July 02, 2011
It feels like it's been an eternity since I've actually written - created - anything. I'm hearing from your feedback that some of you feel the same. I'm sorry for this. In understanding my absence from writing, I'm taken back to my days as a graduate student at the University of Hawaii and East West Center.
I was standing in the heart of Waikiki with my 9-foot long board leaning against my side. Vikram Seth - world famous Indian poet and novelist, and author of A Suitable Boy stood next to me dripping in his slightly too-long-to-be-cool orange shorts. As we waited for our ride - Kristin - to pull up her makeshift surf mobile - I asked him about process.
At the time, I was supposed to be writing my thesis on Japanese foreign investment in India. Instead, I was immersed in one of his most accomplished works.
I'd met Vikram over an extra glass of water (inside joke) at a conference and asked him if he wanted me to teach him how to surf. I never expected him to say yes.
In the week I got to briefly know him, I also became mildly obsessed with what I deem as one of his most creative and beautiful pieces of work, A Suitable Boy - 1,349 pages, and one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the English language. There was something about his poetry and how he weaved it into his writing that pulled me in. Truth-be-told I was less impressed with his surfing - but that's a story for another blog post.
As he stood there, he stared down at a funny little Hawaiian bird pecking away at a corner of the hot sidewalk contemplating life - his next book - meeting me? Who knew? I asked him how he found the creativity to write. How he managed to put so much into his work. His answer was focus. That's all he was striving to do. He wasn't planning marches, leading literary expeditions...organizing people to learn more about what he deemed important on any given day. Back in 1994 he certainly wasn't on Facebook or Tweeting. He was writing books. He was traveling reading his works, and then he was getting back to his home and hopefully writing some more.
For someone like myself who lives on the constant edge of being creative, but also needing to lead - administrate/organize - rally friends around causes I think are important, this complete investment in one aspect of your art really struck me. The focus and dedication and lack of deviation was so impressive to me, a person who can always be swayed from my writing task at hand to do whatever else seems appealing at the moment - start up a random conversation with a stranger at a coffee shop or organize my sock drawer.
You can't administrate to create is what I heard him saying.
So much of my last six months have been spent administrating. Traveling, publicizing, and pitching my first cookbook. I went from Baltimore to Manhattan, Minneapolis - Philadelphia - Indiana - Long Grove, Illinois for book signings, cooking events and on-camera appearances. I had a booth at the Chicago Housewares Show in March to showcase my new product, The Spice Tiffin (We sold it to Williams-Sonoma).
I taught classes at Whole Foods and Sur la Table. I taught for the City of Chicago's cooking school, World Kitchen. I appeared at Printers Row Lit Fest and Chicago's Family Fun Tent in Millennium Park. We've sold more copies of my book The Indian Slow Cooker than we ever expected - it's still the No. 1 Indian cookbook on Amazon since its release last October despite the release of two other Indian cookbooks by acclaimed Indian chefs.
But. But. But. There was little time to write. To create. To type these words in between. Maybe some of this was a lack of self discipline. So much of it was life taking care of two little girls - having a husband who travels for work - and a household to run on top of all the other stuff.
Now, as I type at 3:33 in the morning on a Saturday I realize it's my time to sit down and write. Create and give you recipes once again. Thank you to all of you for your patience. And thank you to Vikram for reminding me that you can't be everything to everyone all the time. I'm still waiting for you to include me and a surfing scene in your next book. I was right there when you caught your first wave in Waikiki. I saw your mouth open wide and the look in your eye that only someone who successfully rides a wave in - however small - feels.
But, as I wait for your next piece of great, I will write. Cook. And write again. Because at the end of the day I'm only fulfilled if I'm creating with words and in the kitchen.
I hope you'll stay tuned for my next blog post: Strawberry Chutney. In one word - utterly addictive. And, I hope you'll write me on how your managing to successfully block out the noise as you continue to create in your own worlds.