I’m the author of six novels, including The Epicure’s Lament, the PEN/Faulkner award-winning The Great Man, and The Astral, as well as two food-centric memoirs, Blue Plate Special: an Autobiography of My Appetites, and How to Cook a Moose, which is forthcoming from Islandport Press in the fall of 2015. I also write about food, drink, books, and life for Elle, the New York Times Book Review, Vogue, FOOD & WINE, The Wall Street Journal, Bookforum, and many other publications.
I especially love to write about food, but I’m not a trained chef, I’m self-taught and still learning. Basically, I’m a cook of the improvisational, what’s-in-the-cupboard school, which is also, possibly not coincidentally, my strategy with writing. Just as the ingredients at hand can dictate a dish, the characters who arise in my imagination and are set in motion at the beginning of a novel can dictate its plot, tone, and themes. It’s crucial to both enterprises to keep on hand excellent ingredients, especially spices, oils, and produce.
I was raised in Berkeley in the 1960s, long before the Bay Area became the American locavore/foodie mecca; we moved to Arizona in 1970, back when it was a cultural desert, pun fully intended. My favorite childhood dinner was hot dogs, “creamy corn,” and boiled carrot coins with margarine. In 1980, after graduation from Green Meadow Waldorf School, I lived and worked as an au pair girl for a year near the town of Moulins, in the Allier district of France, where I learned to make mousse au chocolat and rabbit stew and discovered cheese, butter, and wine. At Reed College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I regressed out of economic necessity to Top Ramen, hamburgers, and bean burritos. But then I moved to New York City in 1989, where I discovered the writings of MFK Fisher, learned to eat well, and began to realize my lifelong passion, both literary and culinary, for food.
Now, I live with my sweetheart, Brendan Fitzgerald, and our dog, Dingo, in Portland, Maine and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. How to Cook a Moose is about my life here in the northeast corner of New England and the amazing people I’ve met, the wonderful food I’ve eaten. This year, I’m working on a new novel–it’s so new, it doesn’t have a working title yet. I’m also planning to learn to confit duck legs and make sausage and create a perfect cassoulet, as well as teach myself to make gluten-free pasta and hand-made mayonnaise. If you have any tips for doing any of these things, please leave them in the comments!