A Cook N Scribble Evening with Molly O’Neill in Los Angeles.
In a different life, years ago, I was a bookseller. From mall bookstores to independent shops I was a dedicated bookseller for years before I started doing graphic design, which later morphed into photography and writing. There’s a lot of romanticism in selling books, but don’t believe the hype. It’s mostly retail, shelving books and trying to keep up with whatever book was recently featured on whatever popular TV talk show is out there (during my bookselling days it was Oprah, now it’s probably Ellen). It was back in St. Louis, at the independent bookstore Left Bank Books where I discovered storyteller Molly O’Neill and her cookbook the New York Cookbook. It was a revelation to me, as one of the first cookbooks that I bought where I learned the stories and backgrounds of where the recipes came from. Previous to that discovery, cookbooks just seemed like a random collection of recipes, that came seemingly from nowhere, with no reference point to ground them. But the New York Cookbook, with the sidebars and interviews from chefs and home cooks, as well as history each recipe, gave weight to the making of food and to each person contributed a recipe. Suddenly, to me, food has history and that history was found in the kitchen.
I was lucky to meet Molly years later, first through the wonders of social media, then in person. She’s a lovely person with a warmth that makes you want to spill your secrets to her. It’s no wonder she was able to finagle close guarded recipes and stories from New Yorkers (and later from people across US in her book One Big Table) that most wouldn’t be willing to give up. So when she asked me to help lead the mobile photography part of the Cook N Scribble workshop scheduled before the big IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference a couple of months ago, I immediately said yes. The evening was a bright mix of writers and bloggers all gathered to watching Kian Lam Kho first do a cooking demo from his award-winning cookbook Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees, then to explore various storytelling techniques, from writing to still photography to video. I ran around and took pictures and helped other bloggers and writers style food all in a gorgeous house generously donated to us for the evening. As the sun set in the California sky and the night wrapped up, I realized there’s nothing better than being surrounded by storytellers all trying to tell their own version of what happened. That’s what life is, a series of stories, some told in public and some only told in private. No one gets that more than Molly.
All photos taken with my iPhone 6S.