Amy Bloom Recommends...

“I am not looking, usually, for inspiration. I am looking for an ambulance. I’m looking for a sturdy ladder. I’m looking for something that will make a good sentence seem possible. I read my Janes, Hirshfield and Kenyon, because they know what the dark at the end of the tunnel looks like. I hit my music very hard: Fats Domino, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dinah Washington, Regina Carter, The Hot Sardines, Esperanza Spalding. I put on my baggiest jeans and my daughter’s coffee-stained Smith College T-shirt and I cook like a meteor is heading to Earth and only food can stop it. If I’m hungry, I make Cacio e Pepe: Boil pasta. Mash grated cheese and black pepper with some cold water and make a paste. Spread the paste in a bowl. Put al dente pasta into the bowl and stir. Add a little olive oil and a little pasta water. Sprinkle with more pepper and cheese. Eat. If I can wait, I make mandelbrot, the Jewish biscotti: four cups of flour, four eggs, baking powder, one cup of sugar, three-fourths cup of oil, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and two cups of chopped almonds. Nothing else. Mix the wet, then add the dry and mix some more. Do not get adventurous. Raisins will not be an improvement. Neither will chocolate chips. Neither will…fenugreek. Stop it. Shape into two logs. Bake at 350 degrees for a half hour. Remove and cut into slices. Bake another ten minutes. Done. These are the best things in the world with tea or coffee. Inspiration, as Chuck Close said memorably, cruelly, and truly, is for amateurs. But the pasta and the cookies do help.”
—Amy Bloom, author of White Houses (Random House, 2018)