A source water of my ever-flowing river of shame is that I am not capable of keeping a diary. My life history is littered with blank journals that have really pretty covers. Well – not entirely blank. More accurately, my life history is littered with journals that have the first five pages filled in with words. Titillating, insightful words like “Dear Diary, OMG queso is my favorite” and “Dear Diary, I need a new pair of black pants because I can’t get the queso stain off the ones I wore last night”. After the first five pages, idle doodles take over, harmless little drawings of missiles dropping on a diary factory or diary factories exploding in missile attacks. By page eight, it’s nothing but empty paper. Flipping through those blank pages, I am forced to admit yet again that I bought yet another journal because I thought the cover was pretty. Keeping a diary involves discipline and self-reflection and I am not here for any of that. I am here to binge on cheese until my memory is foggy.
Diary: Congratulations on your purchase! Whatcha gonna write
Me: I’m going to record my thoughts about the world and meaning of life
Diary: Waiting you out here
Me: FINE I am drawing puppy faces using only circles
Diary: Draw some kittens too
While I’m busy not writing in my diary, I love to read other people’s. I especially love reading cookbooks for the stories they tell about how people lived through food. What was important, what was available, what was relevant in a culture is all evident in what flowed through the kitchen. I’ll read any cookbook like a novel, but my favorite kind of cookbooks are the ones that include the stories and context for a recipe, like when an author tells her life story by describing exactly how she positions her crabmeat salad on her buffet when she entertains. Specifically, I love reading cookbooks by the marvelous Julia Reed. (Spoiler alert-crabmeat goes piled on a giant platter, mixed with mayo, served with toast points.)
Diary: Now describe the toast points
Me: This feels like homework
Diary: How it works is, you write stuff down
Diary: What are you drawing?
Me: Missiles bombing a toast point factory
Julia Reed is a Mississippi native, New Orleans resident, author, and a contributing editor at Garden & Gun and Elle Décor magazines. She is also a consummate storyteller, flinger of parties, and feeder of people as is evidenced in her books Ham Biscuits, Hostess Gowns, and Other Southern Specialties and But Mama Always Puts Vodka In Her Sangria!. Julia Reed’s stories read like the best diaries, with a casual, intensely personal feel. Watching her glamorous mother throw legendary cocktail parties in her small Mississippi hometown, Julia Reed found her own hostess rhythm when she left her home state to work in the cosmopolitan Northeast. She describes coming into her own as a writer, a professional, and a hostess, from the college student parties done on a budget to the years she lived in New York as an editor for Newsweek, blowing people’s minds with plates of deviled eggs and pimiento cheese sandwiches. As magnetic as Julia Reed’s personality is on the page, I can’t imagine what it’s like being in the room with her while she convinces you to try just one bite of her lemon squares. (Okay, fine, she would never have to convince me to eat a lemon square. I’m not dead inside. However I do loathe eggs in all their forms but I’d still like to have her try to persuade me to eat a deviled egg. I won’t eat it. I don’t care if that damn egg is stuffed with Tom Hiddleston and a pair of diamond earrings. But I’d still like her to try.)
Diary: You can’t chew earrings, duh
Me: No it’s hyperbole
Diary: How would you even get Tom Hiddleston in an egg?
Me: It’s—no, you wouldn’t, I’m just saying-
Diary: Tom Hiddleston doesn’t go to small parties
Me: This is why we can’t dialogue
Julia Reed’s books are delightful, loaded with intimate and fascinating memories. They make me wish I’d commit to any kind of journaling, but the closest I come to diary entries are all the margin notes I have scribbled in all my books. I don’t discriminate-I’ll mark up any of my books when the mood strikes-but I really go to town on my cookbooks. It’s interesting when my notes don’t make any sense, like when I just use punctuation. What the hell do I mean by the really big question mark I wrote next to the recipe for an eggplant enchilada dish? Was it “why did I make this crap??” or “how did I live this long without making this delicious crap??” or “Why would I ever make this eggplant crap??” I don’t know because I was too lazy to write out even one word that summed up my impression. Also right now I am really understanding why I will never grow up to be Julia Reed. I’ll bet she uses words and punctuation in her cookbook notes.
Maybe not all hope is lost for a written record of my life. Surely I can access my last ten years worth of texting transcripts and put them in a binder. Succinct, specific, vivid – in fact, it’s better than a diary. It’s a diary slam.
Diary: That is insulting
Me: Think of your nice, clean pages
Diary: When you put it that way
Me: Maybe just one more circle puppy
The Baddest Mother Ever has mad journal skills. See for yourself here.
If you’d like to arrange for Julia Reed to keynote my next birthday party, thank you! You shouldn’t have.