Writing and Food

I love to write.  I really do.  I need to sit at my computer and hit keys every day.

I also love to read.  I think most writers do.  There’s little better than entering an unknown world and living in it for a while until you turn the last page.

I also really, really love food.  My friends tease me that I’m hooked on the foodnetwork.  All those luscious ingredients, those picture perfect meals.  I can easily lose myself flipping through cookbooks and cooking magazines.  I can live in glossy pages filled with recipes as easily as I spend an evening with Mercy Thompson or Thomas Lynley.  I love Diane Mott Davidson’s culinary mysteries and Shirley Jump’s The Bachelor Preferred Pastry.  I can get hooked on a list of ingredients as quickly as I get hooked on a cliffhanger.

Bookshelves line two walls of my writing room.  Most shelves are filled with novels.  Four are crammed with cookbooks.  Just as when I meet someone who loves the same author I do, I get giddy when someone likes the same cookbooks.  I went to a chocolate party at Shirley Jump’s house once, and my heart beat faster when she raved about The Barefoot Contessa’s cake recipe.   My friend, Paula, not only shares my obsession with mysteries written by Elizabeth George, but she shares my passion for recipes by Pam Anderson.  Whereas I’m a sucker for French and Italian, my friend Joyce excels at flavors from Spain.  When we get together, there’s always a recipe exchange.

My husband and I remember vacations by the places we ate and the food that we tried.  My trip to New Orleans with Dawn will always be highlighted by a trip to Mother’s for its shrimp po’ boys.  Trips to Hilton Head will conjure images of buying steamed shrimp at a Piggly Wiggly to share with Joyce and Abe.  San Francisco is Crab Louis, a lunch with my brother-in-law by a window overlooking the bay.  Food, for me, is an impression of a city.

I enjoy cooking as much as eating.  I’m no fly by the seat of your pants type person.  Just as with my writing, I tend to like structure.  When I start a novel, I don’t just wade in and see where it takes me.  I need character wheels.  I need plot points.  To cook, I need recipes.  I follow directions.  I might tweak here and there, but I want a solid foundation.  I like cooking in mass.  I like filling a huge skillet, putting a meal on the table, and watching the food disappear.  I like soup pots and crockpots.  I like casual, informal, a table scattered with side dishes and a big salad.  Sometimes, plates match.  Sometimes silverware doesn’t.

When my grandson was little, we watched the cartoon Little Bear every day.  In one episode, the family has a feast for the winter solstice, and Tyler thought that a table, laden from one end to the other with all sorts of food was the most wonderful thing he’d ever seen.  I wanted that for him, so my daughter and I worked together and invited people over and filled our table with Tyler and Nathan’s favorite foods.  Nate–Ty’s younger brother–was really little then, but he still enjoyed the feeling of abundance.  I like that feeling to a lesser extent.  But I know, someday, my table won’t be as crowded as it is now, most nights.  Eventually, it will be just John and I who share a meal.  And I’ll have to adjust.  And I’ll learn to like that, too.

One rule I hope to keep permanent, though.  I don’t cook on Friday nights.  That’s for enjoying other peoples’ talents.  And donuts from the bakery on Saturday mornings while I watch new segments on the Cooking Channel is nothing to sneeze at either.

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