My friend and mentor Priscilla Long introduced me to the abecedarium, a collage format in 26 sections, “a considerable space to contain and thankfully to restrain a large subject,” she says in her excellent manual, The Writer’s Portable Mentor. Two of Priscilla’s alphabetical essays inspired me to try my own. There are a lot of ways to look at life from A to Z, but I seized on food as the natural choice, the source of much of my writing and the ideal way to encapsulate some highlights and lowlights, from the comfort food of childhood to the haggis in Scotland.
An additional treat was to have my essay, “Leftovers on Lettuce: ABCs of a Life in Food,” published in Middlebrow Magazine, with its play on Virginia Woolf’s snooty but tongue-in-cheek essay in which she castigates “middlebrow” as “the bloodless and pernicious pest who comes between” the highbrow and the lowbrow, “the bane of all thinking and living.” The editors seek to reclaim it as a positive concept, calling Woolf’s own essays middlebrow, so I consider myself in good company on their pages.
My piece opens with an epigram from Woolf, who wrote frequently and evocatively about food. So, in homage to Virginia and with thanks to Priscilla, here’s my latest.