Cooking Up a Book

I’ve been slacking on the blog lately, as all my words have been going into a prequel novella I’m writing, featuring the parents of the hero in Stirring Up the Viscount. I’ve also been trying not to be a total slacker in my critique group, which is a bit easier said than done. And since Top Chef and Chopped are now on Hulu, I’ve been binge watching (and cooking) like a madwoman.

This weekend my in-laws are in town and we had friends over for dinner last night. I made an insanely good cherry pie bar thingy that I will probably never be able to duplicate because I veered so far from the original recipe (although I’m working on writing down the recipe so I can come close). I’d show you a picture, but I didn’t think to take one, and since the entire 9″x 13″ pan was consumed last night, there’s nothing left to photograph.

As I sit here reflecting on what to make for breakfast (this cinnamon scone bread is a distinct possibility), it occurs to me that cooking is a bit like writing. Some cooks use recipes, others do not, just as some writers plot and others fly by the seat of their pants. Even if you start with a recipe, sometimes, as with my cherry pie thingy, your imagination (or a desire not to use a full pound of butter) takes you on another course and you end up with a different product. Sometimes it’s better than the original, and sometimes not.

 

Things can go anywhere from slightly wrong (my baked beans last night were slightly undercooked because there wasn’t enough liquid in the pot) to disastrous (I made gluten free English muffins once–my son refers to them as “those hockey pucks Mom made”), like stories that veer off course. There are times when you can fix them, but other times you need to admit defeat and chuck the entire steaming mess into the trash.

Cooking involves tweaks along the way–a little more salt here, a splash of liquid there–just as a book does–a few lines of description here, tightening up language there. And the finished product, even if it looks luscious and is the most amazing thing you’ve ever created, won’t be loved by everyone.

I used to get pissed when my family didn’t like something I slaved over in the kitchen–usually at myself, but occasionally at them when they were so obviously wrong. 🙂 A critique partner’s negative comment or a bad review can get under my skin. As I’ve gotten older, I’m learning to accept this. Not everyone will love what you do. Sometimes even you hate what you create. It doesn’t mean that it’s not good, or that it won’t provide nourishment for body or soul.

But enough philosophizing. Time to make breakfast!

 

 

12 Comments:

  1. Your cherry-pie bar thingy got my taste buds buzzing. I love anything with cherries–hubs not so much. I have to wait for company to make delightful cherry desserts, so I don’t eat the whole thing. 🙂 I loved how your compared cooking to writing. You devour a culinary masterpiece, and all you have left are the oohs and ahhhhs. You write a masterpiece and you get to devour it over and over.
    Great post!

    • OMG, Sandra, it was so good. 🙂 I’ll share the recipe on the blog at some point, once I figure it out!

      Great point about the masterpiece. There is much to be said both for the fleeting nature of a culinary masterpiece and the more enduring nature of the literary one. Both stay with you for a long time.

  2. I love this analogy (and your food sounds delicious!). Next time I’m frustrated by writing (or cooking), I’ll definitely remind myself of it.

    • Thanks for visiting, Jennifer! I do think the cooking analogy is a good way to think about writing, and if you like to cook, it’s a good way to relax and mull over scenes that might be giving you trouble. 🙂

  3. I’ve used the cooking analogy in my latest WIP, but instead of comparing it to writing, I compare it to hybridizing roses! The same criteria come into play–unless you write down the recipe as you go, you may never be able to duplicate your efforts.

    • True enough. Unfortunately I rarely write it down as I go, so I have to scribble as much remember as I can after I eat. 🙂

      Missed you yesterday!

  4. Great post. And I think it’s funny you didn’t take pictures. I never think of pictures until after the moment is gone. However, I must admit I really do not enjoy cooking. Maybe I’ll think about it differently since reading this post.

    • Marin McGinnis

      I always forget pictures! I think I expect it will turn out to be terrible, so why bother, and then, surprise! 🙂

      Cooking does seem to be a love it or hate it sort of thing, but I hope you can find a little more enjoyment in it, Erin. Thanks for visiting!

  5. I’m glad you didn’t have a picture of the cherry pie thingy because you’re making me hungry and I need to watch my weight! There are similarities between cooking and writing, though I’ve never thought of it that way. I’m the kind of writer (and cook) who likes to start with a recipe. Mostly I stick to the instructions, but occasionally I’ll substitute and make changes. But those instructions are there for a reason, so sometimes it makes sense to stick to the plan! Best of luck with your prequel novella.

    • This is why I’ve started watching cooking shows while I cook–cuts down on the snacking. 🙂 I am a recipe follower with writing and cooking, although I am getting more adventurous in both realms. Thanks for stopping by, Jana!

  6. Love this post! I think of cooks as pantzers and bakers as plotters. But you have blown that theory as a pantzing baker. I love to watch Chopped but it makes me eat more! Chopped is fun because I usually open my fridge and pantry and see what I can throw together. Sometimes it really works and sometimes not. 😨We have a famous evening in my family that is now only referred to as “the paella incident.”
    Happy creating whether with words or grains!

    • LOL, Charlotte. Would love to hear more about “the paella incident”! I am not the world’s best baker, so generally I do tend to stick to baking recipes religiously for fear I’ll screw them up–your plotting analogy still fits! But every once in a while I do something off the cuff and it turns out great. Other times, not so much. 🙂

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