Reading Rituals: Dos & Do NOTS


NOT a reading ritual. I tried reading like Matilda once. It lasted for about five seconds. And I got rug burn.

There are certain rituals associated with the things we love. In the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, children were allowed to suck on hard candies while they pored over Mrs. P-W’s storybooks. (Who cares if they drooled sticky drool onto the pages? Mrs. P-W, who had a solution for just about anything, would simply steam open the books. And she never got grumpy about it.) For the protagonist in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, books were better when there was hot chocolate, or a cup of Ovaltine, involved.

With all the books I need to read on a weekly basis, I can’t get too ritualistic about my work-related reading habits. But on the weekend, things change. Reading time seems more luxurious, less frantic. Not only can I indulge in different types of reading material, but I can treat the reading time itself as an indulgence. That’s when I allow myself a few rituals of my own.

Reading Rituals, Part 1: Bon Appetit Magazine

When Gourmet went the way of Shark Bites and the dinosaurs, I was bereft. But Bon Appetit has slowly won me over. The mouthwatering food photography still makes me want to lick the pages. And frankly, there are usually more recipes I want to cook in BA than there were in Gourmet‘s food-as-lifestyle pages. Before I cook, though, I get to read. And so begin the rituals.

Ritual #1: DO. NOT. FLIP. You know how it goes. A magazine arrives in the mail. As you’re walking back upstairs, you idly begin to flip through it. DON’T DO IT. Just DON’T. OK, you’re welcome to flip if you so choose, but for me, the flipping ruins the reading experience. I don’t want to see the succulent pictures just yet. I don’t want to catch even a glimpse of what’s inside. It’s like shaking a wrapped Christmas present. Better to delay the suspense as long as possible: the eventual gratification will be sweeter.

Ritual #2: Read the last page first. I don’t know why this is essential. But somehow, the final feature in Bon Appetit each month–“Back of the Napkin”–just gets me in the right mood for reading the rest of the magazine. Maybe it’s the voyeur in me, but once I know that Maureen Dowd mentioned french fries seven times in the course of her interview about eating habits, I’m suddenly ready to tear through the rest of the issue.

Ritual #3: Read the issue cover-to-cover once. Then go back and re-read the recipes. Dog-ear the pages of recipes I’d like to make. (In real life, probably only about 25% of these recipes actually get made, but dreaming of baking an eight-layer cake is half the fun of my magazine-reading ritual.)

Ritual #4: Dirty it up. (The magazine, I mean.) This is why I have to read BA on the weekends. Because after marinating in all that foodie goodness, it’s impossible to keep myself from the kitchen. Besides, what good is a pristine food magazine? I have a feeling that the issue of Bon Appetit that awaits me this weekend will soon be spattered by pancake batter. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What will you be reading this weekend?

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