Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reading Without Actually Reading

Whenever we visit my father and stepmother I always think I’m going to get some reading done. And so I will bring a book and at least one or two New Yorkers that I am, as always, in the middle of reading. But this is just false optimism on my part. What inevitably happens is that I will gather up a huge stack of my stepmother’s past issues of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine and then I will spend the entire weekend flipping through them, but not exactly reading them.

Those magazines are bewitching. They are as bewitching as Seventeen magazine was for me when I was a young girl. It’s kind of like, here are people about my age but they are nothing like me at all. Not even remotely. And they all look so fancy! And there’s always the feature article where it’s like some family just happens to be hosting this fantastic dinner party either out on their fabulous back porch with gorgeously placed lighting or inside their regular old dining room with a stunning hand-planed oak farm table and they just happened to invite the camera crew from Living magazine along. Or maybe I’m not actually getting something about this. Maybe this is exactly what happens? Either way, I find myself flipping through those pages again and again.

Which is also what happens whenever the new Cook’s Illustrated arrives in the mail. Ever since we made our very first recipe from the magazine, salmon cakes I believe it was sometime in 1998, we have been subscribers. And if you’ve ever had dinner at our house, well, at least some of it came from some issue of Cook’s. You know that triple mousse cake? Exactly. But anyhow, whenever we get it in the mail, I usually flip through it over and over again, while giving a running narrative of pretty much everything to my husband, who is almost always otherwise engaged. Something like: Ooh, look, I can make this chocolate raspberry torte! But wait, they actually call it a showpiece. Why are they calling it a showpiece? It has to look that pretty? I guess I can't make it. Oh, but wait, here is another recipe for sugar cookies, even though they already have a perfectly good sugar cookie recipe. But this time they are adding cream cheese. They are running out of ideas, I think. And look, look at these mashed potatoes. Let's make these tonight! Etc.

And that I don't think counts as reading as just more of that frenetic flipping through pages thing, which I seem to have perfected over the years. And is also what I do with any set of complicated directions, like for a digital camera, say. I think if you flip through something long enough the information will somehow make it into your brain through a kind of osmosis, thereby sparing you the necessity of actually reading the overwhelmingly detailed and wordy words on the page.

Thus allowing you time for things you really want to be reading, which might actually be The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris and whatever's in the latest New Yorker.

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