Writing funny is hard. Writing funny about a subject people take very seriously is something I am rarely brave enough attempt. But Barbara Ruskoff is a bold writer. She has one of the most eclectic set of credits of any of our contributors; she’s interviewed MC Hammer and written contribtions to books ranging from Before the Mortgage to Matzo Balls for Breakfast and A Girl’s Guide to Taking Over the World. So if you’ve ever wondered why people keep Kosher, and what it means, Barbara’s essay “Kosher. Or Not.” will answer all your questions. Or not. But it will certainly make you laugh.
When my late mother-in-law, Nancy, was bed-ridden with her final illness, Tony and I moved temporarily into her house; to distract myself from worry, I decided to clean and organize Nancy’s kitchen. A talented cook, generous with her friends, Nancy’s kitchen shelves brimmed with gourmet foodie gifts, squirreled away willy-nilly. Each cabinet was a treasure chest of mismatched items: a silver tray, three pounds of artisan pasta, a sampler box of exotic salts.
Chris Malcomb’s essay, “Red Sauce Days,” came to us in a roundabout way. I had known Chris for a couple of years, and I knew he was a practicing Buddhist. I also knew he was a thoughtful essayist,capable of digging deep into his unconscious and pulling out hard won insight and prescient reflections. I knew he had taught middle school, and in a maximum security prison, and had a unique ability to empathize with his subjects. (His essays have been widely published in journals and magazines.) I had also been reading a little about mindful eating, which wasn’t getting a whole lot of press back in 2008. So I asked him if he’d be interested in pitching us a mindful eating piece for Cassoulet. He hemmed and hawed. “Actually,” he said, “what I’d really like to write about is my family’s restaurant.” More
Years ago, I lived in a 5th floor Manhattan walk-up. For two years, I shared the stairwells and some walls, the sounds of our music and the smells of our cooking, with about fifty people I never spoke to beyond a casual hello or a shrugging complaint about the landlord. It wasn’t an exceptionally unfriendly building, it was just how we needed to live in order to maintain some privacy in such close quarters. It was a building, not a neighborhood.