Saturday, January 5, 2013
Work in Progress
A funny thing happened to me a few years ago when I read of a new cookbook that intrigued me. I thought, "I have recipes for most of those dishes already, somewhere in these books of mine," then I had a major revelation. "I don't really need another cookbook." This was followed by the bolt-of-lightning realization, "I can cook. I don't need one more cookbook." I've been cooking for over fifty years and enjoying it. I've tried many cuisines and settled on what I like and do best. I might try something totally different from time to time, from a recipe in a magazine, on television or the Internet. But I simply don't need one more book.
Yet I kept most of my cookbooks. In the same way I've kept most of my books over the years. This time, since I'm renting an apartment for one year, it would be wasted energy to unpack all my books and put them into my many bookcases, as next January I may well be packing for another move. Many of the cartons labeled BOOKS will go unopened into one of the big closets. I'll pick a few boxes at random and unpack them onto the shelves. I expect to like looking at the dust jackets and displaying the 20 or 30 books for all to see how erudite I am and am not. I'll unpack some of the cookbooks and probably use them from time to time--but then, I cook mostly from memory anyway.
A crisis occurred when I realized I don't need all these encyclopedias. I struggled to buy encyclopedias in the early 1970s, when a good set was still a necessity of my life. The Encyclopedia Britannica offered many sales plans--ways for the customer to pay in installments. Their telephone salesman was insistent that I use one of them. When I asked if I could just pay the total amount outright I was told no, that wasn't among their plans. I tried to get off the phone with that guy for weeks. He had my number and kept calling although I told him over and over I didn't want to pay in installments. We reached a stalemate and he finally gave up. On vacation in Maine I bought an unused set from a housewife who had fallen for the telephone pitch and had no use for encyclopedias after all.
I took a modicum of pride up until a few years ago that I was still referring to my Britannicas for little questions that might arise, pulling up biographies and pearls of information from decades past. But more and more I was using the Internet for such information, and by the time I got to New Paltz, with my grandsons lugging the heavy boxes to my apartment and asking, "Why do you need all these encyclopedias?" I finally asked myself the same question and had to admit it had been at least two years since I'd opened one. Now, where to donate them--or do I just put them out with the recyclables? The set is dated 1969 and there is a volume missing. Does anybody read encyclopedias? I can't think who that might be.
I continue to look through detritus and hope it's all valuable. I always thought when I moved the next time I'd find those green earrings I wore so often and suddenly couldn't find. In carton after carton I see forgotten mementos and artifacts of pasts epochs from my past. Most are fun to find; some cause me to ask, what on earth did I ever want this for? So far, no luck on the earrings.