The Only Food You Should Ever Want to Have

December 8, 2011

We spoke always of eating when we butchered, listing the foods that came to us with the seasons. We could remember the flavors of every meal, the last time we had known a pear, apples, or jelly. The changing texture of our gravies. We whispered about these meals to one another, speaking all at once . . . Fried potatoes, sausages, hot noodles, corn bread and eggs. Green beans cooked in onion, laid beneath a slab of bacon, creamed corn and peas my mother made, served high up on a plate. Warmed in the pot all day so you couldn’t see what it was. Run together in a stew, in a juice, sauces and all of it dripping. It tasted like the only food you should ever want to have.
— Michelle Hoover, b. 1973
American fiction writer
from “The Quickening,” in Best New American Voices 2004

It’s nearly 9:30 pm as I sit down to cobble up something for Holidailies. I’ve been out and about all day, on errands both solemn and frivolous, received two very important emails, one personal, one business, both of which need further thought and response, and came very close to understanding the True Meaning, almost exactly the way I apprehended it on December 4, 2006, as I gazed at the full moon hanging over a field in Lancaster County.

In years past, the protocol for Holidailies demanded that a post be at least 50 words or one picture. I think I got a later start than others to Holidailies, and I didn’t want a missed day to come so early, but neither did I want to invoke the “one picture or 50 words” rule so early either. Before I came up here I did take a picture of something I will be engaged in later, thinking, well, that’s about all I can do today.

I use WordPress, a blogging software, to create Markings. When I opened the editing screen my eye fell on the list of drafts, pieces I have started but never finished and thus never published, that WP displays in a column off to the side. The title and the quotation engaged my interest all over again, and I clicked it open.

I first prepared this piece in September of 2010. Fresh from Bread Loaf, I was embarking again on my academic year of reading and writing seriously. Michelle Hoover, the author of the epigraph, had been in my Bread Loaf workshop in 2008 with an excerpt from a much later version of The Quickening. She was at Bread Loaf again in 2010, but I didn’t talk to her. By then her book had been published. I had a library copy with me that day in September, that day I climbed the steps to my studio to begin once again to do what my Bread Loaf classmates have done again and again — keep on keepin’ on till you get the right words in the right order.

By happenstance, I opened the old copy of Best New American Voices 2004 to get started, and there was an early version of the text that would become The Quickening. I read it, and then dived into the novel. I paid particular attention to the ways in which the original material from which the epigraph comes had changed by the time it became part of the finished novel. It was an important and fruitful exercise for me in my development as a fiction writer.

The passage drew me in again tonight when I saw it in the list of drafts. Technically, it is a catalogue, a list of items. Using such a list can give depth and texture to a scene or to a character. Dylan Thomas uses them effectively in A Child’s Christmas in Wales, several times. They are the premise of “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien’s amazing story of men at war.

Louisa May Alcott opens Little Women with “‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo.” Alcott was the first author whose entire canon I read through, the first author I imitated. I know better now not to use “grumbled” as a speech tag. And I also know that for me, Christmas could take place easily without my receiving any presents (though I will give lavishly to those for whom I find the absolutely right thing), but that Christmas won’t be Christmas without the special foods that we see only at this time of the year.

I baked this week, my Saint Lucia Day cardamom rolls, even though St. Lucia Day is not until next Tuesday. I took some to my study group this morning, because we won’t be meeting again until after the new year. And tonight, I will sit down to one of my favorite holiday treats for consumption during a Ten O’Clock Drama.

I hope your day was a joyful and productive as mine, and your evening as well.

Thank you for reading, so much, so often.


Love it? Hate it? Just want to say hi?
To comment or to be included on the notify list, e-mail me:
margaretdeangelis [at] gmail [dot] com (replace the bracketed parts with @ and a period)
Follow me on Twitter: