by Alyssa Shelasky
I started reading Apron Anxiety just after I read Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone, which was quite a while ago. I've been sidetracked by other books, but, mostly, I just could not get into Apron Anxiety. I love the title and the subtitle, and, initially, that was about it. But I decided to buckle down and get through it. I hate looking at my bedside table and seeing half-finished books, making me feel guilty.
A customer at the bookstore told me to stick with Apron Anxiety, that Shelasky is supposed to be unlikable. Now, I'm onboard with unlikable characters in fiction. In a memoir, in real life, why do I want to continue reading about someone totally self-absorbed living her high class dream of a life in New York City? Why do I want to read a memoir that contains so much bragging? Her awesome mother, a childhood of good food (they almost NEVER went out to eat, and CERTAINLY never got take-out), a stellar education, fabulous writing/journalism jobs, and a fantastic sex life. How am I supposed to relate or empathize? Add to that her infatuation with New York City, and I'm ready to check out. Oh, and she's not a stress eater, but a stress non-eater. No sympathy.
And talk about self-involved! "Some people might say that I'm a hot girl. . ." Regardless of how that sentence ends, how am I supposed to like this girl? Oh, and not girl, at that point in her book, by the way, an almost-31-year-old WOMAN. Stop being a girl. And her D.C. neighbors are "just too ordinary to ever understand me." Blech.
Her writing is not bad, but it does feel very People-magazine trendy: "I waited for the neighborhood to become a little less sketchy and a bit more Starbucks," "après -work appeltinis," and you get an 'A' in alliteration. We get it. Knock it back a bit.
I think I know what the problem is: I don't want to read any more blogs-become-books. Or, maybe I'm just a judgmental bitch. (Both could very well be true.)
And yet. . .and yet, I found myself happily swept up in her romance with Chef. (Sign me up for one of those., even if I have to move to D.C. I draw the line at moving to NYC.) The book became worthwhile finally after 60-some-odd pages. Too long, if you ask me. But she suddenly became a person I wanted to know. . .maybe. Amid relationship turmoil and cooking adventures, her life remains too fabulous to be relatable. Her good fortune is somewhat astounding to me, and I'm not sure she ever realizes that. But she does become less of a barbie or Sex-and-the-City action-figure, and a little more human.
Apron Anxiety was enjoyable, after 60 pages of obnoxious. This is a low-commitment book, the kind I can read while watching Project Runway, which is nice sometimes. But, even by the end, I don't want to be friends with Shelasky (and I'm sure she would be fine with that). Her life is too fabulous, even with its up-and-downs, and, ultimately, I just can't relate. My own journey into the kitchen has been dramatically different. Read this book, or don't, just don't expect too much if you do.