tutor, writer, musician, chef
“On Self-Respect” by Joan Didion. On the other side of its stylistic complexity, this is an essay that addresses some of the most basic but least voiced concerns of middle- and high-school students: Who am I? What am I worth? Didion’s unremitting self-scrutiny and bracing imagery have the potential to shake a student’s very foundations and, in the process, show him or her what great writing can be: not something you merely read, but something you undergo.
One of the coolest places I’ve visited recently is the neighborhood of Sacromonte, in Granada, Spain: its inhabitants (I was fortunate briefly to be one) live in caves carved into the side of a mountain that overlooks the Alhambra and echoes with the sounds of flamenco music, a style that was developed in the region.
George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans), Leonard Cohen, M. F. K. Fisher, Elena Ferrante, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Jacques Pepin, Oscar Wilde, Brian Eno
It may be the most cliché of all answers to this question, but it is also probably the most honest: the thing that most consistently occupies my thoughts is food. It wasn’t always this way. I didn’t grow up in a family that paid any special attention to food. Nobody made a big deal of particular recipes or dishes or restaurants. But in recent years, I’ve come to see eating–and relatedly, cooking–as one of the inexhaustibly great pleasures of being human (along with reading and music-listening). Eating is no longer just about satiating my hunger, but about bringing my full attention to my senses, bringing my mind in closer touch with my body, with the earth. Taking food seriously has grounded me, taught me to to live more deliberately and helped me take nothing for granted. It provides a daily opportunity to bring a little creativity to bear on even most primal and inescapable component of being alive.