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Let books be your dining table,
And you shall be full of delights
Let them be your mattress
And you shall sleep restful nights.
~Author Unknown

lately i’ve been abjectly ignoring my school work. which–while not the healthiest of habits–has been working out quite well for me, and i’ve rediscovered reading for pleasure. zipping along to work in the morning, and back home at night–or even in the quiet hours while my husband is at class, has a rejuvenating effect. coming home to a still house at night, while it’s raining out, making tea and lighting candles, while settling down in my favorite chair with a good book is supremely healing, and loosing myself for a few moments with a guided day dream fills me with delight.

reading for pleasure is so very unlike reading for school. while i find pleasure in reading my school books, reading something that might be academically frivolous has a certain joy associated with it. reading at my own pace, for my own interests, with thoughts bubbling and brewing in my mind–without the requirement to share them aloud lest those class participation points escape–is unlike any other kind of reading. it allows me to be at peace by myself, enjoying secret travels, and dining alone with my soul.

lately i’ve been reading non-fiction (mostly non-fiction about food!). most of the books i’ve been reading are focused on anachronistic lifestyles, and seasonal living–which is exactly my speed right now. i love learning about lost arts and ways of life–there is something so wholesome about learning to do things for myself. or to be involved in the processes of my life–or just to not take the go-go-go lifestyle to certain extremes. cooking my own food, mending my own clothes, walking places. there is something about my basic nature that feels at home in this kind of living.

my brother-in-law sent me this book after i added it to my amazon.com wishlist. i read about it on outblush.com–it’s fantastic! it walks the reader through life skills–everything from baking bread, mending clothes, mixing drinks, repairing a marriage and raising children. the vintage wisdom found in the pages of bried’s book is based on the testimony of several real life grandmothers, who all come together to share their lifetime of tips and wisdom…the kinds of tricks that sometimes slip through the cracks of technological progress.

i spent a lot of time feeling critical about guiliano’s book. was she calling me fat? and it seemed like another diet book, so i wasn’t interested. while waiting for the bus a couple months ago i dodged into my favorite book store to quickly browse their sale shelf for something to read on my trip home. it was only a few dollars so i thought maybe it would be that fantastic blend of travel book and cook book (since i could see it was full of recipes and anecdotes). and i had been dieting–and when i diet i love to read about food. in fact, my dieting phases are rather odd–while dieting i love to study food, the way i might study history, or literature. and tend to think of it as a highly interesting muse, but not necessarily tying it to eating food. i wish i could live in this mindset all the time–but food is simply too delicious.

guiliano, not unlike the grandmothers in bried’s book, passes down generational wisdom from her childhood experience. eat fresh. eat seasonally. drink lots of water. move around. take the stairs. i especially love her for saying that french women don’t “dress to sweat”–thus enabling my hatred of the gym. her descriptions of decadence balanced with restraint–pleasure and moderation–just makes sense. she fully describes her childhood in france and college experiences–everything from sharing fresh walnuts with her family in the evenings, to avoiding the amazing pastries of paris, or rather, enjoying them in the proper proportions. daily rewards like an amazing piece of chocolate, a glass of champagne, should be enjoyed, as long as the indulgence is sensible. she even includes reasonable croissant and baguette recipes (and after an episode of “the french chef” where both are made i swore to choose to make the walk to the neighborhood bakery rather than kneed the dough 800+ times by hand!) which i am looking forward to trying out. again–the theme is returning to healthful lifestyles that have worked for generations. lately i have been connecting with this idea of generational women’s wisdom–every day wisdom.

after reading guiliano, i was interested in learning more about the french country-side–the culture of farmer’s markets, seasonal eating, and eating less of very good (and probably more expensive food) versus the mindset of cheap quantity. i found (on the same sale table after returning to the bookstore) mayle’s account of living a year in provence. it’s a delightful and charming book, and made me long to live the provencial life. he discusses the local culture, coffee shops, wine, living outside during the summer, and strolling along the countryside in all seasons. and the food. he does go on and on about the food. it’s decadent.

while the story is about 10 years old, i like to doubt that provence has changed (though it probably has). i like to think that the lifestyle he described has an enduring quality to it, time-tested and true. la dolce vita, right? and happy. everyone seems delightfully happy.

with my travel funds and vacation time somewhat limited, sitting alone in my cozy little home on dark winter evenings, i can experience life in france, england, anywhere, really. almost taste the flavors of the food, feel the sun-shine, smell the woods, and hear the traffic in far off cities.