“Rien n’est perdu, rien n’est cree,’” said the chef.
“Nothing is lost, nothing is created,” repeated the assistant, pausing along with the chef so that these words might be recorded in the small, spiral-bound notebooks that each student held on his or her lap. Puckering his mouth to complete his thought, the round little Gallic despot contintued.
“Tout est transforme,’ he said.
“Everything is transformed,” said the translator.
Molly O’Neill, in her fun, fabulously well-written foodie memoir, “Mostly True: A Memoir of Family, Food and Baseball,” writes not just of the chef, but of the writer, painter, musician… See where I’m going with this, my dears? Every creative soul has to struggle with the reality of repetition, reinvention, recreation. NOTHING is new. Your perspective, however, can be unique.
I’m a young woman living in Manhattan, a stranger to its social systems, hierarchy and nuances. Yes–of course this story has been told before. If the point were to impart completely new information and small-town-girl-hits-the-big-city revelations, it would have been imperative to give up after the publication of Ms. Didion’s earliest essays on the subject. When people look at me over their cocktails or communicate with me through the gray wires and say, “It’s soooo over… A single girl living in Manhattan recounting the travails of dating and media madness? Please.” I want to ask them what completely original artistic project they have accomplished to great critical acclaim? What dreams have they realized on a grand or small scale?
And, yet, the dissidents might be on to something…
Metamorphosis. Ms. O’Neill uses this powerful word to describe what she underwent with the aforementioned chef in the venerable city of Paris. Maybe it’s time for me to finish my thoughts in Gotham, fly the coop and move with my Chef to the City of Lights… Paris.
“Like the other thirty students, I tried to scribble down everything the chef said. Unlike my fellow students’, however, my notebook did not also contain the telephone numbers of potential lovers, the addresses of dance clubs or the train schedules for weekend jaunts to the Loire Valley or Burgundy. I had neither the money nor the time for such frivolity. I was twenty-six old… Paris was serious business, and I recorded every sight, every taste, and every word. ‘Everything is transformed,’ I wrote carefully in the same felt-tip marker that I’d formerly used to write poems.”