Two kinds of cooking

Creamy Garlic Dressing

There was a time when I devoured new cookbooks, marking them with post-its and eagerly trying new from inside the pages. I tried my hand at making bread, or other more involved dishes that required a bit of time and patience.

Now, there are two kinds of cooking now: aspirational and real life. 

What is aspirational now, was normal before this happened. My weeks are regimented, dinner is simple, and I rely on a rotation of reliable standbys, save for the occasional fancier meal over a weekend. Here's what I mean: beans and rice, some kind of pasta, a big salad (lately with the creamy garlic dressing I share below) curry with whatever mix of lentils I have in the pantry, and perhaps a big scoop of paste from a jar.

Little Gem Salad With Creamy Garlic Dressing
Little Gem Salad With Creamy Garlic Dressing

Last week, I crisped some bacon in a cast iron pan. After draining the fat, I added two cans of chickpeas, plus a handful of frozen peas. I left it on the stove until it was warm, seasoned it with salt and pepper. In a glass measuring cup, I whisked equal parts tahini and yogurt, added a squeeze of lemon and honey, salt and pepper, thinned it with water, then drizzled it over our bowls and called it dinner.

But here's what I really did: I cooked something from nothing, as Tamar Adler likes to say. I cooked with economy and grace. I opened the pantry and, combined with my instincts and experience, made dinner without a recipe.

Isn't that magical? I have to remind myself what a tremendous thing it is, because I used to be one of those people who made something new every night and kept food magazines sprawled open on the dining room table. I'll probably meet her again one day, but until then, here's to keeping things simple. 

Little Gem Salad With Creamy Garlic Dressing (from Eat This Poem)
Little Gem Salad With Creamy Garlic Dressing

Creamy Garlic Dressing

Once I start making something I like, I latch onto it. This recipe has been in my weekly rotation since I first tried it when Laura's book arrived at my door in April. It's just the right thing to make a double batch of, and keep in the fridge all week for easy salads. I've also poured it over steamed broccoli and quinoa (just add an avocado and a bit of cheese to round out the meal). Laura's recipe doesn't use apple cider vinegar, but when I was doing three things at once one evening I ended up adding a splash instead of the lemon juice, and loved it! Her book is a real gem, and definitely worth adding to your shelf, if you haven't already.

Recipe slightly adapted from The First Mess Cookbook

1/4 cup cashew butter
1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves
Sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until well combined and creamy, about 1 minute. If it's a bit thick, thin with additional water, adding a teaspoon at a time. Refrigerate in a glass jar for up to 1 week. If not using immediately, just add a few drops of water to thin out the chilled dressing before using. 

5 Things I Hate About Book Launches (Plus 5 Things I Love)

On my drive home from Orange County last month, the sun was setting just as I glided down a two-lane highway flanked by wildflowers. California in the spring is just dreamy! But it wasn’t only the landscape that put me into a good mood.

I’d just finished an event at Laguna Beach Books, where I read the introduction, plus some of my favorite poems, to more than 20 people—total strangers!—who showed up to learn more about the wonderful combination of food and poetry. In that moment I felt utterly, wholeheartedly happy.

This is one of the good memories, the best kind to savor. I wrote it down in my journal to remember on days when, inevitably, the writing life feels less exciting.

It’s been almost two months since my cookbook was released, which is certainly long enough to have some thoughts collected. Over the years I’ve watched many friends publish books from afar, but since this is my first time experiencing all the joys and challenges that come along with it, I thought I’d share what’s been going well, and what’s been the most difficult, too.

Let’s start with the good news!


5 Things I Love About Book Launches


1 | Feeling like I’m in the right place at the right time

A few days before publication, I went to the beach, which is something of a ritual whenever I need some space to reflect. I just sat on a bench looking out into the sea, thinking of who I was and where I was four years ago when I first started drafting the manuscript. Getting to this moment was a labor of love, and above all, I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time. Seeing my face on the cover of Pasadena Weekly certainly helped, too. 

2 | Seeing books in the wild

Seeing my book out in the wild, as I like to say, is really a thrill. I’ve been assured by seasoned authors that it never gets old. It’s especially wonderful when someone outside your inner circle—like bookstores you’ve never heard of, or a friend’s aunt on Facebook—shares a photo of the book and you get to see it in bookstores, kitchens, and homes around the world.

3 | Expanding the inner circle

On Monday, March 20, a little independent bookstore in Maine posted an Instagram photo. It was a stack new releases hitting the shelves the next day, and Eat This Poem was stuck in the middle of the pile. That was the moment I realized the book would reach people even beyond my own inner circle. I think authors know this to be true, but something about seeing it happening, 3,000 miles away, made it all the more real.

4 | Making poetry more accessible

On more than one occasion a reader has told me “I didn’t enjoy poetry as much before, but now I’m hooked!” This is one of my favorite responses to the book, because it means poetry is taking root in places where it didn’t grow before. One of my early hopes in writing Eat This Poem was to make poetry more accessible, and by including it in the kitchen, giving both cooks and readers alike new ways to experience both of these essential life ingredients.

5 | Recording podcasts

Sign me up! I’ve recorded about six podcasts so far, and it’s been a blast getting to know fellow creatives and chatting about all things creativity, writing, food, and poetry. The conversations have felt effortless, like I’m talking to an old friend (when in reality, we’ve literally just met a few minutes before hitting the record button).

Now, being on the other side of publication is a place I’m loving, but it’s not without its difficult moments. Book publishing isn’t all about editors sending you flowers. Although this did happen to me on publication day, it’s certainly not a regular occurrence. Sometimes when all you see are cover photos popping up online, it doesn’t tell the whole story. With that in mind, here are a few things that are more challenging about the book launch process.

In conversation with Stef Ferrari at Diesel Books in Santa Monica

In conversation with Stef Ferrari at Diesel Books in Santa Monica


5 Things I Dislike About Book Launches


1| All the anticipation

I always feel amazing once an event is over. Actually, even during the event itself, like the one in Laguna Beach I told you about, I usually feel great. I’ve been trained in public speaking and did musical theatre growing up, so even though it’s not my favorite thing in the world, when I’m prepared, I’m relatively comfortable on stage. But the anticipation still gets me every time. The hours thinking, the traveling, the making sure my hair looks just right, picking out what to wear, wandering around the bookstore wondering if anyone will show up. That’s the part that depletes my energy and no amount of deep breaths or mindfulness seems to snap me out of it (although I’m working on it!).

2 | Keeping up with social media

Even though data shows most people aren’t buying books directly from social media (which is why having real, lasting relationships in places like a newsletter or Facebook group is important), it’s still part of the deal to talk about your work online, especially during a launch. Tools like Hootsuite make it easy to schedule posts in advance, and my trusty editorial calendar has helped me plan campaigns, too. The best way to survive is to do as much as you can in advance.

3 | Riding the emotional roller coaster

I’ve experienced the slow climb to the tallest peak, the rush down, and now I’m curving my way around some of the smaller bumps. This theme park metaphor is really just to say there are great days, good days, and average days. I’m not sure I’ve had any terrible days (yay!), but I’ve definitely noticed my energy change somewhat drastically, depending on what’s going on. For example, when a blogger publishes a post about Eat This Poem (super high!), then the next day there’s nothing new and the adrenaline starts coming down. Or, I hear about a potential mention in a big newspaper or magazine (exciting!), but feel disappointed when it doesn’t come through.

4 | Being back at the beginning

Once you publish a book, it’s officially done. You might be knee deep in promotion and PR and book touring, but the writing process is complete. The only thing for me to do is to dive head first into Book #2, which I’m realizing is perhaps the only thing more terrifying than a book launch. I haven’t been at the very beginning in more than four years, so it’s overwhelming to think just how far I need to go in order to do this all again. I have to constantly remind myself of my own advice: one thing at a time.

5 | Early morning flights

This should come as no surprise, but waking up at 4 a.m. isn’t really my favorite thing. Especially when I have to get dressed, put on my contacts, swipe mascara over my eyes, and go to the airport. But that’s what it takes to get to the east coast before the sun goes down. There are a lot of things I love about travel, but I always get a little bit anxious right at the beginning.

Well, that’s my first dispatch from the world of book launches! Have any questions about the process, or anything I shared? Please add a comment below!