It’s no great secret that I’m a fan of the retrospective. So I’m reflecting on my bests from 2014 as we count down to the New Year — and there were many! Best restaurant bites, dishes from our kitchen, travel moments, writing and reading… here we go!
Maintaining this online space is a way to wade through my days and reflect. But it would be disingenuous to say it isn’t also about the craft of writing and reading — toward honing my skill with regular practice. Over the decade-plus I’ve kept an online home, I’ve learned that consistency is key to the writing craft, and I’m grateful to have that reignited through Some Infinite Thing. To that end, here are the 10 best things I wrote and read this year.
10 things I wrote in 2014
Grief threaded my narratives this year in different ways. I wrote a (first, final, only) public reflection on the death of a best-friendship and at last finding closure. When my mom was unexpectedly hospitalized, it surfaced hard memories from seven years ago and I found new ways to understand and get through, though it never gets easier.
Oh, Christmas Tree (December)
As we lifted the bulbs one by one, mom chose the best place for each and nestled it within the branches — her skill honed from years of experience. We sat back and admired our handiwork, this tree a bright light in a difficult time, a comforting anchor of familiarity and home and tradition as we prepared for a series of unknowns. The tree made so much sense.
Thanksgiving, unexpectedly (November)
Having a sick parent is the worst thing. As much as you grow through difficult times, and oh, how you grow — patience grows, love grows, humility grows — certainly, we become better — it does not make this all easier. It is never easier. Still I try to find that silver lining, to wrap myself within, to keep keeping on.
One day he was there and the next he was gone, with little more than a handwritten letter that outlined the faults of our friendship and my being, mailed with an epistolarian’s precision to arrive on my 26th birthday, and signed with a flourish: with a demand never to contact him again.
Surprisingly, I have been drawn to writing about my (nascent) marriage, as revealed by the quantity of posts in the past year that relate back to being a wife. I love being married to Austin, learning from him, adventuring with him, and teasing out what this newly-carved identity — wife — means to me. It is a domain in which I will never stop learning, growing and (hopefully) becoming better.
Marriage, one year (October)
As someone who never assumed I would marry, let alone be married this early in my life, co-creating a marriage that is supportive, respectful and just totally fun is a gift. The sum is greater than its parts is cliche, but true. At Austin’s side I am a better version of myself — I am kinder, smarter, more inquisitive and easier. I am softer. I make my husband better, too, and this knowledge is empowering.
I will never (I hope) contend that it’s an inherently feminist choice to keep or take our husbands’ names. The act is replete with both obvious and unspoken truths, cultural and professional norms and historical weight, some that I understand and others that I don’t. I do understand that there’s too much nuance and depth to other women’s circumstances for me to judge or begrudge or applaud their choices.
I’ve considered the many theses people offer about postponing the decision to marry. Waiting for something better. Needing to grow into commitment. Men taking longer than women to warm to the idea of marriage. These arguments strike me as concerning and even sexist (see: no woman should have to beg her boyfriend to “put a ring on it,” though this has become a societally-acceptable aphorism/rally cry).
Travel, together (June)
I always marvel at how much I thought I knew, and how much I learn in the meanwhile. I sit for awhile with the arbitrary badges I wore proudly that no longer serve me. I never imagined I’d be anything but a reluctant co-traveller. Who knew I would want someone at my side for each adventure, to sweeten it? Yes, it is a platitude that I love to travel with my husband. It’s also a startling and beautiful revelation.
There’s a lot you learn walking, without distraction, five mornings and evenings a week with your husband, looking toward the same things. It’s different from being together in a car or on a subway or sitting across a table. Holding hands, taking in the air and figuring through matters big and small as you both take steps forward. It’s an act imbued with lovely symbolism. These are times for pondering the now and the future, the little and big ways we make our marriage and our days, walking down the roads of life.
I like to learn, and not in a passive way. I am (perhaps annoyingly) one of those people who will always seek out the life lesson, whether formally or through the quotidien. At twenty-eight, I am taking everything I can from this water around me to learn more, delve deeper and stretch a little further.
Twenty-eight, by all manner of measurement, is still very young. But it’s also happily inside of adult, with many adult milestones behind me, and many still ahead of me. I hear a lot (too much!) that life gets harder as you get older. The responsibilities pile on, time speeds up, the occasions to grieve come with greater frequency, our days become much less ours, the mundane of the grind is the norm. All this is true. But what doesn’t come with this diagnosis is how much better equipped we are to handle both the petty grievances and crushing blows, and to embrace more deeply and appreciate the beauty and luck and wonder we experience.
So last night, I went back to school. I donned my little backpack and packed my notebook and pens and walked to campus. I stepped into the sommelier lab for my first class in a very long process: the (I’m told) grueling, fascinating, soul-crushing, wonderful road toward becoming a certified sommelier, and maybe, one day, years from now, if I’m obsessive enough, a Master.
A lot like life: the carnations we love or don’t are particular to who we are and the biases we keep. What hidden spaces within cause us to love some things so deeply and other things not as much? What about fat and showy roses makes me recoil? Without the sweet memory of my dad’s weekly gesture toward mom, would I consider carnations so fondly?
10 things I read in 2014
While there’s so much good writing online, these are the pieces that stood out through the year against all others, for their message, well crafted prose or subject matter.
No, I actually don’t have as Many Hours in the Day as Beyonce by Jessica Blankenship (January)
I like that Beyoncé has become a role model for “having it all”, and I don’t think there’s a lot to be lost by having talented, accomplished, powerful women held up as emblems of strength and an unwillingness to be slowed down. But I am officially calling off this whole “You have as many hours in the day as Beyoncé” thing that has suddenly become the rallying cry of motivated, caffeinated women all over the internet. Because not only is it entirely untrue, but even though it appears to be a message of encouragement, it actually only serves to make us feel shitty about ourselves.
Confessions of a Lifelong Eavesdropper by Margaret Hawkins (February)
I remember as a child, going to restaurants with her. She’d get that faraway look I was so accustomed to and, though she’d remain in her seat, she’d be gone for a while. Later her attention would drift back to our table and she’d smile and say, pleasantly, in the tone of a connoisseur who’d discovered a charming little artifact in an unexpected place, “he has a rash on his back. He says it’s murder.” Then she’d chuckle a little, maybe relieved that someone else had troubles, too, but also delighted at this turn of phrase, this bit of found language. I knew better than to look at the man at the next table, scratching.
The Art of the Epigraph by Jonathan Russell Clark (June)
You see, I love epigraphs. Everything about them. I love the white space surrounding the words. I love the centered text, the dash of the attribution. I love the promise. When I was a kid, they intimidated me with their suggested erudition. I wanted to be the type of person able to quote Shakespeare or Milton or, hell, Stephen King appropriately. I wanted to be the type of writer who understood their own work so well that they could pair it with an apt selection from another writer’s work.
This CEO is Out for Blood by Roger Parloff (June)
Still, he balked at seeing her start a company before finishing her degree. “I said, ‘Why do you want to do this?’ And she said, ‘Because systems like this could completely revolutionize how effective health care is delivered. And this is what I want to do. I don’t want to make an incremental change in some technology in my life. I want to create a whole new technology, and one that is aimed at helping humanity at all levels regardless of geography or ethnicity or age or gender.’ ”
Under the Volcano by Anthony Bourdain (May)
We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films. So, why don’t we love Mexico?
Reflections on a Cookbook by Mimi Thorisson (October)
I’ve come to the conclusion that [this cookbook] wouldn’t mean anything at all if I wasn’t proud of it, and I am. It will be there for our children and their children as a souvenir of the life we had and the food we cooked. It will be there to remind me and my husband that once we were young and had dreams and hoped that our dreams might give wings to the dreams of other people.
Olafur Eliasson on How to Do Good Art by Ned Beauman (November)
One of Eliasson’s friends, the author Jonathan Safran Foer, told me over the phone that he found spending time with Eliasson “overwhelming, whether overwhelming in the sense of at times feeling almost too much, or overwhelming in the sense of being really moving. You sit down with Olafur for a meal and he picks up the fork and stares at it for a moment and you think, Oh my god, he’s either inventing a new fork or wondering how to get forks to people who don’t have forks. ” He added: “After I’ve spent an hour with him I feel like I need a nap, but it’s because he has more curiosity than anyone I’ve ever met, and a greater belief in a person’s ability to be useful and to change things. Somehow he lives his entire life with the urgency of someone who just walked out of the doctor’s office with a dire prognosis.”
Maintaining a Long-term Blog by Heidi Swanson (November)
Here’s how I approach this site, and have for a long time. I think of it as my practice. It’s something I’m committed to, and look forward to being committed to for years to come. Contributing something new each week helps me develop in areas that I find important creatively – cooking, writing, taking photographs – and the only way I’m able to grow is through experience, experimentation, and regular practice.
Noma’s René Redzepi Never Stops Experimenting by Howie Kahn (November)
Eleven years in, and the food at Noma is unmatched. After eating a dish of lobster and nasturtium, Sean Brock, of the restaurant Husk in Charleston, South Carolina, recalls thinking, “A dish like this should be the goal of every chef, a dish that appears innocent and kicks your ass.”
And, for number 10, a few of my favourite collections from the year, because fashion is storytelling of its own, and 2014 produced stunning runways.
Lanvin Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear: Alber Elbaz created my single favourite look of all the collections presented in 2014. That’s saying a ton, because I adored so many from S2015 RTW. But the pure cerulean blue, the drape… everything reminded me why Lanvin is consistently one of my favourite houses.
A Détacher Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear: I can’t even begin with this collection. Mona Kowalska has a knack for making clever, irreverent clothes for the intellectual woman — the patterns for this collection knocked out everything else from S2015 RTW.
Valentino Fall 2014 Couture: a heart-stopping collection from first to last look. I tried to pick favourite looks from this show, but ended up with 25 open tabs.
Things I wrote & read, some time ago
The below annual retrospectives were published at my former online home, anthimeria.com. Sadly, 2013 and 2012 are missing, but it’s still fun to look down the rabbit hole of time (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, right?).