Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic

September 3rd, 2015
Me holding my advance copy of Elizabeth Gilbert's forthcoming Big Magic when it arrived at the Hawthorne Books office.

Me holding my advance copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s forthcoming Big Magic when it arrived at the Hawthorne Books office with a sweet handwritten card from Liz.

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s forthcoming book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear due out from Riverhead Books on September 22nd in the early spring and I’ve been rationing my reading of it ever since because I want to take full advantage of all the inspiration and motivation it gives me. Big Magic speaks to me like very few books on writing do and I’ve read a lot of great ones. Some of my favorites include Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Carol Sklenicka’s Raymond Carver biography, David Lipsky’s Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own ++.

If you are a published writer, an aspiring writer or madly in love with a writer (good luck!) get Big Magic and read it cover to cover and then read it again as I’m going to do. Here are some of the most important takeaways from the book for me: honor and feed your creative curiosity always, the idea of and celebration of the suffering artist/writer is harmful at its core and writing can and should be enjoyable and involve play, fear is boring — conquer it, don’t worry about being original focus on being true to yourself and your voice and then your writing will always be original, in honor of Wernor Herzog: quit complaining and do the work.

I want to tell you why Elizabeth Gilbert means so much to me. I visited San Francisco in the spring of 2012 to meet with my soon-to-be at the time publisher McSweeney’s — they published the Toro Bravo cookbook in 2013. A lot of fantastic things happened on that trip (The “Hurry up and get over to the office. David Byrne is bringing us ice cream!” text from my editor Rachel Khong. What the fuck?! For real.) and one of them was a dinner with Elizabeth Gilbert. She was on tour for her McSweeney’s book — a new edition of her great grandmother’s out of print cookbook At Home on the Range which I wrote about here — and the sweet lovelies at McSweeney’s organized a double Liz tour of the McSweeney’s office followed by drinks at a nearby bar and then dinner at Mission Chinese down the street from the office.

At dinner I got to sit next to Liz and please know this — she is as beautiful and sweet as she seems — even more so in person. So much so, in fact, that I was a little off-putt at first. Let me explain. Despite the fantastic trip I wasn’t in the best of spirits. I’d been working on a novel for a couple years that was going nowhere fast (it didn’t help that I referred to it in an insulting way during the duration of writing it as my “novelish”) and I wasn’t too happy in my long term relationship which ended several months later.

I’m pretty good at best foot forward but Liz obviously sensed my deep down bluesy blues and she worked on me in her big magic Liz G way. She asked a lot of questions about my novel — so many that it felt a bit like a writing therapy session — and I answered them with some seriously low self esteem where my fiction was concerned answers. After dinner and in front of the restaurant in the sparkly spring Mission night she gave me a big hug and said please don’t give up on your fiction. Yep, she’s that generous.

After I returned to Portland I read her short story collection which my editor Rachel Khong had raved about (I loved it too), I watched her now famous TED talk, I picked up Eat, Pray, Love where I’d put it down, I cooked from her great grandma’s book and I wondered when I’d get to see her again. A few months later and a hand-wrapped advance copy of her novel The Signature of All Things arrived with an oh so sweet handwritten card from Liz and I devoured it. This spring a copy of Big Magic arrived with the same and I rationed it.

When Big Magic arrived several months ago I was well into the writing of my current novel — the one that I dig and truly enjoy working on and the one that I’m FINALLY going to finish. In fact, the copy of her book arrived right before I set off for my first writing residency at The Sou’wester for it. I don’t take Liz Gilbert’s advice for and faith in me lightly. Of course I don’t. And now that her Big Magic is about to publish I have a second Sou’wester residency lined up and I’m 30,000 words strong with the novel. I know that there’s a lot of Liz G big magic at play where my fiction is concerned. So grateful to her.

Liz’s book comes out in a couple weeks and I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you are a writer or creative person I think you’re going to love it. Even if you aren’t there is much to learn about living life to the fullest in it. Oh, and she’s coming to Portland for the book for an event sponsored by Powell’s at the Newmark on October 4th. Get a ticket to that and a copy of the book is included.

A couple passages from Big Magic that I love:

“Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents (eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc.). It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind.)”

“What you produce is not necessarily always sacred, I realized, just because you think it’s sacred. What is sacred is the time that you spend working on the project, and what that time does to expand your imagination, and what that expanded imagination does to transform your life.”

Cheers to Liz G, Big Magic and YOU! XOXOXO

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
By Elizabeth Gilbert
pub. date Sept. 22nd

Toro Bravo Cookbook Media

December 19th, 2013

John and I in the green room after his Live Wire Radio interview for the Toro book. A little bit happy.

Wow. It’s been two months since pub. date and we could not be happier with how well received Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. has been! Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who is reading it, cooking from it, talking about it and enjoying it. After spending two and a half years putting it together we’re so happy to have and hold it ourselves. In fact, I cooked from it twice last week — some friends and I cooked the Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash and over the weekend I zested up a batch of Toro’s Limoncello. It’s pretty crazy grabbing my very own cookbook from the kitchen shelf and cooking from it. I’ll never get over the magic of that.

In the past several weeks we’ve had all sorts of great media and coverage for the book so I thought I’d include a round-up here of some of our favorites. Media is wonderful but so is good old word of mouth. So thank you to the writers, editors and producers etc. of these media outlets as well as to all of you who have helped spread the word to friends and family about our book. It means a lot to us.

Largehearted Boy playlist from the book and review:

“Toro Bravo is as much memoir as cookbook, even though it contains 95 recipes from the famed Portland restaurant. This is the story of chef John Gorham, and how his passion for food shaped his life. Gorgeously produced, well-written, and filled with stunning photographs, this is one of the year’s finest food books.”

The Daily Beast with John and my cookbook picks:

“Here are some cookbooks that John and I won’t lend you. We love them too much. Get your own damn copies.”

Food52 Genius Recipe of the week:

“After this salad has served you through the holidays, as the foil to all your rich celebratory indiscretions, these are tricks you can keep at hand year-round. Try it with buttery new lettuces and lighter vinegars in spring, in summertime slaws and fall disbursements of kale. This can be your January cleanse, or your Valentine’s splurge — depending on how heavy-handed you are with the Manchego. But resist the impulse to add noise. Everything you need is right here. You just need to know how to find it.”

Eater’s 21 Essential Cookbooks 2013:

“The first thing you’ll notice about Toro Bravo — besides its bright yellow cover — is that the recipes don’t start for a good 90 pages. What you have first is pages and pages of back story, both of chef John Gorham and his Portland tapas restaurant Toro Bravo, as well as food philosophizing and general cooking intel. In addition to that first section and the recipes for tapas large and small, the layout and art direction here is a major draw. When was the last time a cookbook looked so modern and refreshing? The influence of former-Lucky Peach publisher McSweeney’s is strongly felt on these pages and I hope cookbooks in general veer toward more color, more photos, and more user-friendliness. Perhaps a follow-up Tasty n Sons book is in order?”

Late Night Library review:

“One of the highlights of the book is its consistently authentic tone. The first person narratives and headnotes are actually written in a voice that sounds like a real chef, not a cheerful writer paraphrasing one. The sentences are curt, clipped, and brutally honest: ‘I’m not gonna lie, this recipe is a pain in the ass.’ And yet, hilarious and touching all at once…Gorham and Crain manage to braid together their work so it is impossible to distinguish between writers. Their voices meld together seamlessly; it’s almost as if their conversations have been directly transcribed from long dinners with plenty of drinks and food flowing between them…John Gorham and his crew manage to inject soul into every single dish at Toro Bravo, and the book demonstrates how much detail, history and thought go behind every plate you’re passed. While the recipes are inspirational on their own, you also can’t help but ignite a craving to visit the restaurant, too.”

Late Night Conversation podcast:

“This week, Paul meets up with John Gorham and Liz Crain at Toro Bravo, a Spanish inspired tapas restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Liz and John are the co-creators of the recently released cookbook, Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull (McSweeney’s, 2013). Conversation topics include: the beauty of open book people and tight knit collaborations, John and Liz’s culinary trip to Spain, the benefits and consequences of throwing a party every night, and the potential need for an “art guard” at the Toro Bravo restaurant in Northeast Portland.”

Live Wire Radio interview:

Live Wire Radio host Luke Burbank interviewing John about the Toro Bravo cookbook.

Live Wire Radio season-wrap brunch with Stephen Tobolowsky, Dana Gould ++:

Stephen Tobolowosky (!!!) with John and I at Live Wire Radio's season-wrap brunch with Toro food and drinks.

OPB Think Out Loud interview:

John talks about all things Toro Bravo and the cookbook on OPB's Think Our Loud.

KGW book launch party coverage:

Such a fun party.

The Oregonian
Portland Monthly
Willamette Week
Portland Mercury
Culinate
Oregon Humanities
Shelf Awareness
Powell’s Books
McSweeney’s
Vermont Public Radio

Toro Bravo East Coast Book Tour

December 5th, 2013

Our second night in D.C. Dinner at Toki Underground. So good and so fun. There was crawling on the floor dancing. What happens in D.C. stays in D.C...

The bulls have been running and we’ve been running hard for the past few weeks with stops on the Toro Bravo book tour in Brooklyn, Baltimore, D.C., Jersey City and more. The East Coast portion of the tour was pretty rockstar with five to six of us depending (chef-owner John Gorham, me, charcuterie manager Josh Scofield, book editor and Lucky Peach managing editor Rachel Khong, DJ Waffle aka Mike Wathen, John’s brother Brian Gorham) riding from one stop to another in a stolen rented van.

Our friend DJ Waffle from Jersey City played sweet tunes at every event, Toro’s charcuterie manager Josh Scofield cooked and served up all sorts of treats from the book, John, Rachel and I held discussions about everything that went into the book and, of course, there was always plenty of cava and Basque cider flowing. We definitely burned the candle on both ends just like we did this time last year when we were in Madrid and Barcelona for the book. And just like that trip we never got any more hours of sleep a night than can be counted on one hand. We hit it hard and it was a blast.

All of the events were super well attended and fun, fun, fun. Thanks to everyone who came out and made them just that. We love you and we couldn’t be happier with how well the book has been received on the road, in the wide world and here at home in our beloved Portland. Very happy. Rather than write about each event at powerHouse Arena, Atomic Books, 826DC and Jersey Wine & Spirits I’m going to throw a whole bunch of photos up here and you can see for yourself. Hope you’re doing well, eating well & reading all sorts of great books!

Our first night! Book event at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn. So fun! Photo courtesy of Krzysztof Poluchowicz.

Lining up at powerHouse for Josh's Toro cured meats, spherical olives inspired by our trip to Tickets in Barcelona, cava, Basque cider and more. Photo courtesy of Krzysztof Poluchowicz

The line didn't get shorter...

Rachel and me with the bullseye of a book!

Next stop D.C.! At 826DC pre-event with executive director Joe Calahan.

John and his brother Brian. Looooove Brian!

Rachel and me in 826DC's Museum of Unnatural History.

Josh's incredible spread of foods from the book.

Family affair. Left to right: John's aunt Robin, brother Brian, stepdad Gene, John and I.

Laaaaater that night Waffle, John and Josh at Toki Underground. Loved it so much!

This explains the above photo. John ordered A LOT of "desserts" for the kitchen.

Mystery NPR interview shot that will run very, very soon!

Waffle at Kabob Palace in D.C. where John filled the table with food as he does and we ate as if we hadn't eaten in days. Really good.

Atomic Books in Baltimore!

I wish Atomic Books was closer -- I'd be there all the time...

Our talk at Atomic with slides from the book.

DJ Waffle in the house!

Road food on the way back to NY -- Bojangles!

Jersey City Wine and Spirits!

Eating, drinking and being merry.

Excellent music.

Into Manhattan and last meal in K-Town at Cho Dang Gol.

Freakishly delicious.

Thanks to everyone who came out and ate, drank and was merry with us! We had an incredible time and want more! We’re thinking the next tour is going to be a Midwest one. More details soon here. Till we meet again!

Toro Bravo Cookbook East Coast Tour & Recent Media

November 11th, 2013

John and I on KGW news at the Toro Bravo cookbook launch party mid-October.

East Coast we’re heading to you! In less than a week we’ll be all up in your business with Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull. The bulls are running and we’ve got a lot of horns pointed in your direction for book events in New York, Baltimore, DC and Jersey City.

Our entire remaining tour schedule can be found here. The East Coast bulls include John and me, McSweeney’s editor Rachel Khong, Toro’s charcuterie manager Josh Scofield and tour DJ extraordinaire Mike Wathen aka DJ Waffle.

At every event we’ll have food, music, drink and books along with a discussion between John, Rachel and me about everything from blood sausage to red pants wearing Spanish men. It’s going to be a whole lot of fun and we hope we get to see you at one of more events and/or that you’ll be so kind as to help us spread the word about them. The more in attendance the merrier!

We’ve also had some great media lately since the book came out less than a month ago that I’m shouting out here. We have some very exciting media planned for the East Coast (one in particular!) that I’m itching to share but can’t quite yet. After these links and the tour info. there are a bunch of photos from recent Toro book events.

Recent media for Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull.

KGW News
OPB Think Out Loud
Live Wire! Radio (Toro segment starts at 14 minutes)
Vermont Public Radio (Toro segment starts at 5 minutes)
The Oregonian
Eater
Powell’s
McSweeney’s

East Coast events for Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull.

Tuesday, Nov 19th: Toro book event at The POWERHOUSE Arena
With John Gorham, Liz Crain & Rachel Khong
DJ Waffle
37 Main Street, Brooklyn NY 11201
7 p.m.
Details here.

Thursday, Nov 21st: Toro book event at 826 DC
With John Gorham, Liz Crain & Rachel Khong
DJ Waffle
3233 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20010
Details to come.

Friday, Nov. 22nd: Toro book event at Atomic Books
With John Gorham, Liz Crain & Rachel Khong
DJ Waffle
3620 Falls Rd., Baltimore, MD 21211
Details here.

Saturday, Nov. 23rd: Toro book event at Jersey Wine & Spirits
With John Gorham Liz Crain & Rachel Khong
DJ Waffle
492 Jersey Ave., Jersey City, NJ 07302
More details to come but for now:
4-9pm book signing and tasting with John, Rachel & me, local acoustic music & wine tasting with Liz Farley and Kermit Lynch.

Full tour schedule here.

And last but not least, some photos from the whirlwind of recent events since the book launched a little less than a month ago. Phew! See you soon I hope. Be bullish!

Me and the amazing Cheryl Strayed who blurbed the book and has been huuuugely supportive at Wordstock!

Our McSweeney's publicist extraordinaire Isaac Fitzgerald pimping the book at the McSweeney's booth at Wordstock.

David, John and I after our Powell's reading.

Renee and John right before we opened the doors for the book launch party.

The three of us well into the launch party merrymaking.

Josh, Renee and John in the green room for Live Wire! Episode 231.

John and I after the Live Wire! taping.

At the Powell's warehouse signing books...Powell's bestseller books!

At Copperfield's Books in Santa Rosa for a Toro Bravo reading/tasting.

Laaaaater that evening with our McSweeney's publcist Mr. Isaac Fitzgerald.

Signing books at Green Apple Books in San Francisco.

Signing books at Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

Last but not least John and I demo'ing bacon-wrapped dates for a book event at Baker & Spice's The Cakery for their Pages to Plates series last week.

More soooooon!

Toro Bravo Book Launch Party

September 30th, 2013

Come out and party with us!

We like to party. You like to party. Come party with us at Toro on Tuesday, Oct. 15th from 5-10pm for the book launch of Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull! There will be food, drinks, music and, of course, books. There’s even a show at 8pm up in the Secret Society Ballroom. Here are the details from the announcement…

• Sidra De Nava Tasting by Virtue Cider
• Live Music by Get a Life Marching Band
• Tapas & Cocktails
• Book Signing
• Q&A with John and Liz
• At 8pm The Century and Thanks will perform upstairs at The Secret Society.

If you didn’t get a chance to hear Toro chef-owner John Gorham on OPB’s Think Out Loud last Friday here’s the link. It’s a really great interview.

And we’ve got more events lined up (tour schedule) for the cookbook including a panel with the Le Pigeon folks this coming Sunday at Wordstock. Maybe we’ll see you there?

Toro Bravo cookbook launch party
Open to the public
Tuesday, Oct. 15th 5-10pm
at Toro Bravo
www.torobravopdx.com