The Desk Digest, January 2024
The first month of the relaunched newsletter.
I committed in this relaunch to give myself more time and space for my essays; give time and space to others’; and make space for discussions about food nonfiction. It has, thus far, been generative and a delight! I am very excited about the forthcoming work both I and contributors have been doing. I also have news on the long-form project that will be taking up the rest of my time this year…
With the Digest, I both wanted to give people an opportunity to receive only one email per month (to change in settings) or keep everyone else up to date. I need to figure out the particular bit of technology that will allow me to do both, which is why today’s is coming late.
I am also hoping to use this space to give a bit of a “state of the newsletter” each month. I have quite a bit to say about the state of the world and how food can respond to this, and I wrote a bit of a rage-y introduction to this that I jettisoned. It’s not in keeping with how I want to do things: If the commitment here is about giving my work time, I don’t want to have a social media–type breakdown that ultimately does a disservice. And so this month, a roundup of what’s been published in the newsletter this January:
January 1: “Both Joyful and Killjoy”
“I still have some fight in me, but I have so little will to bring that fight to other people, to other people who are like me and are trying to grapple with the experience of hitting enormous highs and crushing lows concurrently.”
I’m using my recommended link roundup each month now to do book giveaways for paid subscribers. They went very fast this time and I assume it’ll keep happening! But it’s both a great way to share the wealth of books I’m sent and try to clear up space in my shelves.
January 8: “A Breakfast Routine”
“I get very frustrated by the knots empire, capitalism, and colonialism force people into attempting to untangle that often conclude at binaries like the above, either perfect or fucked, by whichever standard of behavior we’re holding ourselves to: These knots leave us at a standstill, infantalized.”
January 12: “The Monthly Menu: A Whirlwind December” (Paid)
Where I ate, what I cooked, and notes on the recipes I tried out—plenty of links and cookbook recommendations here—between New York and San Juan. I’ve been finding so much excitement in moving away from recipe development and toward being able to share my favorites, experiences, and insights.
Next month’s edition will include a weekend trip to Montreal that my husband and I took to escape from Old San Juan’s San Sebastián festival, which would’ve seen us essentially trapped in our apartment for four days by the crowds. I will be updating my very popular Montreal city map, which includes recommendations gained and gleaned from locals.
In the first Desk Dispatch, Layla Schlack writes about identity, diaspora, and the imposition of a nation-state upon a land and a people. How Schlack uses food to make the overarching point that Jewish people are not a monolith and could not be one—despite violent insistence—is deft.
January 19: “The Desk Book Club: Small Fires” (Paid)
We read and discussed the first 79 pages of Rebecca May Johnson’s Small Fires, and I shared other work that it has come into intellectual conversation with for me, as well as links to pertinent interviews with the author and reviews of the text.
From the Desk… will return on Monday, February 5. January has been a long month, giving me some gracious space to really get going on my new book and get ahead on February’s pieces. I’ll be sharing my recent talk at Bates College on using food justice as a lens for creating and interacting with food media, and then I’ll be writing about how I change the way I write for speaking versus being read—I’ve learned quite a bit about this in the last couple of years!
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I wrote the cover story for the February 2024 issue of Harper’s Bazaar: a profile of the supermodel Gisele Bündchen on the eve of her publishing a cookbook. It was such a wonderful experience, and I really enjoyed having to put together a profile of this kind. It ends up being a sort of puzzle. I’ve missed working in that way.
Here’s a quick listicle for Vogue of ten essential vegan (or vegan-adjacent) cookbooks, all of which influenced the trajectory chronicled in No Meat Required.
A Lifestyle Note
Considering we’ve been traveling to Montreal and Quebec since choosing it as the site of our 2021 honeymoon, I highly recommend repeat trips to the same place and getting to know it better and in different times. This will be our first deep winter visit—I’m looking forward to a bit of snow. (But we’re also planning to go to Madrid, Barcelona, and Paris this coming November—I’ll be slowly gathering my recommendations. I’ve been to Madrid only briefly; my husband studied for his masters in Barcelona and I’ve never been; and I need to fix my relationship to Paris, as I spent my last visit with food poisoning.)