In spite of my good notices, I remained a long way from being a maître de cuisine. This was made plain the day I invited my friend Winnie for lunch, and managed to serve her the most vile eggs Florentine one could imagine outside of England. ... We ate the lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine.
I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as “Oh, I don't know how to cook...,” or “Poor little me...,” or “This may taste awful...,” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, “Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!” Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed—eh bien, tant pis!
Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, ... then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile—and learn from her mistakes.
Julia Child with Alex Prud’Homme, My Life in France, pp76–7
To be a human being is more important, because it is more needed. The doctor and the priest are more needed than the poet because they, not we, are at the deathbed. Doctor and priest are humanly more important, all the rest are socially more important. (Whether the social is itself important is another question, which I shall have the right to answer only from a desert-island.) With the exception of parasites in all their various forms, everyone is more important than we are.
And knowing this, having put my signature to this while of sound mind and in full possession of my faculties, I assert, no less in possession of my faculties and of sound mind, that I would not exchange my work for any other. Knowing the greater, I do the lesser. This is why there is no forgiveness for me. Only such as I will be held answerable at the Judgment Day of Conscience. But if there is a Judgment Day of the Word, at that I am innocent.
Marina Tsvetaeva, “Art in the Light of Conscience”
from Marina Tsvetaeva, translated by Angela Livingstone, Art in the Light of Conscience: Eight Essays on Poetry
“One day we lose the person we love. Anyone who is unable to sustain that loss fails as a human being and does not deserve our sympathy.”
Sándor Márai, Embers