From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy Podcast
A Conversation with Jami Attenberg

A Conversation with Jami Attenberg

Talking to the author about her recent memoir, 'I Came All This Way to Meet You.'

You're listening to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays, I'll be talking to different people in food and culture about their lives, careers and how it all fits together and where food comes in. 

Today, I'm talking to Jami Attenberg, the author of seven novels, including the best-selling The Middlesteins. Her latest book is a memoir called I Came All This Way to Meet You, which grapples with ideas of success and living a nontraditional life. We talk about the ups and downs of the writing life, along with her move from New York to New Orleans, why she chose to write a memoir right now, and how the pandemic has shifted her relationship to travel.

You're listening to From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, a food and culture podcast. I'm Alicia Kennedy, a food writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Every week on Wednesdays, I'll be talking to different people in food and culture about their lives, careers and how it all fits together and where food comes in. 

Today, I'm talking to Jami Attenberg, the author of seven novels, including the best-selling The Middlesteins. Her latest book is a memoir called I Came All This Way to Meet You, which grapples with ideas of success and living a non-traditional life. We talk about the ups and downs of the writing life, along with her move from New York to New Orleans, why she chose to write a memoir right now, and how the pandemic has shifted her relationship to travel. 

Alicia: Hi, Jami. Thank you so much for being here. 

Jami: Hi. It's so nice to meet you.

Alicia: Can you tell me about where you grew up and what you ate?

Jami: Yeah, I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I’m 50, so I grew up in the ’70s. And I'm Jewish, and so there was an emphasis on deli when we could get it. There wasn't a lot of deli going on out there where I grew up. I grew up in Buffalo Grove. So closer to Skokie is where they, where you can get deli. 

And then, a lot of Italian food. A lot of pizza. I don't know if you've ever heard of Portillo's before. That is an amazing Chicago chain, and the Italian—Oh. I want it right now, just thinking about it. They had this croissant sandwich with Italian beef that was really delicious. 

My mother would be upset to hear me say this, I do not recall having a lot of emphasis on healthy food in my household growing up. We were also latchkey kids. You come home and you sort of scramble for what you could find in the house, that kind of thing. I mean, there was food there.

So, I don't know. When I look back at it now, I just think it was that there was not a clear path to, not a clear aesthetic necessarily. It was a lot of what was around.

Alicia: Yeah.

Well, it's interesting that you say your mom wouldn't like that. In your memoir, you write about her making chicken noodle soup from scratch and insisting she'd done it. And it's interesting, because it brings up obviously—memoir, where your memories don't match up with other people's memories and the question of that. How was it to reconstruct those kinds of things? I liked that in the book, that you enacted the problem of memoir in the memoir with this kind of like, ‘Whose memory actually is the memory that's the memory?’ [Laughs.]

Jami: Well, I have a brother. So I think he would back me up on certain things. And he's a wonderful cook, and he’s very health focused and really into the farmers’ markets and has a big tomato festival in his house every year. It was like a goal of his to kind of learn how to cook and be connected with food in a different way. I mean, I'm not blaming my parents for it. They had, of course, a million jobs and things going on. 

So I mean, I tried to be as honest about it as I could. I mean, I think my mother genuinely wants to have cooked, made chicken noodle soup for me from scratch. I do not recall it at all. I don't think that happened. So when that did happen, it felt kind of special. I mean, she probably hadn't cooked for me as an adult and in a really long time. That story where she is looking after me and making chicken noodle soup, for me, probably happened when I was in my late 30s. I don't know how much you go home to see your family or what that looks like for you. But for me, I had lived in New York a long time and my parents lived in Chicago. And I went back maybe once a year, and when we would see each other we could go out to eat. Big going-out-to-eat family.

Alicia: Well, you write in the—that you're not a great cook, but you are a superb dinner party guest. And food and drink are present in the memoir of course, but they're also present in your fiction. So, how would you kind of characterize food in your life now that you're an adult, fully formed and all that?

Jami: I mean, sadly, unlike my brother, I don't, I'm not—Yeah, I didn't take on the challenge like he did. Yeah, I don't have much of a repertoire. Yeah, I make a lasagna every so often. It’s winter and I'll be like, ‘Alright, I'm gonna make lasagna, veggie lasagna, and I'm gonna drop some at friends.’ This year for Christmas. I just made a ton of spiced nuts for everyone. And like, so once a year I get excited about doing—

I throw a lot of parties though. I do that. I had, right after everybody got booster shots for the first time, I had a big oyster festival in my backyard. And it was really wonderful. I mean, it's just definitely a way for me to commune with my friends. It's just really important to me to connect with people. Everyone's happy. We like to sit down for long meals. I live in a city that's got a great food culture. I lived in New York City for a long time. And I have a great food culture. I just was there last week and had dinner with some girlfriends at Ernesto’s, which was wonderful. 

Every part of the dinner was wonderful. But then at the very last minute, we got dessert too. And there was this fried brioche. I don't even know how to explain it. We were talking about it, still this morning. But the fried brioche, it was kind of creamy in the center. It was kind of french toast, but something at—something else. It was so good. And we’re probably going to remember that fried brioche for the rest of our lives. It was really special. 

Alicia: Well, and so much of the memoir is about success and how it's difficult to define. And you can publish books and have no money. It was important for me to read, I think, at this juncture in my life, where I was like, ‘Nothing means anything, necessarily, until it means something.’ I don't know. [Laughter.]

How do you define success? How do you feel about success as a concept as a writer?

Jami: Well, first of all, let me say that, I have told you this before that I'm a fan of your newsletter. So I'm sort of following along your kind of existential crisis that you, that is sort of rolling out, in particular, the last couple of newsletters. And I don't want to be that person who's like, ‘It gets better,’ but I think it does get better. I don't know how old you are. And it's fine however old you are, but I think—

Alicia: I'm 36, yeah.

Jami: I think it gets better in your 40s. I hate to say it. But I have given that advice to so many people in their, in that age, where you're like, ‘I've been doing this for so long. When does it just get a little bit easier?’

And I think the answer is, as a writer is it got easier for me after I'd written four books, which is like when I was 40, 41, something like that, was when I'd had that moment where I was able to—and also there's just like this catch-up period where you're constantly waiting for somebody to pay for something that you've written. And it's like, ‘How do you ever get ahead of that?’ And at some point, you sort of do get ahead of that. Hopefully. I'd make no guarantees or promises to anyone. 

And so to me, I think that your question was notion of success. To me, right now, because I have a book contract, and I have—I can spend the next year writing that book, that I feel safe for now. And you're always kind of leapfrogging to the next, whatever the next project is. I mean, someday I might run out. And I might be shit out of luck. 

And I don't know, if you ever really get to take—it's the only thing I envy about an academic existence, is that they get to take sabbaticals. Yeah. And I mean, I guess it's for us, on our own, I think it would be about applying for grants or something like that. I don't actually, don't think residencies are really a sabbatical. The only thing that gives you, that buys you time, is money. Which is, then you have to do more. I know. I get it, I get it. It’s hard. And then I feel bad. But then it's like double I know, I know. It's really tricky. 

I think it slowed down a little bit for me, or got a little bit easier. I mean, part of that was that I moved to a city that was more affordable. Yeah, I had looked around when I was 45. So I've been down here for six years, I looked around and was like, ‘I can't work any harder than I am. I can't do any more than what I'm doing. I'm not really gonna make any more money than this unless something magical happens, like somebody makes one of my books into a TV show. I'm operating at a pretty good level. I'm still not saving any money. And I'm still not getting ahead. So what's the problem here?’ And it was New York City. So no, I love you, New York. But it’s bringing me down. We have to sort of start making certain decisions as we go, get older about it. And you can always go visit New York. Or wherever.

Alicia: Well, New York is also my home, so yeah. But I get to go because that's where my family is. So I get to go back. But it feels so weird now, not living there anymore. I don't know how it feels for you to go back. The visiting is strange to me, to visit a place you lived for so long. 

Jami: Well, I don't go to Williamsburg where I lived for a zillion years. I just don't go there because—I do sometimes, because my dear friends own St. Mazie’s, a bar—restaurant there. So I'll go over there and say hi to them. But I don't go to the old apartment building that I used to live in. I know it's very different there now. I just go to see the people that I love, wherever that might happen to be. 

I just feel like such a country mouse when I go there now, too, because the buildings are so tall and it's so annoying and there's—it’s so expensive. It's all the things that you can work around if you live there. But when you visit, it's harder to avoid those things. And I'm not even complaining when I say any of those things at all. I had a great time there last week. It's just a sharp contrast to my existence. So I don't know if I could ever go back there. I mean, maybe you could ’cause your family's there. But I don't I wouldn't be able to take that step back, ’cause my life is maybe too quiet now. 

Alicia: Yeah, no. It feels very different now, life in general [Laughs.] having moved to a smaller quieter city, yeah. 

Jami: Do you feel happier now in that, in—with that?

Alicia: Oh, yeah. Yeah, a lot happier. I didn't know it was possible. Grew up on Long Island, moved to the city. The big thing you're supposed to do is move to the city. And then, I didn't think I'd ever leave or live anywhere else. And now, I just have such a more relaxed life. I can think more, I think. 

I think there's a reason I've had not success, but more success as a writer leaving New York, because I—I'm not constantly, especially as a food writer, going to different restaurants and stupid things. And then, feeling I have to eat the things that everyone's eating. [Laughs.] I'm free. I'm free from having to go to whatever new place people are going to, like Bernie's, I think it's called. [Laughs.] [Note: I meant Bonnie’s!]

Jami: But even as a non-food writer, I used to feel I had to go to all those places. And now I don't feel that. I don't feel that way anymore. I still have really good friends in New York who are really intuitive, or culture writers. And so, I can sort of keep track of where I might want to go through them. There's no reflection on me. It’s nice.

Alicia: It’s great to be free of that. [Laughter.]

Jami: Yeah, I don't know what I miss. I keep trying to figure out what I miss exactly. The only thing I've ever missed is the people.

Alicia: Yeah, the people, the culture. Going to a museum. There’s museums here, but they're not those museums. I miss public transportation. We don't have public transportation here. And that's what I miss, I think. 

Jami: I just want to do one more thing, which is it's just about—I just think we, as writers or as creative people, I'm trying to—

I'm starting to write this talk about how to carve out a creative life. I think as we get older and our priorities change, we really just have to go—we have to go all in on something. We have to if we want to really make it as an artist. 

And you can sort of see the people who—and this is not a criticism of them—but the people who say, ‘Alright, I'm actually not going all in as an artist. I decided I wanted to have a house in the Hamptons, or I've got three kids now.’ You can also, by the way, be an artist and have three kids. You know what you're choosing. There's no wrong answer. It's what is right for you, whatever works for you.

Alicia: Yeah. It's interesting you’re writing a talk on creativity—I've been thinking about this and wanting to write an essay, because I've been listen, listening to a lot of podcasts. My dog is afraid of these birds, these local birds that kind of swoop in, so we've had to not go to the dog park while they're nesting. And so, I've just done these really long walks with the dog listening to On Being. I've never listened On Being before. 

But like everyone says, you realize when all these patterns of things that people say about creativity and how to make it happen, and it's—there's these patterns of like, ‘It is work, it is labor to be creative, and you have to make these choices to do it.’ Whereas when I think, when we're—When I was growing up, I always was like, ‘Oh, to be creative has to have this magical quality. And it has to strike you like lightning, and it's not work and you don't sit down and do it every day.’ [Laughter.]

Jami: I just was on some panel where we were talking about this. It is a magical quality. But you have to show up in the first place to receive the magic. And that's the work part of it.

Alicia: Yeah. Yeah. 

No, and I love the line in I came, I Came All This Way to Meet You where you say, ‘I had to be a good writer. And I had to be a good salesperson.’ And it's interesting, because you just kind of plainly said the thing that I think we're not supposed to say about being a writer and the tension of selling and writing and creativity and how these—How are you feeling now about those things as a relationship?

Jami: I'm looking down as we're talking, ’cause I'm looking at my notes, ’cause I was thinking about it a little bit this morning. 

So I would say there's two things. One is that having been in the publishing industry for—My first book came out in 2006. So 16 years of it. I recognize that when you put out a book, it's more than just you. There's a marketing team. There's a book designer, there's an editor, salespeople. There's the assistants. There's everybody who does it. And so to me, them and also coming from a place where my dad was a traveling salesman, and my parents owned a retail store as well. I'm probably the perfect person for that to be sympathetic to this. Although frankly, I'm not a team player. I'm really about other people succeeding at their jobs. I appreciate it when people succeed at what they're trying to do. 

So I don't have a problem with doing certain things that are sales oriented in order to support my work, because I feel it's not—Me writing it is one piece. That's the art part of it. But once I sell it, then it's a product. That's a really seamless clear transition to me. When it's done, it's done. And now, what can I do to help you? And hopefully, you're gonna do things to help me. And so, we all have to work on it together. And I think that that has been beneficial to my career in a lot of ways. And I think it makes it, ensures that I continue to get published, because people know that I understand what the game is. 

Yeah, at this point in my life, through trial and error, I figured out things I don't want to do and things that I’m willing to do. And then also, the things that I'm good at doing. And I've been public facing for a long time. You had that thing in your newsletter recently about being public facing and reels, which is—I can't tell you how many people I know who are like, ‘Fuckin’ reels!’ And I'm not doing them. I just sort of refuse to do that. But I don't think I have to do that. 

But anyway, I've been public facing for a long time. And I've given too much of myself, certainly online. And then I've walked it back, meaning not, meaning I've regretted that, what I've done. And also my life is way less interesting than it used to be when I was 29, writing about my sex life online or whatever it was I was doing then.

But basically, I would say actually, summer 2020 was the kind of a turning point for me, where I was like, ‘I do so much stuff online.’ I have this, the 1000 Words of Summer that I do, which is I have my own newsletter, obviously. And then I do 1000 Words of Summer thing, where it's 15,000 people. Everybody's writing. And I was doing Zoom teaching sessions and things like that. I was really, like everybody else summer of 2020, just losing their mind. And I really had to sit down and reassess what I was doing, what I wanted the internet to do for me. I was just saying this morning on Twitter that my goal is always to get more out of the internet from the internet gets out of me. So I had to really sit down and figure out what I was, what information I was willing to put out there, what I wanted to accomplish, all this kind of stuff, especially because we were really living—we had been living online. And now, we're really living online. 

And so, I made a list of things I was, topics that I wanted to put out there. And I talked about, to myself, about how, what kind of help I can provide? Because that's really up to me. I mean this in a non-cynical way. But I think that if you can figure out ways to be positive online, and be helpful to other people, then it is beneficial to your career, or the—think of it as a project, right? The project of my life more than career, because there's plenty of things that I do that I don't make a dime off of. But they are all part of this huge art project of my life. 

Ok, I think that's all I wanted to say about it. [Laughs.] We can talk about it. But do you know what I mean? It's really about, yeah, wrestling control of it and say, and not looking at what anyone else is doing. But looking at what your skill set is and what makes you feel good. And I like entertaining people. My dog makes me feel good. I know it’s a total dopamine rush. But people like my dog. And that's fine., that's yeah. I just would rather be positive online than not positive online.

Alicia: No, yeah. I think I'm learning this too. That doesn't help anybody to be shit talking or negative. And it's hard for me [laughter] as a mostly negative person. 

Jami: Yeah, and you’re a truth teller. I'm a truth teller, too. It's not that I'm not ever negative. I think you have to be honest about it. And especially as a thinker, a participant in culture, that kind of thing. But where you focus, you really choose to focus your energy. 

I sound very hippy dippy. [Laughs.]

Alicia: No, you don't ’cause it's real. And yeah, we've been on the internet for so long now, at this point, everyone, I think. But it's so different now. And I think that's the tension that I'm always teasing out, is that I used to have a relationship with the internet, like you were saying, where I got so much more out of it than it got out of me. And now that definitely changed. 

Considering how to reassemble a positive relationship with the internet, where it doesn't feel like a vampire to just open an app, is really important. I mean, I guess, or people who weren't on the internet all the time are here. And they have a voice, and they think that they need to—the way people are and be nasty and think that that’s ok. And that sort of thing.

Jami: It's out of control, but it's also it's too—it's so far gone that it doesn't even matter. It’s beyond me. So I'm just like, ‘Whatever.’ I'm just gonna do the thing that I do, and that's fine. And they can do what they're gonna do. And I can't save the world. And I can only just put out what I can put out because it's too—I'm not their mom. Or whatever. 

Alicia: But there are a lot of people looking for moms on Twitter. [Laughs.] 

Well, why did you want to write a memoir now after so many novels? I heard you talking about this on The Maris Review a little bit.

Jami: I don't know why I did it. No, I know why I did. I'm very shut down about it, I have to admit. 

So it came out on January 11th. It's April 4. So it's been out for a little bit. I basically put it out, did everything I was supposed to do for the month that I came out. It's also two months beforehand. So I do interviews and all this other stuff. So it's really two to three months. It used to be, in the old days, that you would have a book, you would do a bunch of stuff a month before it came out. And then, you really would talk about it for 2, 3, 4 months. And now, the cycle is everything happens before and then one month after. And then, the next thing steps in. Even the biggest sellers in the world. Hanya Yanagihara’s book was massive. And I think after a month, it was like, ‘Ok, she did everything she was supposed to do. Right, who's next? Who's next on the list?’

So yeah, so anyway, I put in a lot of effort around that time. And then, I immediately went offline for the month of February and worked, which was delightful. I wasn't on Twitter. I wasn't totally screen free. It felt real, real good. Now I'm back on a little bit. And I'm not really answering your question. I'm gonna answer your question, eventually. So now I'm back. And I'm going to start doing some touring again and think—this summer, I’m gonna do some stuff. And I have some speaking engagements and things like that. So I think I'm sort of back in the game. And I thought I would have perspective on it. 

I couldn't write another novel, because I had written seven. I needed a break from writing novels. So my way of taking a break, we don't get to take a sabbatical, was just to write a memoir. Fortunately, I had sold the book before that right before the pandemic hit. So I at least had that project to work on, and it was really poor—I thought I was gonna be writing it here and there. I'd be traveling, whatever. I just had a book come back. And instead, I was just really living with myself at home, really no escaping me while I was writing a memoir. I was a lot. 

I definitely think, because I was about to turn 50, that was part of it. I had some perspective, finally. It was really kind of spanning maybe 20 years of my life, my writing career, mostly focused on my writing career more than anything else. Left a little bit to childhood here and there, a little bit to the modern day here and there. I thought I had only been writing part of the truth the entire time that I have been reading nonfiction, 20 years of nonfiction, alongside 20 years of writing novels. And I thought that it would be worth it to try and explore these essays that I wrote that were 1200 words for the back of New York Times Magazine. What does it look like if they get expanded? How do they all fit next to each other? A lot of these chapters were like five essays that were not chopped up but had a very kaleidoscopic effect in the writing of the book. And then there were things that I thought were really important that I would have sworn would have been l huge focal points in the book, essays I'd written that ended up being just like a paragraph. And then I was done with it. 

It was really an interesting experience in that way. The process of it was actually, I learned so much from the process of it. I learned new things about my writing. I really just thought I needed to try something different, a different genre, and I thought I was ready to write about myself. I don't ever want to look at this book again. And right now that's how I feel. Yeah, I don't even know how to respond to it. I think I get that way with all my books. And then I look back a couple years later, and I'm like, ‘I knew a big word,’ or whatever. That’s a really fancy word that I put in there. How did I even come up with that? I don't know what it means now.

Yeah, I don't know. I can't wait to see. I will say that I'm getting really positive responses to it from people. I'm sure there are people who hate it. But I have been getting really nice emails that are different than the emails that I usually get for my fiction. Because it's me, so they're responding to me personally. Please do send me a nice email about my work. I'm happy for it to have meant something. You don't sort of, don't know how to respond to it. I really thought I was not particularly likable in that book. And I am fascinated that people emailed me and were like, ‘I'm pretty sure we would be friends.’ I’m like, ‘Are ya? I'm not that good. Did you read the same book? I’m kind of shitty. Are you sure?’ Anyway.

Alicia: I didn't come away thinking you were shitty. So I don't know. [Laughs.]

Jami: I suppose we all are. 

Alicia: Do you think it would have been different if you weren't writing it during the pandemic? Did you anticipate it being different? 

Jami: For sure. Because there's the present tense of the book became—I thought I would be writing it while I was traveling. Because I had had six months of touring planned out, because in my old life, it was—that's what I did. I had a book come out, and then I toured for the next year, with little breaks here and there. And then, I'd write here and there. And so I thought, 'I'm gonna be writing this while I'm traveling.' And that's gonna be part of the process. 

And instead, I was writing it from a, I think, a wistful or more full place where I might have—If I were traveling and exhausted and had written it, I might even have been more critical. Instead, I was like, 'Remember that time? I was so happy there, wasn't I?' that I think that was different. 

I think everyone had—Not everyone. Can't speak for everyone. I think a lot of people that I know had some come to Jesus moments over the last couple of years about who you are, what you're doing with your life? What kind of person you are? What you can handle? How are you a part of your community? How do you feel about your community? All that kind of stuff. And so that, I think, played into it in a way that I wouldn't have had to think about if I were still on the road running around. 

I'm certain it would have been a different book. I'm certain of it. And so then, you write the book that you can write.

Alicia: Well, has this time changed your relationship to traveling? Because you are moving in the book. Also in life, of course. You're traveling so much. Do you feel differently about travel now?

Jami: I will say, maybe it was my sabbatical. Even though I wasn't traveling. If you'd asked me six months ago, I would have been like, 'Great. I don't ever want to travel again. It's fine.' I feel I needed the break. And now, I'm so hungry for it. I can't wait to get out in the world. 

I'm doing a European tour in two weeks. And I just kept adding vacation time in there. I'm gone for three weeks. And I think I have seven events in three weeks, which means there's a couple cities I'm going to that are just kind of for fun. That's just for me. And I will be super broke at the end of it. But I don't, kind of don't care. I don't know. I will have to write a little bit more than I want to. 

The only thing is that I write a lot in the book about how—There's a big chapter about my flight anxiety, and I had really pushed past it. And have found now that I'm flying again enmasked that it has returned. I'm doing a whole layer of work on that that I hadn't anticipated having to do. I thought it was fine. And then I had set up meetings, all these systems into place when you have anxiety. A lot of those systems aren't really available to you when you're wearing a mask. And when other people are wearing masks. And so, that's my only challenge.

I think I'm gonna spend way too much money in my life on upgrading my seats. I just had this whole Twitter thing where I posted about aisle seats versus window seats. 20,000 people responded to it. Because I'm such an aisle person. But window people are super window people. 

Actually window people have their own form of anxiety, too. And that means to them, it feels like it's a cocoon and it's safe and everything like that. And it ended up being kind of exposure therapy for me in this weird way of seeing all these people talking about their feelings about where they sit on an airplane. Twitter was helpful for me in that way.

But I still don't know, those middle-row people.

Alicia: Very, very, very odd to me. I have to be in the aisle. I don't like to have to bother someone to get up. I would rather be bothered by someone than to be the botherer. I think that's the question really, is would you rather ask or be asked [laughs] to get up? I don't know what psychological meaning that has really, but it seems like something.

We talked about this though, yeah. How has New Orleans changed your life other than it being an easier place to live as a writer?

Jami: I now have a little house here. So I like that when you own a house, your life changes in certain ways. You have certain kinds of responsibilities. It makes me feel safe to have a mortgage, because I rented for so long. So I think being a homeowner means something to me.

I would say, I see people more. I see friends more. I really appreciate now that I have the opportunity to see people in my community all the time. I miss a little bit maybe of the anonymity in New York, where you could walk out your door and not see people and just go out about your day and make the choices that you want to make. And here, it's you walk out your front door, you're gonna run into three people you know. Especially with the dog. All the dog people know each other. Everyone lives in houses versus large apartment buildings, and things like that. 

It's just different. It's a much tighter and closer community. The weather's better. It really doesn't mean a lot to me to have better weather. New Orleans has many, many problems as a city, but I still love it here. I definitely feel happier here. Definitely feel happier here.

Alicia: Well, how do you define abundance? 

Jami: Well, I'm looking out my window, and there's just a huge loquat tree that is just full of orange. And I can walk out there right now and pull the fruit from the tree. And that feels like abundance to me.

Alicia: Well, for you is writing a political act? 

Jami: Yes, of course. Of course. What else are we doing here? 

Alicia: Usually asking people cooking, is cooking a political act? I want to be fair. They usually say yes, or no. 

But people, they'll say that 'me being in the kitchen isn't political.' Speaking of academics, I did a conversation with a professor, an English professor who has a novel out. And we were talking about this, and she was saying how there's so much labor involved in cooking. And I think that when people talk about cooking not being political when they're in the kitchen, and I think that they're doing a disservice to their own work.

Jami: I was thinking about how earlier you were talking about writing being labor, and there actually has been an internet discussion as of late about being a novelist being unpaid labor. 

I just have to say, no one's making you write a novel. No one's making you do any of this. You're choosing to do it because you want to. You chose it. You chose a hard path. We chose a hard path. But there are other paths that are even harder. And the fact that you even have a choice is amazing to do it. 

Sorry. I was just being a mom there. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh. I sound like such a mom.'

Alicia: Yeah, no, but thank you. Thank you for being here.

Jami: Yeah, sure. My pleasure.

Alicia: Thanks so much to everyone for listening to this week's edition of From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy. Read more at Or follow me on Instagram, @aliciadkennedy, or on Twitter at @aliciakennedy.

From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy
From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy Podcast
A weekly food and culture podcast from writer Alicia Kennedy, who talks to writers, chefs, and more about their lives, careers, and how food fits into it all.