Friday, February 23, 2007

Reading vs. Doing

When I was first married, I cooked a lot. We gave a lot of dinner parties and brunches; even our camping trips included excellent food. I also bought a lot of cookbooks and read all the big food writers. My favorite was the wonderful, much-missed Laurie Colwin. Once I had young children, however, all that went kaput, as you can imagine. No need to give the ugly details. I still enjoy cooking and entertaining, but keeping up with everyone's schedules means that dinner at our house is usually pretty basic. Meatloaf, anyone?

When my children were old enough to play outside, I discovered gardening. What a good hobby for a person whose days were spent largely at home! I planted flowers and shrubs and vegetables, and then we moved to a bigger house and I did it all over again. I also read all the big garden writers; favorites included Katharine Sergeant White's Onward and Upward in the Garden, Allen Lacy, Henry Mitchell, and the fictitious Amos Pettingill of White Flower Farm. Then my children went to school and summer camp, I got a real job, and suddenly there were many fewer hours available for tinkering around outside. My current garden, like my current mode of cooking, is a greatly simplified version of its earlier incarnation.

I’ve recently begun knitting again. And what am I reading? Knitting books, and especially knitting blogs. The knitting world has exploded in recent years, and the amount of good writing available on line is really amazing. I thought it might be fun to have my own knitting blog. If there had been blogs back when I was cooking and gardening so much, I would have wanted one of those also. But one blog (this one) is enough.

So I find that I'm not satisfied to just have the hobby; I am compelled to read (and write!) about it too. I come by this urge naturally. I know I've mentioned before about my father and his time spent reading fly fishing books vs. actually fly fishing. And I can't be alone! It's obvious that other people want to read about food, gardens, and knitting, given how many books there are about these topics. I know that sometimes people read about their hobbies during periods when they are unable to participate in them. Hence the popularity of garden catalogs in winter.

It occurs to me that the one hobby that has remained constant throughout my life, though, is reading itself. Sometimes what I read is an extension of my other interests, but most of the time I just read to read. I don’t imagine I’ll ever exchange that for another hobby.

While I don't cook or garden like I used to, I haven’t lost my interest in good food and garden writing. I’m almost done with Ruth Reichl’s book Garlic and Sapphires, which I’ll review in the next few days. And a quick Technorati search yields 1,610 blogs about gardening.


Anonymous said...

I like this idea of reading as a common and constant thread while other "phases" of life come and go, and while children go through their different stages.
I've been through squash, tennis, hockey, running, gym, knitting (!), sewing, DIY, gardening (in a non-serious way), even the odd phase of cooking, and probably others, as well as the children bit, but for me too, reading is the constant.

Anonymous said...

For me too. And the cooking, entertaining, gardening sound like me, also. Add tennis, painting, and traveling (another constant -- as long as there's the money and the time to go). To the kids and husband, add a dog and two cats and you've got my household.

Interesting what you say about Laurie Colwin. I used to love her novels in my twenties, especially _Another Marvelous Thing._ How astonished I was to discover she's a graduate of my daughter's high school: Cheltenham High School. They have a "wall of fame" of distinguished alums and Colwin is one of them, as is Maxine Kumin and Benjamin Netanyahu (just to name the ones I can think of offhand).

Small world.

BTW, I really want to get Colwin's popular cookbook now -- someone told me the tomato pie recipe is to die for.

Becky Holmes said...

And her recipe for roast chicken. The best ever.

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