My first book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast, is finally out, and by all accounts appears to be doing better than I had even imagined: It hit No. 324 on the Amazon bestseller list yesterday — that’s 324 out of more than 8,000,000 books sold. I’d secretly hoped it would break the top 1,000. At one point I was in the top 25 cookbooks, and was tops in “hunting” and “natural foods.” All in all, pretty sweet.
But I am not writing to boast. I am writing because I am 13 days into my first long road trip of what will be a very long, and probably life-changing book tour. When I first wrote about my book tour schedule, it looked like I would be “only” on the road for about 90 days. Now it looks like I won’t be home before November. What happened? Many of you asked me to do events in your area — so many I’ve been throwing down a gauntlet: If you can’t make sure to draw at least 40-or-so people, I am sorry, but I can’t make it. There are just not enough days in the year to be everywhere. Undaunted, nearly a dozen people picked up that gauntlet.
So I am adding San Diego, Toronto, Memphis, Billings, and probably Boulder, someplace in Michigan, Eugene and maybe even Bozeman. Los Angeles remains uncharted, but I am hoping to nail it down soon.
All of that is in the future, however. It is my strange present that I am preoccupied with these days.
I feel myself changing. Becoming a nomad. A shadow. Over the past two weeks I have begun to imagine that I am sitting in the audience of a movie made of my life. I feel disembodied, alternately manic and depressed, silent for long hours or chattering like a magpie. This is not me.
But maybe it is me, or it is what I am becoming. I have driven 2,700 miles in three days, speaking to no one, reveling in loneliness. Once I reached Atlanta and the BlogHer Food conference, I found myself in a position I had never been in before, one I was oddly unprepared to handle properly. Many strangers approached me to tell me how much they loved this space. Some wanted pictures. I even signed an autograph. It felt flattering, but weird. I mean, who am I, anyway? I am just another schmo with a blog, like most everyone else at that conference. I expressed this to a wise friend, and she said: “Who are you? You are who people decide you are, at least publicly.”
My days are a torrent of the new. New experiences, new people, new places, friends, emotions, urges and challenges.
I find myself talking to reporters on an almost daily basis, ironic considering that for 18 years I was the one behind the pen. And inexorably, I’ve begun to develop the unnatural ability to smile on command. Anyone who knows me knows how alien this is. I’m not a grinner.
Talking with reporters is easy; I still consider myself one of the tribe. But what I did Tuesday sent me through the looking glass. Thanks to my friend Jaden, I was asked to do a cooking demo for Daytime TV, an NBC program that airs in more than 100 markets, including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle and Washington, DC. I am very glad I did not know this when I went into the studio. I would probably have thrown up on the set.
Mercifully the segment (segment? Yes, I am learning that lingo, too) was not live, but it might as well have been. If you watch it today (check your local listings), what you see was done in one take. No reset button. I cooked one of my old recipes for a Greek style honeyed seabass, only I did it with a grouper I’d caught the day before. I was terrified, but everyone was nice and said I did OK, if a bit rushed.
Stress, terror and I have become fast friends. White-knuckled drives along strange highways. Smelly hotel rooms and bad cable TV. Book events falling through. New book events to plan, schedule and confirm. Deadlines to answer press questions. Endless emails to answer. Blog posts to write. People to meet, names to remember and thank-you notes to pen. And always another few hundred miles to drive.
This is my life now. How long it will last no one knows. But something strange is happening: I am beginning to like it.