Yes, old friends are gold, and all the rest of it, but the rare appearance of a new friend is something to celebrate with bells and whistles. This has just happened to me in the person of my teacher and new friend, Bonnie Lee Black, who interviewed me yesterday in her cosy apartment in Taos, where her French mother’s copper cooking pots hang above the stove (Bonnie is an amazing cook) and two pieces of her mother’s honey-colored maple furniture adorn the living room. Since I am one of the many—far too many—daughters from whom mothers are estranged for some or all of their lives (in my case, for my mother’s last ten years), these evidences of an ongoing love and even a relationship that outlives death mean a great deal to me.
I met Bonnie last winter when on a sure instinctual urge—and I go with them!—I signed up for her Tuesday night writing class. The result has been an introduction to a changing cast of women, all working on different kinds of books, all full of hope, persistence, and ideas.
Bonnie weaves us together with some of the expertise she puts into her own writing—“How to Cook a Crocodile” is the memoir I’ve just started to read—suggesting, without insisting, moving us all along at a steady pace, and insisting (usually with success) that the writer whose work is being critiqued by the class sit silent until the process is finished. For the first time, I’m finding it more interesting to listen than to talk.
And last night we finished the evening with her buckwheat crepes, stuffed with (I think) wild blueberries and topped with whipped cream.
Which brings me to Bonnie’s cooking.
I’ve always drawn a firm line between my writing and my cooking. Bonnie has managed to meld them both. For many years a professional caterer in New York, she has the “dab hand”—as it was called in the south—with pastry that seems almost an inborn gift. Her books, like M.F.K. Fisher’s—a writer we both adore—include recipes, as though recipes are a natural and normal part of prose. And since she is also, as I am, a keen admirer of Isak Dinesen, she knows how to write about Africa, where she spent years on her own and then as a member of the Peace Corps.
Of course there are darker passages in her life, as there are in mine, but in her cozy living room it is possible to live at least for a while in the light.
I’m looking forward to reading her interview with me on her blog; it’s one of a group of memories she’s calling WOW for WISE OLDER WOMEN…