I often commit the sin of turning down a page in a book causing a crease that will never recover. I do this, not to mark my page so I can return to the chapter I am currently reading, but to mark a spot I want to revisit. Some paragraph, some thought, something on the page will have caught my imagination and with no yellow marker at hand, or notebook to jot down the important tidbit, instead, I mar the book forever by forming a perfect triangle that will point to whatever it was that caught my attention.
Now let me make it clear that I only do this to books I personally own, so do not live in fear if you have loaned me a book. I respect the fact of ownership, and if a book belongs to a friend or the library then I will not sully it. But I fully reserve the right to mar my own books. I have found one problem though when I go back to the page I have so wilfully and completely dishonoured: I often cannot for the life of me figure out what the heck I found so initially important that I needed to find my way back to that page.
I can only theorize that the frame of mind I was in when I first read the passage led to that famous (or infamous) aha moment that made me commit the aforementioned cardinal sin. Case in point (yes I do have a point here)—a book I just finished reading called “Finding Yourself in the Kitchen” by Dana Velden. Now lest you think I have fallen off a cliff and suffered brain damage, let me be quick to tell you that the book is more philosophical than practical—because heaven forbid I actually cook from a bone fide recipe. (I like to take in cookbooks through a sort of osmosis, rather than actually cook from them.)
Four pages were deliberately damaged in the reading of the book, and I am still a bit puzzled at what I found so important on each page. The first place I turned down a page was on page 45, and I cannot figure out if I was taken with the paragraph on inattention (which is a dangerous thing in the kitchen) or “being in the present moment.” The first paragraph warns that being on autopilot is not a good thing and that if nothing else “cooking will quickly teach us that we need to be fully present and aware.” Now this little lesson could apply to life in general—so maybe that is why I marked it—but the part that I most likely wanted to save and savour was this: “we have to be fully engaged and in the present moment or dinner won’t make it to the table, or it won’t be very delicious, or worse.” OR WORSE? Food poisoning, a trip to the ER, death? I best be paying attention!
Page 111 is the next time I deigned to turn down a page, and it is probably because the word “magic” was in the paragraph. I am a sucker for the word magic. Here is the paragraph: “I suggest looking for your own equivalent of a bunch of fragrant field basil. Bring it home and plunk it smack in the middle of your kitchen where you can’t help but stumble over it. Allow it to remind you to engage all of your senses and to reap the rewards of a body and mind fully present to the perils and magic of life, both in and out of the kitchen.” A beautiful ode to basil—and if I remember correctly, I actually picked up a basil plant while getting groceries, totally under the spell of this paragraph. I soon came to my senses though, and put it back—I know my limitations in the kitchen.
Number three was on page 141. It advocates “try being the kind of cook you’re not. Allow yourself to be sloppy if you’re neat…” The author thinks we all have stories to tell by the way we cook—I hesitate to tell the tale my cooking would generate.
Under the title of “Unexpected Gifts from the Kitchen” on page 205 she tells us that it “is the act of giving that creates an opportunity for pleasure and intimacy.” Since I rarely give gifts from the kitchen it boggles my mind as to what I was thinking when I turned down this page. It just shows that hope springs eternal in my cooking soul. The author tells us that the “kitchen provides us with lots of good giving material, making it easy to practice spontaneous gift-giving without a lot of fuss and bother.” In my heart of hearts I want to believe this. In practice, I do not.
So, when you turn down the corner of a page in a book and go back to it later, do you wonder what you initially found so vital?