Author Beth Ricanati, MD, has built her career bringing wellness into everyday life, especially for busy moms juggling careers and children. She trained and worked at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. She now resides in Santa Monica, California.
I’m excited to bring you this fabulous interview with Beth Ricanati. Beth shares with us her philosophies and ideas about the importance of ritual, and finding your own kind of peace with her newly released memoir, Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs published by She Writes Press in September, 2018.
What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!
Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs chronicles my journey from a stressed out, overwhelmed physician-mother to one who has found a way to slow down through the weekly ritual of making challah. Braided is part memoir, part cookbook and part how-to guide.
What are you working on now?
I have thrown myself into publicizing the book, including participating in many events that often involved making challah, demonstrating making challah or braiding challah while also discussing the themes of the book. I am continuing to see patients in clinic as well, and have just realized that I may have another book idea to explore!
What advice would you give to your younger writing self?
Writing a book is serious business! It can be a lonely endeavor, in contrast to the effort required to publicize the book once it’s published. Surrounding yourself with people who understand what all of this entails is critical – not only will they be supportive, but the knowledge that they bring is invaluable.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?
I have always written, but I did not identify as a ‘writer’ until just before I decided to write this book. Rather, I identified as a physician and a mother, even though I was writing short-form pieces – mostly health and wellness-related – for a while before this! Once I committed to this project, I realized how beneficial it was to me personally to add the moniker ‘writer’ to how I self-identified; it legitimized what I had begun to do.
Where do you do most of your writing?
One of my favorite writers since college is Virginia Woolf and I have taken her advice to heart to have a room of one’s own! I write in a beautiful office with a large window that I frequently look out of.
What inspires you?
I realized after making challah weekly for five years that this meaningful ritual had taught me so many lessons; moreover, I realized that not only was I probably not the only stressed and overwhelmed person on the block and if these lessons could help me, then they could probably help someone else and hence I began to figure out how to share the story.
What else would you like your readers to know about you?
I still make challah every Friday, sometimes by myself and sometimes with others – some of whom I have just met that day. Having a meaningful ritual is so important in today’s crazy world and I love to share mine with others in the hopes that they too will see the benefits!
Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?
I work best with structure and deadlines. I am always thinking of things and jotting notes everywhere, but when it comes time to write, I like to carve out time and get organized at my desk with my computer and a cup of tea, and often some music.
What are you reading right now?
I am just diving into both Annie Lamott’s new book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope, and Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open. I just finished Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage and Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels. I love to read and have books stashed everywhere, including in the car in case I’m stuck in traffic!
What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?
What a fun question! Perhaps Marin Hinkle, who’s currently on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”!
What are your top 3 favorite books?
An impossible question! Can I choose authors instead? I adore Virginia Woolf, Barbara Kingsolver and Dani Shapiro, to name just three.
Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?
My space is very important to me: I like to have a clean desk! Tea and music help too.
Here is what people are saying about Braided:
“Ricanati’s memoir with recipes is a well-written investigation into her maturation as a doctor, her growth as a wife and mother, and the increasing wisdom she gained while pondering Jewish rites and rituals.” ~ Booklist, starred review
“Beth Ricanati has written a unique book: part recipe, part health, with a whole lot of soul. Reading her book is like making a new friend–you feel transported to her California kitchen. A yummy, cozy and inspiring read.” ~Lori Palatnik, author, media personality, and founding director of The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project.
“This is not just a book about making bread. It is a book about making choices, and like a good challah is at times chewy, evocative, and a little sweet. Its wisdom transported me back to the kitchens of my grandmothers and the knowledge that in complicated times, the way forward is always the simple and beloved.”―David Baum, PhD, DMin, speaker, coach, conversation architect, and author of Lightning in a Bottle and The Randori Principles