The year was 1959, and I was 12 years old. I knew exactly what train I wanted. As the holidays approached, I pointed it out to my parents at our local hobby shop. It was an HO-gauge replica of the Sante Fe Super Chief, which ran between Los Angeles and Chicago from 1936 to 1971. Billed as a “grand hotel on rails,” it’s considered to be the sleekest, most beautiful passenger train ever built in America.
Who doesn’t love the sun? I always worshiped it in the most delicious, but unhealthy ways, especially when I was young. My altars were rooftops, beaches and convertibles. I always dreaded the end of daylight saving time, when it was shockingly dark at 5 p.m. (It takes place this year on Sunday, Nov. 3, at 2 a.m.) I didn’t like spending the next six months as the sun’s jilted lover, waiting for it to come crawling back to me from Rio, or wherever it had run off to.
“Cookbooks. $3 each,” said the sign on the table in my driveway.
They were gone within a few hours — hundreds of cookbooks that I had spent decades collecting. I had cookbooks for every country’s city and region; for every technique, from roasting to outdoor grilling; by big- name chefs, celebrities and foodies. I had the classics, from “Julia Child” to “Joy of Cooking” to “Escoffier.” I had cookbooks whose recipes I didn’t give a fig about. Their sumptuous photographs were a meal in themselves.
But there was one cookbook that didn’t make my moving sale: Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.” Even if I had wanted to sell it, I doubt I could — its pages are frayed and covered with food stains.
Every Sunday I read the “By the Book” column that appears in the New York Time’s Book Review section. The one-page Q&A asks important writers and artists about their reading habits.
I’m always astonished — and intimidated — by the titles and quantity of the books the interviewees rattle off. I just hope I never get a call from the editors of the column asking what I’m reading now.