Two Years and a Dog-eared Author Copy

Beaten-up and dog-eared. The author copy.

Beaten-up and dog-eared. The author copy.

Two years ago I was feverishly awaiting the date of April 26, 2011. This was the day that my first cookbook would be published. Actually, this was the second publication date. The first one was in March on my birthday. But I blew it because I couldn’t finish the manuscript in time. So 4-26 was the big day. Only a few months earlier, my husband and I had just moved into our very first home in America, between two major Boston snowstorms. Moving boxes were still everywhere—there is still one in my office right now—and I was nervous. And Anxious. And sometimes sleepless.

Having not published a book before, I had no idea what a publication date meant. Would I get flooded with interview requests? Would I be invited to dozens of book events? (Oh, for the delusions of first-time authors!) Most important, what if someone penned a terrible review? About a German-Greek who wrote a whole grain cookbook which embraces hedonistic ingredients such as rich mascarpone, heavy whipping cream, whole milk Greek yogurt, and even bacon (in moderation, of course)?

My stomach was churning for weeks until I finally confided in my wonderful publicist at Ten Speed Press. She assured me with her signature kindness and gentle smile that the actual publication date—which I anticipated as a major landmark—wouldn’t really change that much for me and not to worry. Just relax. It was hard. But I tried.

It turned out she was right. For a week or so. Then the Boston Globe came calling. And I hauled a dozen moving boxes from the dining room into the attic where they remain, unopened. So the dining room looked good. Then the bloggers took note. And my book started moving off the store shelves, the digital and the old-fashioned ones. Slowly but steadily Ancient Grains arrived in the hands of home cooks and readers, and it kept moving, and moving. And I got busier, and busier. Events and interview requests came too, to this day, and so much more.

If you had told me then that I would meet my food heroes—Jacques Pépin, Ruth Reichl, and Jamie Oliver—in person, and all within a few weeks, I would have laughed my head off. But I did, and it left me hugely shy at the moment but happy as a clam and still smiling. Furthermore, my book connected me with so many food loving people across the country and around the world, via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I am thankful beyond words for wonderful colleagues who have been supportive, by providing advice, by writing about my book, by inviting me, and by simply being super-great company day-in and day-out. I’m also amazed about the engaging readers from across the country who write to me to this day. They ask how much grain they should buy when they go grocery shopping in Alaska. They inform me that their diabetic husband’s insulin levels improved with ancient grain recipes from my book. Or they are surprised that their husbands actually enjoyed a meal with ancient grains. Sometimes I almost cry.

Looking back two years, I’m also thankful that chefs and cooking schools I visit today display their vast selections of ancient grains in mason jars (not in the fridge) as I recommend in my book. Most important: I’m thrilled that so many people have embraced the textures and flavors of grains on their tables. Mainstream grocers offer selections of grains like never before. Restaurants showcase farro, Chinese black rice, quinoa, and wheat berries. And schools and universities serve grains to their students regularly. The change of my dreams.

On a lighter note: I’m thrilled to report that I can now prepare 100 samples of boozy wheat berry fools for events without blinking an eye. Furthermore, an informal survey of my Twitter stream and Facebook posts revealed that my artichoke-rosemary tart in a soft polenta crust is the most cooked recipe from my book. It was one of the hardest to get right. Maybe its appeal lies in the wonderful photograph Sara Remington took, or because this dish showcases the comforting side of grains, often overlooked.

Last but not least, I have changed. I have spent two years surrounded by piles of paper. At times, there seemed to be no space left to step into my office. Me, the super-organized and clutter-phobic, was constantly scrambling to keep on top of invoices and appointments, and the flood of unanswered e-mails in my inbox. But I learned to relax, kind of. Despite the fact that I have lost and misplaced a gazillion items. My husband who has a big heart never complained even though he probably wondered what happened to the neat freak he married. And I will be forever thankful to the nice people who returned my favorite pink spatula in the mail after an event—because no other tool folds the heavy cream as well into my wheat berry fools. Plus, I will need it for my second book which is currently spread out on my office floor.

The only item I never lost or let out of sight: my author copy. In fact, I get a little nervous when people touch it, lift it up, or check it out at book events. I tend to grab it fast and smile, sheepishly, and hand them a fresh copy of my book. Because this beaten up and earmarked tome of Ancient Grains has my life in it—with its notes, stickers, and countless markings of TV gigs, book store events, cooking classes, and public talks. All the memories of my journey. Thank you all. I had a blast.


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