If you’ve ever wondered why my blog and Twitter handle is Newzcook, it’s because I started this blog when I was an underpaid/overworked community newspaper reporter who loved journalism and cooking on the cheap. The original full blog title was Newzcook: sharp talk/cheap meals.
I think a lot when I cook, and often find metaphors and life lessons in the cooking process. I wrote a paper when I was a grad student about making chocolate Easter eggs and working out the meanings of pieces I was studying. My writing teacher called the paper original because I worked things out while talking about my process.
This morning, while trying to figure out what to make for breakfast with no eggs, bread, tortillas, cheese, or milk in the house, I realized how long I considered what I had on hand (including fresh tomatoes, leftover prosciutto, canned vegetables, scone mix, dried cranberries, and oats) and what to make from it. I look forward to Saturday and Sunday mornings, when I can have a leisurely breakfast of a loaded omelet and a freshly baked something, instead of the usual cereal or scrambled eggs on the run. So, the no-eggs put a monkey wrench in the works.
While I was leaning against the kitchen sink, deliberating over what to make with what was on hand, it occurred to me that the amount of time, energy, dedication and careful, creative thinking I was doing around my spare cupboard was leaps and bounds above and beyond the kind of time and attention I have been giving lately to my writing – to which I often proclaim I am dedicated.
Not only was I struck by the seriousness of my creative cooking process – I also realized that I had no doubt that after engaging in this serious creative process that the results would be interesting, fulfilling, satisfying and successful. In other words – I had no fear of that creative process, no doubt about my creative ability, and absolute faith that my finished product would be good, if not great. I did not second-guess my process, second-guess my ability. I had complete confidence. I was interested and excited about what I was going to come up with, as there is always the element of surprise in this sort of on-the-fly cooking.
Of course, you could argue that cooking and writing are two different processes that produce different results for different reasons and audiences. And elicit different responses.
But here’s what I came to:
I cook to satisfy and please myself. It is an enjoyable creative process that fulfills me, sensually and intellectually and makes me happy. When I finish cooking and eating a successful meal – I am not only satiated, I am proud of myself. I love the surprise of a well-conceived and well-executed meal. I take pictures of the food. I blog about the food. I am a great admirer and marketer of my cooking.
Now – read the above paragraph with the cooking words replaced with writing words:
I write to satisfy and please myself. It is an enjoyable creative process that fulfills me, sensually and intellectually and makes me happy. When I finish writing and editing a successful story – I am not only satiated, I am proud of myself. I love the surprise of a well-conceived and well-executed story. I share the story. I submit the story. I am a great admirer and marketer of my writing.
That is where I want to be. I want to approach my creative writing process with the same zeal, abandon and confidence with which I approach my food preparation process – with no fear. The next time I sit down to write, I’ll really be cooking.
For those who are curious (Kris – I know you are!), what did I come up with this morning for breakfast?
I made scones from the scone mix, but in order to feel better about eating, basically, a ball of white dough, I added a handful of oats and some of those dried cranberries. But what I did to fill the role of the lack of an omelet was so weird – I was shocked at how good it tasted:
Chop one large, farm-fresh tomato (you can’t beat Maryland farm-stand tomatoes in summer). Gently cut up an equal amount of canned yams (rinse and drain them). Tear up one slice of prosciutto. Melt about a tablespoon or two of butter in a small sauté pan. Add the tomatoes, yams and prosciutto. Let them sit a few minutes without stirring or tossing. Let the tomatoes and yams brown and caramelize a few minutes as the prosciutto releases a little fat and frizzles a little. Season with a little salt and cracked black pepper (I use low-sodium salt and McCormick Peppercorn Medley Grinder, which contains black, pink, white and green peppercorns, coriander and allspice – it is wonderfully fragrant). Toss gently – the goal is to not break up or mash the yams. Serve with the hot scones and butter and strong Irish tea (this morning it was Barry’s Gold Blend).
Now go write. It’ll be delicious.
Chow for now!