Want to play show and tell? I do. But I’m going to tell first and show second. My new book, Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity, is being released by Seal Press this week. The story follows me from my wacky childhood to the current day, with the major beats in between, all the while connecting to my overarching passion: food. Delicious food, gourmet food, comfort food, spicy food, weird food, classic food. Cooking, eating out, take out, and even gastronomic tourism. My Cuban, Greek, Irish, and German ancestry provided me with a rich cultural and culinary cupboard to draw from. Not only do I talk about these family recipes, I share them.
Here’s the “show” part, an excerpt from the part of the book where I’m 21, just out of college and trying very hard to make the transition from being a conceptual lesbian to an actual one. I’ve just met a woman named Deb in Henrietta Hudson’s bar, during Pride weekend:
Deb was a lithe brunette with paper-pale skin and blue eyes. She looked like an accidentally pretty camp counselor. She held a beer in her hand, but unlike my drink, it was more like a prop than a lifeline.
Deb and I talked for another few minutes, then introduced our friends to each other. When it came time to leave, we all walked across town together, because Deb had an East Village studio apartment that she used to share with her ex-girlfriend but now occupied all alone.
“It’s filled with all of our stuff, all jumbled up,” she said. “I’m supposed to be separating it out, but it’s hard.”
“How did you meet her?” I asked.
“She was my women’s studies professor,” she said, with hints of embarrassment and pride. “We were together for eight years.”
I’d dressed for the date with the particular awareness that I was going on a date with a woman. I wore jeans and Doc Martens and a T-shirt with a puffy vest. I think I even wore a hat. On the park bench, I felt equal parts a) like I was playing a lesbian in a play and b) really fierce, really good in my skin.
“Dashing,” I said to my friend Rachel before I left. Deb and I hadn’t talked about my sexual history, and I felt so uncomfortably like a giant sham that I haltingly disclosed that most of my dating experience had been with men, although I was trying to change that. She chuckled when I touched on the female straight roommate I was in love with in college. “Both of those things are normal,” she said. “I know so many lesbians who have short hair and glasses and wear rainbow jewelry and let on like they’re gold star lesbians, but if you actually start talking to them, they’ve dated plenty of men in the past.”
For our next date, I asked Deb to come over for brunch. It was a worthy occasion to test out Almost Vegetarian. I’d been reading the cookbook like a book—because it wasn’t just a compendium of “Chicken or Tofu Whatnot.” Diana Shaw had taken the time to pack the book with helpful tips and definitions: fresh herbs and their flavor profiles. Cooking terms. What to do with unfamiliar vegetables and when they were in season. What made jasmine rice different from basmati, morels different from shiitakes, and how to cook them. Back in 1994, she advised me to buy organic potatoes so that I could safely eat their skins.
I decided to make the lentil salad with sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese, and serve it with a crusty baguette and mimosas.
Once Deb arrived, I made nervous conversation denuded of any kind of substance because I was set on kissing her. I had never been so bold as to kiss someone. I had always been kissed. I had no idea how to initiate. But I did. After our meal, I reached up and kissed her, my hands brushing her slim hips in their worn denim.
So now that you’ve got a taste of the book, I hope you’ll read more about it at lickingthespoonbook.com, and pick up a copy at your local independent bookstore or online. Please keep up with me on facebook and on Twitter@candacewalsh. I also write the food column, “Good Taste,” at AfterEllen.com, and will be teaching at the Wild Mountain Memoir Conference, along with EJ Levy and Ariel Gore, March 15-17 at the Sleeping Lady Resort in Washington state. HWhile you’re all up in my business, why not peek at the adorable slideshow from my 10/1/11 wedding last year in Hudson, NY?
Candace Walsh is the author of Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity. Her writing has appeared in numerous national and local publications, in Newsday, Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Mademoiselle, New York magazine, and New Mexico Magazine. She has also worked on staff at Condé Nast International, Mothering, and currently, as the managing editor of New Mexico Magazine. She edited Seal Press anthologies Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women, (a Lambda Literary Award finalist) and Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On. Her essays have been published in the anthology Here Come the Brides; on Slate’s Double X; and in the Santa Fe Reporter. She lives in Santa Fe with her wife Laura André, their two children, and two dogs.