Today we're laughing along with Emily Belden, the 27-year-old author of Eightysixed: Life Lessons Learned. Before she penned a memoir that would debut on Amazon's women's memoir and chef category bestseller lists, Emily blogged at total e-bag. What began as a brain dump of sorts eventually became her first book, which has been praised for being witty, snarky and touching as it follows Emily through the ups and down of being 20-something in Chicago. In Eightysixed, Emily retells the story of the best week of her life, which begins with a serendipitous meeting with a famous chef and blasts through a whirlwind tour of Chicago's best restaurants. And she says it's all true — just one reason I can't wait to pick up this book.
Read on to get to know Emily!
What is your all-time favorite book?
Wuthering Heights; it's the godfather of books about messed up relationships.
What meal do you love to cook?
I love to make fresh gnocchi out of left-over mashed potatoes. Like, after Thanksgiving, I always ask for a to-go bag of potatoes because I fold them right into the egg, flour, and ricotta based dough I make. After I boil them, I sear the dumplings in a hot pan with oil so they are crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle. My vote will always be for a tomato basil sauce, too.
What is your favorite food scene from a book?
My vote is for when I describe visiting Alinea for the first time (having never experienced fine dining before in my life) in Eightysixed. I had the pleasure of dining alongside the "Grant Achatz of Holland," Floris Versluijs, who had just finished up a two-week externship under Grant's leadership. Twenty-six courses, plus pairings, plus dessert painted on our table by Grant himself...game over.
Coffee or tea?
Tea; preferably from the Rare Tea Cellar.
What is the last book you abandoned?
Eat, Pray, Love. As much as I resonated with her feeling helpless on her bathroom floor (story of my life), the book became self-indulgent by page 10. Ain't nobody got time for that.
Author you'd most like to meet for dinner, and your order?
David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy. David wrote an emotionally gripping book about raising a son with addiction. As someone who has sat front-row to a loved one's drug problem, that book was the only place I had to turn at one point in my life. I'd like to ask him a million questions about the process of healing himself and how his son is doing now. And I would prefer to do this over a cheeseburger at the bar at Acadia.
Where do you go to find new recipes? New reads?
Social media. It seems like everyone I follow on Instagram uploads the stuff they are cooking and eating. So while this makes it very hard to check my feeds when I'm hungry, it's a great source of inspiration. I'll always comment, "Recipe?" or "What's in that?" and see what they say back. My next "Instagram Inspired" meal will be a sweet potato stuffed breakfast burrito.
Tell us about your book — the inspiration for it, why you wrote it and what your favorite aspects are.
This book chronicles the heartache and hilarity involved with navigating your 20s. I originally wrote it as sort of a "dear diary" on steroids, never intending for it to be made public. But as situations more unbelievable than the last started to rack up, I knew it had to be a book.
What I love about Eightysixed is that it resonates with every woman; ever. I have received "fan mail" from everyone from a 20-something in Latvia who was trying to read it to brush up on her English, a middle-aged mormon, a virginal pastors daughter, someone who didn't know if they wanted to live anymore, and everyone in my mom's spin class. Aside from them, it's really designed for that 20- or 30-something modern day, big-city woman who has ever struggled with wanting it all and having it all - all with no clue how the world really works. Even though it sometimes feels like 50 Shades of Grey meets Mean Girls, Eightysixed is more than just a comedy of misses, it does something for the soul as you get towards the end of the book. And that's my favorite part. To see the writing evolve; it gets better as I start to feel better.
What are your favorite blogs, and why?
The Everygirl is a fantastic blog with a lot of rich content. There are a lot of "lifestyle" blogs out there that don't cover real issues, and The Everygirl does a good job of having a little bit of everything for everyone.