Project Update #1
A little snick snack of what I'm writing right now in other channels. Plus, a percolating project idea and a meditation on fall cooking.
Hey peeps! Welcome to the first round of bonus content made just for you as a thanks for your support. In the future, these additional posts will be for paid Amateurs only, but I want to make sure everybody gets a taste of what goes on behind the curtain.
This space is gonna be a little more of a chit chat/light brag/brainstorm situation so you can get an idea of what I’m doing with my time. After all, every dollar I receive in subscriptions allows me to write Amateurist posts and to start plotting my creative pursuits for the next few months.
First and foremost, a brag.
One of the gigs that’s kept me movin’ groovin’ has been a sportswriting job that I talked my way into after I did some static copy work for a website back in April. While I was interviewing for the initial job, I took some advice I’d read on one of my favourite professional development sites, Ask a Manager. Alison Green, the eponymous manager, suggests filling out portfolios with things you want to do more of, rather than just things you’ve done. In my case, I spend a lot of time thinking about baseball and I’d give just about anything to turn that energy into a career. Or at least a job.
So when it got to the Zoom interview with the site’s creator, Gurdeep, we were talking about the future of the game in the time of COVID. I mentioned I was looking to write more sports and that I had some ideas. In what felt like a feat of magic (but was actually just excellent advice and decent execution), Gurdeep suggested we do a trial run of a few articles to start. A few pieces turned into a bunch, and a bunch turned into a standing monthly order.
Thanks to Gurdeep and Gusata.com, I’ve got thirteen bylines to my name covering Major League Baseball, my longtime love.
The next three articles are in the works now and will likely see publication in the next month!
Some ideas I’m workshopping for the offseason are:
The art of batmaking
Radio play-by-play announcers who changed the game (I read Jerry Howarth’s memoir this spring and it spurred on some real curiosity into broadcasting history)
Why the game is dying and suggestions for revival (ATTN: COMMISSIONER MANFRED, IT’S NOT THROUGH PACE OF PLAY)
In development news, one of my looser long-term goals is to finish a book. It doesn’t have to be the next Times bestseller, or even worth shopping around. I have no interest in being vetted by Heather Reisman and getting “picked” for her list. I don’t even have aspirations for length. The project is about finishing.
Michelle and I finally finished hanging our collection of art recently (I know, we’ve been here for…many moons), and among the additions was a handwritten cake recipe mounted on a plaque. My nana gave it to me almost 20 years ago while we celebrated our birthdays together as we often did, a day apart at the end of July. She passed away a few years ago and I’ve since inherited a few of her things, including her cookbook.
Over the last little while, I’ve been enamoured with leafing through her absolutely pulverized 1968 edition of Edna Staebler’s Food That Really Schmecks: Mennonite Country Cooking. The recipes alone are worth a look, but what has endeared Nana’s beloved cookbook to me is how many newspaper clippings, postcards, photos, and handwritten notes are tucked between the pages.
It’s clear that she didn’t just use it as a cooking reference. This book was a part of her life, sitting within reach of the corded kitchen phone and the counter where she opened her mail. I think it was one of those cookbooks that didn’t actually provide instruction after a while. The splashed and inscribed pages suggest more of a living support document, where cooking notes lived for the next time around to remind the chef of tweaks to recipes. Perhaps the spine is so masking taped because it sat open to offer answers for any confusion between tsp and tbsp or whether the oven should be at 325 or 375 rather than to insist upon the precise method.
It’s been a few years since I got it. Ever since, an idea has been percolating away on the back burner for a novel based on the idea of a life unfolding through the pages of a cookbook. I’ve been careful to keep the additions in their original place. It might have been sheer chance that a postcard from Jean, postmarked August 2, 1985 from New Zealand, ended up between pages 26 and 27. But perhaps by the time the card arrived at Marigold Crescent, it had been time to start meeting the brisk autumn air with Celery Soup Plus (notes: “Good!” and “use less water”) and Tomato Soup (notes: one check mark).
So my hope is to flesh out and fictionalize some of these little ideas and string a narrative together that pays homage to the life kept between the pages of, as my family has always called it, the Schmeck Book.
As I plod along with this project I intend to share some chapters and sections with you here!
I’m thinking a lot about Thanksgiving traditions this week, and how last year at this time Dana flew out to Vancouver to join Michelle and I for friendsgiving. We hauled ass out of the city and rented a cabin on the Sunshine Coast that was fairly small and simple, but that featured an enormous deck space, a fully kitted-out kitchen, a fire pit, and a wood-fired hot tub.
It rained the whole time.
What I remember distinctly about the trip was our commitment to unwinding. Each of us had been so starved for time off and I recall worrying that I wouldn’t be able to focus on enjoying myself because of lingering work stress. Our mantra became low and slow to remind ourselves that there was no value in rushing through an experience like this. We had no deadlines to meet and nobody’s expectations to uphold. We were in the quiet with only hikes, chopping wood, hot tub soaks, and a feast in our future.
Low and slow came to represent everything we’d been missing until then. Everything we cooked was roasted, simmered, or gently warmed. The hot tub took a full day to reach an adequate lounging temperature, so we took our first dip at midnight in the rain. It was spectacular.
Now as we’re entering a season usually devoted to gathering, I’m definitely lamenting what it will be like for folks in the COVID era. Michelle and I are lucky to have family in the city now, but the barriers to being with one’s community will make lots of people’s fall traditions challenging to recreate. If I’ve learned anything about coping with loneliness and isolation, it’s that allowing those feelings to bloom is actually a service to yourself. We are not made of stone, we are grieving our traditions.
The best favour I’ve done for myself when I feel the particularly flattening weight of this current moment is to let go of the judgement I have for feeling that way, and then committing to doing one thing that I’ve always felt was a touch too over the top to be reasonably called self care or whatever is the preferred term for soul maintenance du jour.
For me, that’s a friendsgiving meal for two. It’s a silly undertaking and I’ll probably struggle to make small enough portions to satisfy just the two of us. I miss hosting friends and sharing food more than I can say. (Thanks to family Sunday dinners, it’s not all gone!) But taking the time to do a favour for oneself, even if it seems ridiculous, can be the low and slow version of steeling the spirit for an unknown winter.
One day at a time, one meal at a time, a big whiff of autumn smells on a walk, one unexpectedly fun phone call, a friend dropping off a pile of mashed potatoes at the door, and suddenly there’s enough of a flame burning big enough to warm you up when you feel down.
My preferred metaphor is choosing to warm one’s mashed potatoes in the oven instead of the microwave. It takes longer, but they’re warm all the way through.
Anyways, cooking is my love language and I love you all. I’ll let you know if there’s extra gravy.