with everyone we encountered following rules for the common good, taking care of each other, and making the best of this weird new reality. It also meant that I encountered far fewer tourists than on previous visits. Why yes, this would be a picture of the Sistine Chapel with barely anyone in it (and one I managed to take before the guards yelled at me).
But it was also a different trip in that I had incredible opportunities to meet with people in Rome, including:
- lunching with Stella, a woman who had previously invited me to visit her book club on Zoom
- spending the day in Bomarzo, Italy with a tour guide friend, Thomas, and his friend Stefano, who is a taxi driver, and who later extended an invitation to dine at his home and to meet his wife (and it was SUCH a great meal!).
- having the first opportunity to try out the food at a restaurant that isn't even yet open in Rome (will its doors in late November or early December), Enoteca Bellini (no relation to the one in Florence). It was hands down the best meal I had, even beating out a 2 star Michelin spot. Add it to your future to-try list.
- meeting a longtime Internet friend and kindred food spirit, Farrell Monaco of Tavola Mediterranea. I'm bummed we forgot to do a selfie! We were too busy chatting about Rome and the world. You may remember that Farrell recreated some of the recipes from Feast of Sorrow and The Chef's Secret, including:
But, this trip also showed me that, at least for this last month,
BIG CHANGE #4: My Body is Out to Thwart Me
Getting older has come with its fair share of angst, but this fall has been a doozy. I've been lucky in that I didn't really gain a ton of weight during the quarantine year, and what I did I think I dropped during the fervor of moving and traveling. But I've been dealing with some plantar fasciitis that is frustrating and somewhat hindering. Plus, booze seems to wreak havoc on me in ways that it didn't when I was younger, and that's a serious bummer when in Italy surrounded by good wine. However, the kicker to this big change is that I started out with a gash on the head, hitting it on the first morning on a metal spiral staircase on the hotel terrace. I can't believe how bad the head can bleed...it just wouldn't quit and it wasn't a terribly big cut. But I learned about this wild powder that they have to stop bleeding though! How on earth did I make it this far in life without knowing of its existence? Here is a US equivalent. Then, on the way back, at 6AM while heading to the taxi waiting outside, I fell on the stairs of the hotel and smacked up my knee real good. Fortunately I could still walk and managed to make it home with a massive bruise and a huge scab from skinning it up under the fabric.
All of this underscores that we truly aren't really anything without our health and that is forefront on my mind upon my return.
BIG CHANGE #5: I know that I can easily write a book a year if I Just put my butt in that chair
Ok, so with that said, the publishing industry is whacked as a result of COVID, so when you ask me when my next book is coming out, I don't actually have an answer for you. But I have learned that I can write well and fast when I sit down and commit to a certain word count a day. My third book is done and in review, and I have book four drafted and book five halfway drafted with a goal of that first draft done by the EOY. This is a very different way of writing than when I began with Feast of Sorrow, which had me haphazardly writing on weekends over the course of five years or so. And in the midst of all that, I'm also working on edits. I feel like this is an important milestone to acknowledge, that I no longer have to wait to feel inspired or to feel like I am good enough to write. I know that inspiration is not the real fuel for finishing a book, and I have the reviews and readers to prove the latter. It's about hard work and consistency and sitting down at the page and putting something on it. The fact that these Big Changes haven't totally derailed me in the last few months and stopped my writing is a huge win for me. This photo of a stone dragon fighting off lions and wolves is just a hint of what is to come in the future!
This fall I plan on posting more recipes and book giveaways, so stay tuned!
And don't forget, I love to talk with book clubs!