Our Melissa Clark is not a food writer. Our Melissa Clark is a fiction writer and professor, and the author of the novels Swimming Upstream,Slowly and Imperfect. For a long time she wrote for television, penning nearly 2 dozen episodes of Rolie Polie Olie, before going on to create and write the award winning television series, Braceface. She’s known among her friends as Connections Clark, and she blogs regularly about things you should know about. For instance: she’s the reason I met my husband. She’s the reason Max Brooks gave us a story (it’s a happy coincidence that these two childhood friends have their stories nestled together in the book).
When I first met her, back in graduate school, our Melissa Clark didn’t cook, not really. She didn’t care that much about eating. either. There were other things in her life more important than food. How could this be? I had been to her house. I had eaten her mother’s food. I had seen the “vases blooming with cooking utensils: confetti-colored spatuals, potato mashers, zesters, graters, wooden spoons–small, medium, and large–nutcrackers, wine openers.” This is no exaggeration: there were several cannisters of utensils, and some of them were unrecognizable. This was the kitchen of a serious cook. I knew where Melissa had come from. Why didn’t she like to cook and eat as much as I did? How did she find her way into the kitchen for the first time as an adult? And what did this radical change in lifestyle mean for her? I didn’t know her whole story, but I knew enough to know it was perfect for Cassoulet. We don’t, after all, learn to eat only as children, and we cook–and eat–with lots of people beside our offspring. I knew Melissa’s story would turn the tables on our ideas of family food, and where it comes from. Melissa wrote, “Rachael Ray Saved My Life,” with her characteristic wit and good humor. It’s a funny, honest, happy story of learning to cook, and eat, as an adult, and it proves that there are as many ways to come to the table as there are things to serve with her beloved couscous.