Introduce yourself. Make friends. Be polite. And let your new home introduce itself to you. That sentiment, as expressed and experienced by Frances Mayes’ character in Under The Tuscan Sun, became a manifesto of sorts for me back in late 2008 and early 2009 as I settled into a new home and a new life. Whereas Mayes ended one chapter of her life in San Francisco, I was beginning a new one in that city. And while her relationship in the tale had ended, mine was still very much intact. But make no mistake. I was starting over in practically every other way. I didn’t have to go any further than my own kitchen to be reminded just how different my life now was. A fixer-upper, which we’ve often referred to as a tearer-downer, our new house presented unique challenges daily. Heavy or quick footsteps across the sagging kitchen floor were capable of disrupting contact points in the refrigerator’s wiring triggering a flash of blue sparks and the occasional white wisp of smoke. Light fixtures had been held in place with scotch tape, the removal of which left greasy, ghostly silhouettes on the wall and ceiling. And of course there was the cheese, or rather the smell of it, that came from the cabinet under the sink. My new home was introducing itself to me, alright. And I was finding it increasingly difficult to be polite.
Of course the sinking economy was likewise tugging down my mood. I’d spent the better half of 2008 promoting my bookThe Warmest Room in the House – a social history of the kitchen’s role in the American home – and when I finished, I found that it was a much different world for a freelance writer. Outlets and opportunities were disappearing rapidly as newspapers and magazines were folding. I was scrambling to find topics to pitch to a dwindling number of editors just as an ever-increasing number of out-of-work writers and journalists were doing the same thing.
Jobs were scarce, but I had plenty of work in front of me. I confronted it each morning as I shuffled into the kitchen to make my first cup of coffee for the day. Without much of a budget to transform the room at the time, I rolled up my sleeves and made the room as welcoming as possible.
As our kitchen became more hospitable, I started using it more. The homesickness I felt, missing my family and lifelong friends on the other side of the country, was abated by cooking the meals and foods I’d shared with them over the years. But I also started adding new foods to my cupboards, tweaking old recipes with these ingredients. I’d walk to the weekly farmer’s market and return home with a whole new world awaiting me in the herbs and greens and seasonal produce I’d stuffed into my bags.
It was during this process of remake/ remodel that the recipes in Gobba Gobba Hey: A Gob Cook Book were written. Baking gobs was something that helped me feel a connection to my past, and the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients allowed me to discover one of the many wonderful offerings of my new home town.
Each recipe in the book, from the first revisiting of Chocolate with Vanilla Frosting to the Matcha Green Tea with Lemongrass Ginger Filling all the way to the final notes on the Gingerbread Gob, tells part of my story of relocation and, dare I say, reinvention as an old family favorite helped me establish a new sense of home.
I encourage you to read the entire book first before digging into the recipes. Take in each recipe header as if it were its own individual chapter, and the accompanying recipe the snapshot of that moment in time.
Approached in this way, the book will introduce itself to you, politely. And while it may be irreverent at times, I think you will find that it remembers its manners when they matter most.