In this age of social media, it’s even more obvious to frequent readers of my work that there’s nothing “Insta” about my Instagram: by virtue of the way my job works, I am very rarely writing about the place where I am. Timing just doesn’t work that way. At least, it doesn’t for me.
I’ve been scribbling notes about my surroundings for as long as I can remember, though if I really think about, this habit truly surfaced in Cannes, when I was spending nearly all of my weekends venturing to one new place or another and I first got the inkling that I might want to be a professional wanderer, a nomad. Back then, in 2007, it was on the backs of postcards that I scratched out these ideas, which emerged as fully-fledged mini-stories I wrote in tiny, tiny letters to make sure they’d fit on the little bit of paper, never to be sent.
But turning your passion into your way of life never goes exactly the way you thought it was. As far as I’m concerned, it’s even more spectacular and liberating than I had hoped… and yet it’s not at all what I expected. I don’t just write whatever is claiming my fingers at any given moment. There’s a lot of structure to the madness; I am my own boss, and I’m a real hardass, especially when it comes to deadlines.
Of course, I still scribble – though I’ve graduated to notebooks – about the place where I am, the smells the tastes, the sounds, the strange memories that are unrelated to this place in time, except that they’ve chosen this moment, this place, now, to come flooding back. Everything is bound together, waiting on pages until the deadline claims it, and then I end up writing about Brie in Limoges, Limoges in Paris, Paris in New York, New York in London, London on a train barreling between two places that, in that moment, don’t exist for me.
This is the first time in what feels like forever that I’m actually in New York, writing about New York. My voice changes depending on where I am, and this makes me realize how strange it is to write about the place where I am while I’m there. I rely quite a bit on nostalgia to write, and it’s always strange to be nostalgic for a place where you are, to be confronted with the reality that sometimes it’s not just the place you miss, but a specific era, a specific time. It colors my work and, at least as far as novel-writing goes, I think it lends a new layer that makes it stronger and even more enticing.
When I left Paris, fall had set in most wetly, but these smoothie bowls had been my dinner of choice for several weeks: the last few we had of summer. Arriving in New York, where late September meant 80 degree heat and a complex arrangement of various fans to stay cool, I was craving them once again: an truly American snack that I’m nostalgic for in America. It’s strange how things like that work.
Berry Smoothie Bowl
2 cups frozen mixed berries (I buy packs with blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and redcurrant), slightly thawed
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 lemon, juice
toppings: dried coconut, coconut cream, blueberry preserves
Blend the berries, coconut milk, and lemon juice until smooth. Pour into a bowl and top with toppings. Eat.