Welcome Home, Berlin
October 4, 2011
It’s been a long time, I know. But I just haven’t had the inclination to write. I’ve been doing other things – like moving out of New York, studying for the GRE, hiking in Colorado, making a beautiful assortment of to-do lists – and really, I just haven’t been inspired to write anything. I’ve felt like every time I sit down to blog, I devolve into blasé maxims: food is good, food is love, food brings people together. And I think all these things are true, but eventually, it’s boring for you to read – and boring for me to write. I needed something new.
As I sat at my new kitchen table in Berlin, I was reminded of an entry I wrote long ago about sardines on toast. This blog was begun as a class project almost three years ago, and when I first started blogging about food, I felt that every entry should be thoroughly researched – a blend of fact and memoir – though if you read through those early posts, they sound stilted. The missing element, my advisor said, was spontaneity. That day, I had a simple lunch – toasted baguette, butter, sardines – and the food was so good and unadorned, I immediately felt inspired to write about it. I’ve written about the sardines and the writing since.
I think I keep coming back to that moment because it encapsulates an essential truth about both food and writing. That both are acts of some skill rescued by intuition and a certain amount of receptiveness, and that sometimes a lesson is felt rather than explained.
Driving down the streets of Berlin from the airport to my new home, I felt both terrified and excited, thinking at the same time how wonderful it would be to grow attached to these streets, and yet, how different they were from my Brooklyn streets. What possessed me to do this? Why leave a place I love for a place I don’t know with streets that don’t belong to me and straight-edged buildings that all look the same?
And yet, every place looks all the same at the beginning. Davidson was a sea of brick and white pillars, Brooklyn a slew of bodegas and graffitied grates, New York noise. I came to love these places and the people in them until every detail – the worn dirt path cheated across the corner of the lawn on the way to the library, the brothers’ bodega with fresh, cheap cilantro, the bodega with the case of Polish specialties – was a disparate marker of my place.
I remembered this sitting at a kitchen table, the place where I feel the most safe. And I don’t wonder that my first meal in Germany is one that represents, for me, inspiration, openness, and new beginnings. And safety too. Because I think that no matter how exciting this time is, how thrilling it is to feel the streets go from strange to mine, it’s also absolutely terrifying. Food will always remind me that if I can feel the goodness of a single moment, the bigger piece will also be ok.
It’s good to be back.