Friday, June 20, 2008

From the Kitchen of Petunia Face

I must be going to that special section of Hell reserved for people who burn books. I bet you this tiny corner of Hades looks a lot like the check out line at Ikea, maybe the 'a' in Hades has an umlaut, or maybe it looks more like the toy aisle at Walmart heavily laden with plastic guns and parental advisory stickers. Except I didn't really burn any books; I cooked them. Specifically, I tore out some pages, brushed them with vegetable oil tipped with soy sauce and then I baked them at 400 degrees for one hour.

And I've always said I don't know how to cook...
When the timer went off I let the pages cool to the touch. Then I crumpled them up tightly in my hand, a wad of warm words, smoothed them out and ironed the pages until they were soft.

With a finely grated reggiano? Delish! And so full of fiber!

This is part of my Secret Service Special Ops Project for Behind Curtain #2 Place of Employment. I needed old book pages but am too broke to go buy actual antique books. So I ripped out a few pages of The Tempest from my hefty volume of Complete Shakespeare, a poem in Spanish by C├ęsar Vallejo, a page of a short story by Flaubert, all along very much aware of the symbolic implications of destroying my beloved books for the promise of a commute across the bridge every day and a paycheck.

When Bryan got home last night he asked me what I was cooking. The house smelled crispy, a hot wok of consonants, accents a grave and fresh r's trilling in oil. I told him I was cooking a book and his eyes got big and happy. Bryan has this idea that if I would only write a book we would be rich and he would never have to work again. I am pretty sure he got the idea from this one afternoon when we were driving in Pacific Heights and I pointed out Danielle Steele's house, a wide expanse of stucco tiles, palm trees and cabana boys. (Of course Danielle Steele's books are best poked with a fork and then nuked in the microwave for 2 minutes, a guilty feast of shit.) What I did not point out to him that day or any day, every day, in fact, is all of the ho-hum houses, the apartments and rented studios, the basements converted into bedrooms of most writers. The writers who do not rip out the pages of their books to faux antique the pages under the broiler. Maybe that's what Sylvia Plath was doing that day with her head in the oven, retrieving her books, her integrity, her passion.

Sadly I lack Plath's fortitude and am now off to affix my fautiqued baked pages a l'orange to a presentation board. If there was ever a moment, an epiphany when I suddenly knew I was a sell out--this right now? My glue gun heating up next to my now beheaded copy of The Tempest? This. This is it.

14 comments:

Jules said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jules said...

I'm laughing at the image of you presenting your concept as the scent of soy sauce wafts gently in the air, trying to talk over the grumbling stomachs of hungry executives wondering who ordered Chinese food.

(sorry about the delete--damn typos.)

S.HOPtalk said...

Oh my goodness...I can not stop LOL over here. You are sooooo funny. Rather than a sell-out, I think this proves (again) that you are in fact, multi-talented.

Best of luck with your presentation and please keep up the writing...I look forward to it each and every day!!

Meril said...

I started reading your post and thought, oh god, she's turning PF into a crafting blog! Glad to hear you're just cooking the books in pursuit of many more magical moments at Anthropologie.

Jessie said...

Gourmet literature... sounds delish.

megan said...

Got damn! The way you out the words together leaves me breathless, yes, I EAT IT UP!

Judy said...

Always ask your Mother! My old, secret family recipe for faux antiquey literature/music/foreign newspapers, et.al (and no real books were harmed in the process): Copy what you want on a copy machine-vary paper sizes to specification of project. Make a strong cup of black tea (I always use Lipton's Pekoe for my projects)-steep until dark brownish colored-may use extra tea bags for speed. Cool tea before proceeding (safety first-an old crafting proverb). Use a sponge or papertowels-soaked but not dripping in tea mixture. Wipe over copied literature copies-uneven is better-don't soak paper or it will tear. Dry in air and then iron them-taking care not to burn them or yourself- tell-tale imprints from the iron are undesirable. Voila...you have faux antiqued books, music-old letters written in fountain pen are great.
You don't get the homey smell of soy baked books for the spouse, but you do save the original books and leave a smaller carbon footprint. Call me (I'm making the disgusting hand gesture with thumb and little finger spread in the vague area of my ear complete with appropriate eye/mouth posturing) so we can decide about the weekend plans to torture ourselves by "shopping" in a high end area without actually purchasing or stealing anything-except lunch (bought not stolen)-and playing somewhere with The Zoemeister-already a consumate retail therapist. Wish I could get off on a couple of barettes and a plastic child-sized comb and mirror 'cause that's about all I can afford. Let's look at Il Fiore for the last living true alchemist's potion guaranteed to break old habits and start one on the path to success and enlightenment. And, if they're still in business, I'm out of their life and complextion altering "Complexe de Fleur" for a sum of money that would pay a chunk of my mortgage-well...it IS the most fantastic potion ever made and it DOES last for months...and I DO have to "take care of myself" don't I?! Love, Mom

Ana said...

S,

I was wondering if you were trying to improve on those culinary skills!
New recipe???

loveya

Jill said...

I'm quite certain that szechuan cooked books are a delicacy somewhere in the Far East...

kristinimartini said...

your mom continues to amaze me. i was gonna tell you about the tea method, but she beat me to it. i am, however, still going to try your method for some prints i have lying (or is it laying? you tell me writer lady;)) the studio. could be cool for my series based on cabinets of curiosities. if they turn out well, maybe i'd send ya' one.....

karey m. said...

i'll have you know that i am the assistant vice president of the danielle steele fan club. amman, jordan charter.

you'll be hearing from our attorney. and also? i've just reported you to PETOB {people for the ethical treatment of old books}.

you've just lost a reader, pee face.

and when you DO publish your first novel? i'll be there. with a bucket full of the blood of aesop's fables, a raisin in the sun, and the entire bobbsey twins series.

xoxo.

Misplaced Country Girl said...

Well at least you did it right and used the classics. I don't know if you get points for using good quality writing or if it makes it worse that you put Shakespeare in the oven. Either way I think it's pure genious! I hope the people that assigned taht special Ops Project finally come to their good senses and hire you.

megan said...

Karey- You called her Pee face! I'm laughing uncontrollably, I think of Susannah as P-Face, for short, but not Pee Face.

v8_grrl said...

I'm pretty sure that was exactly what Sylvia was doing with her head in the oven...Actually...I'm positive. I hope this book paper thing is a huge project so that you can live my project nightmares I'm having right now...and also...Please do NOT post the directions, because then I will feel the NEED to try it...and that will take another 3 months of my life away form my poor poor family :)
ps...The Zoey, with a Y, is my ex's daughter...she's a cutie...My kid is Olive...with an O :)
xo
v8grrl