Two cases full of It’s Its, two incredible cocktail and culinary geniuses confirmed, a slew of loved ones en route, agenda roughly sketched and a belly full of nerves. This is the state of affairs as we head into tomorrow’s launch party for my latest book, at the utterly astounding Omnivore Books in the Mission District of San Francisco.
I have yet to pick an outfit, the passages I’d like to read, and the questions I plan to ask of my panel. Those things will happen tonight. For now, I’m aiming to collective myself and take a deep breath.
Seeing a book published is a surreal event. After months or years of tightly holding your research and your thoughts and your words on a subject, sharing only with your computer and your editor, it can be terrifying to see it in real life. What will people think? Is it horrible? Did I explain that properly? Did I capture that conversation fully? Is the cover color scheme totally off? What about all those other things researched and discussed and drafted that didn’t make it into the final pages? Will people think I’m an idiot?
My husband reminds me that I’ve gone through this ritual with each book published, a short tally of two prior to this one. He may be right, but the blur around those milestones obscures any memory of the feelings I had at launch. All I can say now is that for this latest book, as with the others, I wrote what I felt, captured what moved me – with as much historical accuracy as I could, and was absolutely inspired, yet again, by the unique food and drink landscape of the city of San Francisco and the region that surrounds it. I learned that my adult hometown of Oakland gave birth to a favorite drink I have today. I learned that the ice cream sandwich that was at the center of my teenage world in Sacramento decades ago was not just a San Francisco treat, but one that had been protected from potential loss in the early 1970s by a passionate immigrant family from the Middle East… a family that I now know personally, as a result of my research for the book. I learned that the martini is pretty tricky to talk about with historians and cocktail aficionados, and that there are seemingly endless variations on what the “true” martini actually is. Most of all, I learned that iconic foods and drinks, just like classic bars and restaurants, must be celebrated, enjoyed and supported – so they stick around, so future generations will know the deliciousness that we do today.
As I go into tomorrow’s event, I will carry all the food and drink greats of history – and those who honor them in their kitchens today – on my shoulders, hoping to do my best to represent the dishes and cocktails that they made famous. And I will pinch myself for having the opportunity to hold two book events – for two different books – in my lifetime, at Omnivore. The only all-cookbook store in San Francisco. The place, as I always say, with real events featuring real, big-name chefs and food writers. I’m no name, but I’ve done the work in my small way, on my small but proud little books. Plugging along, eating, drinking, interviewing and collecting stories. And I’m thrilled to be a bit of an interloper in that super-cool, real world for another afternoon. (Thanks, Celia.)