The lovely Amy McCoy, author of the cookbook Poor Girl Gourmet and genius behind the blog of the same name (www.poorgirlgourmet.blogspot.com) answers our Top Five:
1. What's on your nightstand right now?
It appears that you've caught me at a very food-centric reading time; normally, there's only one food-related book in rotation at a time, but not so now. I always have a few books that I'm working on, and the current pile includes Paula Butturini's Keeping the Feast: One Couple's Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy. I heard an interview with Paula Butturini on NPR shortly after her book was released, and was intrigued by the fact that food played such an integral role in maintaining normalcy during her husband's illness; it's remarkable to me how important and unifying a role food can play in our lives, and how the act of creating meals (the shopping, the preparation, and then the enjoying) can provide a sense of meaning and accomplishment even in the most difficult times. I'm also reading The Oldways Table: Essays and Recipes from the Culinary Think Tank by Oldways founder K. Dun Gifford and Sara Baer-Sinnot. It's incredibly inspirational to read their approach to food, and to know that Oldways was founded well before eating whole, fresh, local foods was as accepted as it is today. And, speaking of ahead of his time, Wendell Berry's The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry is also in the mix; it's nice to be able to read a profound essay about our relationship to the land, work, and food before bed every now and again, and Berry never disappoints.
2. How do you write?
I am a write-in-quiet type. Generally, I tend to write most effectively in the afternoon, and I find that ideas that have been ricocheting around my head for days will suddenly gel when I'm doing the most mundane of tasks; washing dishes is the most common one during which I find myself ready to write, at which point, I need to dry my hands and get to the computer straight away. I generally don't have writer's block (this is likely due to the fact that I am not ever at a loss for the spoken word, either). I'm not yet a full-time writer, though I intend to change that in the near future. When I was writing the cookbook, writing was my full-time gig, both because of how quickly the manuscript had to be delivered (just over four months from the time it was picked up by Andrews McMeel), and also because that old day job of mine was nonexistent.
3. Name the first time or moment you realized you were a writer.
I think I'm still getting used to this. When I was a child, and through my teen years, I knew I was a writer. During a writing class in college, the professor announced to the class, "If you don't write every day, you're not a writer." Sad to say what the state of my self-esteem must have been at nineteen years old, but I didn't write every day, and so I gave up on being a writer for quite a while. I took writing classes here and there as an adult, but usually without enough time outside of work to actually spend writing, so my writing was amateurish, as I would rush to get assignments done in time for class reviews. It was only once I was unemployed that I was able to dedicate the time to writing, and improve at it. Or, perhaps, return to where I was with it - in terms of confidence - as a younger person.
4. What are you working on now?
For the most part, I'm working on book promotion for Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-bones Budget, though I do have a good-sized backlog of recipes burning a hole in my recipe notebook, as well as essays that must eventually get out of my head and onto my blog. I also have an idea for a second "Poor Girl Gourmet" cookbook, so, with luck, I'll be able to start work on that in the not-too-distant future.
5. Favorite recent find.
I love making jams and jellies, and don't normally buy them because I figure I can do a decent enough job on my own, but I recently found these jams - through Twitter (oh, and I'm pretty excited about Twitter, too) from a company called Sunchowder's Emporia. The woman who runs the company, Wendy, was downsized out of a job, took her love of cooking and turned it into this wonderful company with interesting flavored jams, like peach-lavender (which I use as a glaze for goat cheese-stuffed chicken legs) and zucchini-ginger. They're fabulous. In addition to Sunchowder's Emporia and Twitter, I love IceMilk Aprons, a small family-owned company out of Atlanta, making the loveliest heirloom aprons. I'm also pretty jazzed up about the Romano beans, less commonly known winter squashes (including Boston Marrow and Marina di Chioggia), and Armenian cucumbers (really, squash, but they're called cucumbers, presumably because they're eaten more like cucumbers - sliced and uncooked) growing in our garden.