Tuesday, September 15, 2009

eat, pray, love

So I decided to give Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love another shot this past Monday morning as I braved the early morning commute from New Canaan to Grand Central. For whatever reason, the first time I attempted this book, I found myself unable to move past the first 30-something pages. It just wasn't sending me anywhere. But after countless nudges to give it another go and a little thing called the New York Times Best Seller List, I decided Monday was as good a time as any to dive in. And after burying my head in the book during three commutes from the concrete jungle to suburbia and back again, I'm officially fully committed to the endeavor that is, Eat, Pray, Love.

Not only have I laughed out loud but this morning I'm fairly confident tears welled up in my eyes (on public transportation, mind you) from the sincerity and honesty that Gilbert writes with. You know that writing this detailed memoir was far from an easy task for her, but one that was absolutely necessary in order for her to survive her painful past and move on to a new healthier and happier life.

All sadness aside, the first part of the book is the "Eat" section. And while it's predominately about her self discovery through travel as well as a detailed account of her past, there are some seriously scrumptious tidbits sprinkled in there, two of which, I just had to share. And by the way, I can't remember the last time I've marked up a book this much with asterisks and arrows, dog-earing pages, as reminders to re-read especially beautiful and inspirational passages.

"The amount of pleasure this eating and speaking brought to me was inestimable, and yet so simple. I passed a few hours once in the middle of October that might look like nothing much to the outside observer, but which I will always count amongst the happiest of my life. I found a market near my apartment, only a few streets over from me, which I'd somehow never noticed before. There I approached a tiny vegetable stall with one Italian woman and her son selling a choice assortment of their produce--such as rich, almost algae-green leaves of spinach, tomatoes so red and bloody they looked like a cow's organs, and champagne-colored grapes with skins as tight as a showgirl's leotard.
I selected a bunch of thin, bright asparagus. I was able to ask the woman, in comfortable Italian, if I could possibly just take half this asparagus home? There was only one of me, I explained to her--I didn't need much. She promptly took the asparagus from my hands and halved it...This whole conversation was conducted in Italian--a language I could not speak a word of only a few months earlier.

I walked home to my apartment and soft-boiled a pair of fresh brown eggs for my lunch. I peeled the eggs and arranged them on a plate beside the seven stalks of the asparagus (which were so slim and snappy they didn't need to be cooked at all). I put some olives on the plate, too, and the four knobs of goat cheese I'd picked up yesterday from the formaggeria down the street, and two slices of pink, oily salmon. For dessert--a lovely peach, which the woman at the market had given to me for free and which was still warm from the Roman sunlight. For the longest time I couldn't even touch this food because it was such a masterpiece of lunch, a true expression of the art of making something out of nothing. Finally, when I had fully absorbed the prettiness of my meal, I went and sat in a patch of sunbeam on my clean wooden floor and ate every bite of it, with my fingers, while reading my daily newspaper article in Italian. Happiness inhabited my every molecule."
And a kind of surreal food experience that I hope everyone of you experiences at least once in your life:
"So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered--one for each of us--are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie is practically in tears over hers, she's having a metaphysical crisis about it, she's begging me, "Why do we even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why do we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?
Holy of holies! Thin, doughy, strong, gummy, yummy, chewy, salty pizza paradise. On top, there is a sweet tomato sauce that foams up all bubbly and creamy when it melts the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and the one sprig of basil in the middle of the whole deal somehow infuses the entire pizza with herbal radiance..."
Needless to say, Round 2 of this book, thus far, has been immensely entertaining.

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