WHAT THE LOVE GODDESS’ COOKING SCHOOL IS REALLY ABOUT
by Melissa Senate
The summer I was getting divorced, a close friend flew from New York City to Maine to stay with me for the weekend in my new apartment. She glanced around my quaint small town of 8,000 with its lovely young families and historic homes, then looked at me and my (then) four year old son, and said, “You have to move to Portland. You won’t be happy in this town. As a single mother and living in an apartment, you won’t see yourself reflected here. You won’t feel like you belong. In New York (from where I’d moved two years earlier), anything goes. Here, perfect—however surface level—goes.”
Sledgehammer. I hadn’t even thought of that one. You won’t feel like you belong. You won’t see yourself reflected here. Perfect goes. That was four years ago, and as it turned out, she was both right and wrong (there turned out to be quite a few single mothers). That first year, though, I did struggle to feel like I belonged. But there was no moving: my town has one of the best public school systems in the state, which was my main priority. And it’s one of the few towns with great schools that also has a walkable downtown, albeit a little one—a necessity for me (including a sweet little indie bookstore). I was staying, despite the blinking neon D on my forehead.
Because my dear friend was also very right, I stayed home a lot more than I usually would. And I started to cook for the first time. I had the legendary Julia Child and Marcella Hazan and Mark Bittman by my side. And my dear little son, Max, asking if he could work the stove (no, but you can beat the eggs. And you can dip the chicken cutlets in the egg and flour and breadcrumbs). As my son and I spent hours in the kitchen, making pancakes from scratch, baking cakes and cookies, layering lasagna, talking, laughing, being together, I slowly began to feel that I belonged in my own house, my own life . . . and when you feel that way, you leave your house with your head held high. The neon D faded for me until I completely stopped thinking of myself as divorced or a single mother or different at all. I started thinking of myself as just me. A new me, but me.
And with a little perspective, I started to write about a thirty-year-old woman named Holly Maguire who feels adrift in her own life and stuck in one she doesn’t feel is her own. She inherits her legendary grandmother’s cooking class and now has four students who also feel adrift, who need to feel that they belong. And as they cook together, they talk. They share, they hope, they dream, they wish (the recipes call for adding wishes or memories into every pot and pan) into the chicken alla Milanese and saffron risotto and three cheese gnocchi. And their hopes and dreams begin to come true, not from the wishing, but because of the wishing, the asking for what they wanted. The daring to deserve, perhaps.
In THE LOVE GODDESS’ COOKING SCHOOL, heartbroken Holly hopes to rediscover her love of cooking, taken from her by a long ago mistake. A twelve-year-old girl abandoned by her mother signs on as Holly’s apprentice so she can learn to cook her dad’s favorite Italian food and stop him from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. Holly’s childhood friend twists her wedding band, barely bear to be in the kitchen as she hides a painful secret. A serial dater pressured to get married by her overbearing family can’t admit she longs for love. And a separated father hopes to cook his way back into his young daughter’s heart. In the end, they’ll all discover what belonging truly means.
All that cooking and home-bodying worked out quite well for me. It gave me a book. And today, I’m giving one away! Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of THE LOVE GODDESS’ COOKING SCHOOL, published just a few weeks ago by Simon & Schuster. You can comment on my post, cooking, writing, the weather—anything will do! P.S. Many thanks to Rebecca for sharing her blog with me!
Follow Melissa on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MelissaSenate
Friend her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MelissaSenate
Visit her website: http://www.melissasenate.com/