Thursday, November 15, 2007


Yesterday I took A to the library so she could participate in toddler story time and I could collect the 23,000 books I'd reserved (I love being able to access the library via the internet... it's a beautiful, beautiful thing. The librarians who have to pull books for me almost every day may disagree.).

After the morning packed full of errands, I schlepped my toddler and my pile of books back home.

Have you ever been ravenously hungry as the first course of a gourmet dinner was served? Dinner could be a Big Mac and it would be divine (you're that hungry!), but you know that you can expect so much more that you can't help but be thankful for being painfully hungry because - hopefully - that will mean that you have the appetite to enjoy every course through dessert without ever feeling too full.

Maybe it's just me.

But that's how I feel when I bring a pile of books back from the library and sit down to contemplate them. And when it's the library, it's like going to a chef friend's house (yes, I've been fortunate enough to do this) where you could try exotic fare with no worries about the final bill... worst case scenario is that you don't like one particular offering so you move on to the next with no disappointment or obligation (probably just feeling thankful that you experienced something you might not have been adventurous enough to try elsewhere). Conversely, going to a bookstore is like going to a four star restaurant, where surveying the menu produces nothing so much as anxiety. Can you afford more than one course? Should you meekly select something a la carte and hope it will be OK (and that the waiter won't get all attitudey) or blow your budget trying a bunch of things you think you ought to like, but inevitably feel a little cheated because, even if it's fantastic, it's definitely consumable and it will end... and you'll be left with a blown budget and nothing much to show for it... and if it isn't wonderful, you'll be left feeling cheated and unsatisfied and (if you're anything like me) berate yourself for being so unsophisticated that you can't appreciate the foods that people with cultivated palates must love.

Yep. That's what a trip to Barnes & Noble is for me. It doesn't keep me away. No matter what, I still love being surrounded by books and potential knowledge. But, unless I went in intending to buy one particular book, I've come to dislike purchasing time... and in most of my subjects of interest, B&N just doesn't carry specialized enough material (Powell's Books is a whole other beast for a whole different analogy). So if I spend money in B&N, chances are very good I'll leave with some buyer's remorse. No matter how much I love books in general.

So... back to my fresh-from-the-library stack of books...

The first was a dud. It was Someone's in the Kitchen With Mommy: More than 100 Easy Recipes and Fun Crafts for Parents and Kids by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD. OK, dud might be a bit harsh, but most of the recipes I contemplated required fake ingredients. I realize she's an RD, but if I'm going to take the time to cook good foods with/for my kids, I'm not using fat free egg product or diet margarine. That's not what I want to teach them about food. If you want to healthy-up a recipe there are many substitutions that can be made which replace fats with fruit, beans, etc. I'm not in this to add the latest chemical crap to my kids' food in the name of whatever current food fad is considered healthiest.

But hey... it's a library book. I didn't have to buy it. I get to take it back. I'm still happy.

Next I somewhat nervously began Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook by John Thorne with Matt Lewis Thorne. Oh, rapture! John Thorne is such a brilliant essayist that I can forgive him his Amherst education (I'm deeply prejudiced against Amherst - mostly illogically - long story). Yes, his essays seem to orbit around a food or cooking method. But they're so much more. Subject matter aside, I rarely stumble across a writer who can evoke this kind of visceral, almost animalistic joy in me. I love words even more than I love food.

Which brings me to the title of today's blog entry: ignorance. Last night, I devoured a paragraph that brought me to a complete standstill. The kind of reading moment that freezes all the little brain cogs and you have to go back over it, three or four times, breaking down each word to suck the marrow out and try to reconstruct the essence of a concept just out of your reach. I knew I'd need to come back to it, so I actually defaced a sacred library book. I dog-eared the page and highlighted the paragraph with the first tool at hand - a jumbo washable crayon (red). Here it is:

"The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard once observed that, despite our persistent belief to the contrary, our ignorance is rarely a blank slate waiting to be written upon. Instead, it has the assured grip of deeply felt, fully formed (if unarticulated) assumptions that - no matter how hard we try to shake them - prove dismayingly durable, even regarding the simplest things."

Suddenly I'm digging through my psyche and knowledge banks, searching for all those little denials I know are hiding comfortably amongst the truths... examining all the things I think I know... yet knowing that my ignorances will probably not be so easily identified and dismembered. I can't quite explain why this is so exciting to me. I guess I'm just enchanted by finding a lucid description of an aspect of human nature that I could never quite describe.

My life is never so full and colorful as when I have a new concept to mull.

Life is good.


  1. mmm, I love it. I can see why that quote was such food for thought. Ignorance is something I think about quite often :) and that explanation makes a lot of sense. I think what bothers me the most about ignorance isn't the lack of knowledge but how DEEPLY HELD the uneducated or un-thought-through (in my opinion) views are.

  2. What bothers me most about ignorance are the folks who won't bother to listen to anyone else. You don't have to change your mind, but to be completely closed off is something I've never understood.

  3. I read the latest Harry Potter when it came out...and I read Anderson Cooper's book...I liked them. I dont suppose they count as the big quality books you are speaking of.

  4. Hey - nice to "see" you. Found your blog from westernwarmth's. I loved your post! My dh and I just went to the library in our new town. I walked up to the check out counter with 9 books and he asked me if I was really getting them all! You would think after 8 years of marriage he knew how bad my addiction is.