So, what?

Hello, world! Happy 2013! Apologies for disappearing at the end of 2012, the fourth quarter of the year was not my own and this space (unfortunately, heartbreakingly) fell by the wayside. In that craziness, I found myself second guessing my writing, my stories, the goal of this space, and so lacked the passion to put pen to paper. I gut-checked and then abandoned every single thing I set out to write — there are six or seven posts sitting in my drafts folder begging to be completed, glaring at me every time I sign in to WordPress. What makes anything I’m sharing worthwhile? Who am I to declare myself an authority on this subject? Why would someone want to read this anyway? WHY DOES THIS EVEN MATTER ANYMORE?

My friend Katie recently, poignantly expressed similar anxieties which reminded me that I went through this same thing my senior year of college with my thesis. It was during this sometimes arduous, always frustrating undertaking when I discovered how much I love to write.

From the moment you declare your pursuit of the English discipline, the fact that you won’t graduate if you turn your paper in one minute late on the day it’s due has just enough clout to make you crazy nervous about having to sprint to East College to make the deadline.  (At 4:56pm on April 23, 2010, there were people running for their lives across the Academic Quad in order to get their theses in under the deadline.  Thankfully, I was not one of these people). And then, in an instant, it’s over.  You place the beautifully bound culmination of your college career into your professor’s hands and then go down pitchers of imported beer at GMan on his dime.

For the entirety of my college career, the thought of writing a 50+ page paper was incredulous — I couldn’t fathom finding a book compelling enough on which to write more than maybeeee more than 20 pages. If you had asked me about my thesis early in the Spring of 2010, I would definitely not have jumped up and down and said, “YES I LOVE WRITING THIS THESIS!  IT’S THE MOST GLORIOUS EXPERIENCE IN THE WORLD!”  No.  I would have exclaimed something more along the lines of, “WHAT KIND OF TERRIBLE MASOCHISTS REQUIRE ENGLISH STUDENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS TORTUROUS, ANTIQUATED RITUAL OF THESIS-ING?!”  In reality, however, Professor Ness was not out to fail us.  He wanted each and every one of us to succeed and more importantly, cherish and revel in our work.

For every single senior writing a thesis, the fueling question for our writing was the same: so, what? We wrote on inebriation in Shakespearean comedies, discussed class and race and the projects in Eugenides’ Middlesex, contemplated why in heaven’s name we were waiting for Godot, attempted to understand Faulkner’s Benji, meditated on the infinite jest that is Infinite Jest, and tried to demystify the construction of a 20th century Victorian novel. It didn’t matter that our twelve subjects couldn’t have been farther from one another because ultimately, we all had the same endgame: why does any of this matter?

And that was the clincher: it only had to matter to each of us individually. If we had an answer to the “so, what?” question, the story we had set out to tell in our theses were undoubtedly worth something.*

The stories I share here are not going to resonate with everyone who happens upon my blog, and that’s ok — everyone has their own experience to tell. My stories of collaborative birthday cake-making, last-minute barbeque-throwing, late-night dagwood constructing, midnight blondie-snatching, food retreat attending (amongst others) might not be revolutionary, but they are my own. This love for food wouldn’t be complete without the passion to share food: from my sisters and parents, to my culinarily adventurous Romans, to my Hungarian relatives who claim to not speak English but engage in conversation just the same while forcefeeding you a massive bowl of meat and potatoes though you have already politely declined — for me, the love of food and the love to share food transcends familial, cultural, and other barriers to no end. These associations have brought me to tears over a pot of goulash at a restaurant in Budapest. These moments have fueled my family to make loaf of kalács after loaf of kalács after loaf of kalács to perfect the art, only to devour all three loaves and start all over. These shared interests caused six of us to order the exact same pasta dish in Florence and (four years later) proceed to talk about it every time we’re together. This love causes us to pop bottle after bottle of champagne, no matter if we’re simply enjoying being together or if we’re celebrating a great life feat.

So, what? So, these are the moments that matter to me. Experimenting in the kitchen after hours, the 20-year-old magazines that fall open to the tired-and-true holiday cookie recipes, the chocolate splattered and flour-caked copy of The Joy of Cooking, the inspiration drawn from colors, seasons, traditions, and family. These alternately momentous and quotidian moments of my life are equally meaningful in my world of food and beyond and so, I have chosen to share them with you.

*I read John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman my senior year of high school with Monica Matouk.  The book was unlike anything I had ever read, and my 18-year-old self became increasingly frustrated with the structure and narration.  In her super cool, non-pressuring, and often silent way, Ms. Matouk made it so The French Lieutenant’s Woman infiltrated my thoughts and plagued the rest of my English career, high school and beyond — she and this book are the main reasons I became an English major in the first place.  Even though I tried desperately to find another book on which to write, there was a reason I was meant to write on this book. I kept dreaming about the characters and the brilliance of the narrative —  I had to finally admit to myself that here was no way I was NOT going to write my thesis on this 20th century Victorian novel.
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