Recently, someone asked me to name three things I couldn’t live without. Only three? That’s not as easy as it sounds and I started thinking about it.
I remembered that after my Italian publisher launched The Book of Unholy Mischief with a gorgeous feast in a Venetian palazzo, I convinced myself—briefly—that I would never again be able to live without adulation, a hovering sommelier, and my blue velvet Renaissance gown. But in fact, I groaned with relief when I finally loosened the laces of that bodice, tossed off the heavy tiara, and sank into bed.
Sometimes I think it might be fun to be one of those women who can’t live without designer clothes, $500 haircuts, and a villa in the south of France but, honestly, I don’t want to bother keeping up with fashion trends or maintaining a second home. The constant dieting, managing the servants…pah!
I truly would not like to live without my comfy writing chair and my new MacBook Air, but I could. I’d also put up a pretty good fight to protect my mineral makeup, my favorite cotton nightie and a fresh cup of strong coffee in the morning. Especially the coffee—very, very important.
But in the end it’s all just stuff.
So let’s get real. Like everyone else, I literally can’t live without food, but not just food to survive. I can’t live without good food. I come from a big Italian family in which good food is the centerpiece of life. To gather without good food is unthinkable. To celebrate or mourn without good food would be a travesty. Bad food is an insult to body and soul. I curse bad food!
Not surprising then that The Book of Unholy Mischief is full of extended food metaphors. Readers talk about my food descriptions as if they were soft porn, edible panties or some such, because food, like sex, appeals to all the senses—if it’s done right. I’d rather be celibate than have bad sex—all that bother for nothing—and I’d rather skip meals than eat bad food.
I also can’t live without water, and not just water to quench the thirst but all the water in the world. My skin feels better in slightly humid climates, the sight of large bodies of water calms me, and getting caught in the rain makes me laugh. The tide going in and out reminds me that life has its ups and downs and nothing stays the same, so it’s no good getting too worked up about any of it.
I set my book in Venice because her mystery and decaying opulence suits the story, but it was a bonus to be able to write about the sluggish green canals, the salt air, greedy swooping gulls, and the lush, well-watered gardens hidden behind old, stone walls.
Once my body and soul are properly sustained by good food and plenty of water, I must have knowledge—any knowledge, all knowledge, constant knowledge. I must continue to learn and when I can no longer do that I’d just as soon throw in the towel. A beloved uncle wrote in my high school yearbook, “Never stop learning.” He was an uneducated man himself, but very wise. It is this hunger for knowledge and the ability to build on what we learn that pushes us forward as a species. Knowledge grows exponentially and has taken us from squatting in caves to sending e-mail. One of the characters in my book says, “Civilization is built on the bones of the dead.”
I can’t live without good food, lots of water and continuing learning, but as a public service, I would advise against getting between my morning coffee and me.
Lots of food for thought! Thank you so much Elle for stopping by!!