10 Life Lessons from Writers & Chefs (and a Giveaway)

Paper and Salt 2nd Birthday

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.” —Anaïs Nin

I never was much for resolutions; the self-analysis and self-critique we go through every day seemed like enough to keep me busy for a lifetime. Two years ago, though, I made my first serious attempt at a larger, grander goal: starting this blog. It’s been a joy to write and research ever since, and has introduced me to people around the world who love reading and eating too (often at the same time; maybe even while reading this post).

Needless to say, I’ve become a fan of resolutions, and who better to borrow from than famous writers and chefs themselves? So here are 10 pearls of wisdom from my literary and culinary idols that I’m trying to adopt in 2014. See if you can guess who originally wrote them—the answers are below.

  1. Get up every morning no later than eight. (Can break this rule once a week.)
  2. Plan ahead. Plan carefully and shop in advance for what you need. Planning saves money, as well as time and steps.
  3. When people talk listen completely. Don’t be thinking what you’re going to say. Most people never listen. Nor do they observe.
  4. Try never get drunk outside yr own house [sic]
  5. Don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
  6. Never take a mean advantage of anyone in any transaction, and never be hard upon people who are in your power.
  7. Try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!
  8. Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  9. Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.
  10. If time, so fleeting, must like humans die, let it be filled with good food and good talk, and then embalmed in the perfumes of conviviality.

Did you guess who said it?: 1) Susan Sontag, 2) James Beard, 3) Ernest Hemingway, 4) Jack Kerouac, 5) John Steinbeck, 6) Charles Dickens, 7) Julia Child, 8) Henry Miller, 9) Hunter S. Thompson, 10) M.F.K. Fisher


To jump-start that conviviality, I’m celebrating Paper & Salt’s birthday with our annual giveaway: Cuisinart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven (5 quart, in white). 

Trust me, you will want it. For one thing, it’s the perfect vessel for this (which, given the cold, would be a good dinner right about now, no?).

There are ways to enter the giveaway (and yes, you can enter twice):

1) Comment on this post
2) Sign up for the Paper & Salt newsletter (everyone already on the list will be automatically entered to win!)

Giveaway closes on Monday, January 20. The winner will be announced in the next post and in the January newsletter. Apologies to those abroad, but only U.S. residents are eligible to win.

Good luck! Stay tuned for our regularly scheduled programming next week; or, in the immortal words of Mark Twain, “Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”


A Literary Feast: Holiday Dishes from Favorite Writers

P&S MonthlyPaper and Salt is dedicated to recipes of famous writers, but sometimes I get questions that I’d love to answer here. What should I make for a literary book club? Where did you get that author’s quote, and where can I read more about it? Can I visit Allen Ginsberg’s favorite bar?

That’s why I’m starting Paper and Salt Monthlya (very occasional) newsletter that brings you news about bookish food and food-ish books that you won’t find on the blog.

Upcoming issues will include:

  • literary menu suggestions and drink pairings
  • trivia and links about authors and their culinary habits
  • writer’s birthdays and suggested ways to celebrate
  • guides to restaurants and bars with a bookish history
  • giveaways of books that are particularly great
  • the occasional exclusive recipe

The first issue, out next week, will get in the holiday spirit with a menu for a literary feast, featuring a new recipe from the archived papers of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

Sign up here to get the December newsletter. And stay tuned for another new holiday recipe next week!

Of Books and Cooks: 5 Lessons from Year 1

2013 Book Giveaway

In January 2012, I started Paper and Salt. The past year brought a lot of new things: new jobs, new friends, new recipes, new books, new travels. But discussing authors’ favorite recipes here has been the best ‘new’ thing of that New Year, and (to mix up all my holidays at once) I’m thankful.

The past 12 months also brought many lessons about food blogging – new to me, although likely learned by you long ago:

1. Experiment. The best way to develop our own style is to dabble in others’ for a while. If you’re clinging to a sentence or a favorite ingredient, take a moment to let go. See how it feels.

2. Have patience. Taking pictures of food is even more about patience than it is a keen eye or a newfangled camera. You will move things around, making the most trifling of changes (This napkin here? Or here? Or … ?), ad infinitum, until your food gets cold and all the dishes you own are stacked in the sink, discarded after their short-lived modeling careers. And chances are, you’ll pick the first photo you took. Your patience will be what keeps you from throwing your camera across the room.

3. Be inspired. Despite the hours that go into cooking, writing, editing and photographing, the community of food bloggers still make time in the day to be extremely generous, and I’m indebted to many of them. I’ve updated the links section of this blog, if you’re ever in need of some delicious inspiration.

4. Persevere. Posts about baked goods will always, always garner more excitement and stomach rumblings than posts about salad. But never stop writing about salad, if that salad has some poetry in it.

5. Be brave. Writing, just the pure process of it, can be incredibly hard. But harder still is putting that writing out into the world, when you know it’s not perfect. You let it out of of your safe little nest of thought, unchaperoned and a bit underdeveloped, and hope it survives. But sometimes it does one better – sometimes it takes flight.

Continue reading “Of Books and Cooks: 5 Lessons from Year 1”

What Would Faulkner Eat? Recreating the Favorite Recipes of Famous Authors

“Any healthy man can go without food for two days – but not without poetry.” – Charles Baudelaire
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” – George Bernard Shaw

Hemingway in Key West, with future dinner

When Shakespeare said music was the food of love, I think he was only half right. Sure, couples get choked up when a band starts playing their song, and after a breakup every sad song on the radio seems made just for you. But personally, I’m more likely to get misty-eyed when someone invites me over to make risotto, or when sharing a lobster roll at the end of a pier. And when agonizing over why it didn’t work out, you know we all eat ice cream. Why indulge in metaphor? Food is the food of love.

With apologies to Baudelaire, after two days of hunger I would turn in all my collected poems for a good meal. And I can think of a lot of authors who would probably do the same. This blog was inspired by them.

A love of good books often comes with a love of good food.  It’s in the many mouth-watering descriptions we encounter in novels, the wealth of new food memoirs, and the explosion of incredible food writing and blogging online. But it isn’t just today’s writers that have a personal obsession with food. We hear about it in Ted Hughes’ letters, see it in Emily Dickinson’s recipes, and imagine it in Hemingway’s cafés. And when I hear about the food that inspired them, I want to eat it too.

This blog will attempt to recreate the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction. In doing so, it will be part historical discussion, part food and recipe blog, part literary fangirling. Above all, I hope it will be delicious.