If you ever watch the movie Julie and Julia, you’ll remember it wasn’t easy for Julia Child to get into cooking school or get her cookbook published. What you didn’t see her do in the movie is write while cooking. I think this would stretch credibility too much for at least the writers who cook.
I want to preface this article with a humble aside. I can cook. I have cooked for large numbers in the institutional setting and for smaller groups too. I watch cooking shows while on the treadmill with the same avidity most men display while girl watching on a crowded beach. I enjoy trying out new recipes and growing my own produce. My family legacy is a long line of superior cooks, but it all goes to pieces when writing enters the mix.
About two years ago for Thanksgiving, I treated myself to a new set of cookware. At this time, I have ruined every pan and destroyed a few in my husband’s collection too. How did I manage this in less than two years? Writing. That’s it. I get caught up in a chapter or dialogue and I attempt to finish what I am doing. I don’t hear the timer going off.
My husband urged me to start setting the timer after I boiled the eggs dry. If you’ve done it, you know it is not a pleasant smell. Part of my mind noticed the timer and I think a couple more minutes is all I need. Then the burning scent drifts back to the office. I look at the computer suspiciously. Could it be overheating? Then I remember and sprint to the kitchen to retrieve a burnt offering from the stove or oven.
Often I can save the food, paring away the burnt part. The pans are another matter. I’ll scrub them, soak them, even use over cleaner with some limited success. My last fiasco was burned potatoes. I read that if you heat up salt water it will loosen up the burnt residual food. I filled up the pot, threw in a hefty hand of salt and set it to boil. I drifted back to the office to work on some edits when I noticed a peculiar aroma. Oh no, the salt water. I sprinted to the kitchen to remove the pot. Throwing it in the sink, I noticed the white salt residue left behind. Turning on the cold water, I filled the pot.
My daughter comes in, sniffing the air suspiciously, and asks me what I burned. She makes it sounds as if I do it all the time. I hesitate telling her, finally I mutter, “Salt water.”
“You burnt water. I thought that was an old joke.” She shakes her head and walks away.
I go to the now cool pan and scrub around on the bottom only to discover it is mysteriously clean. Salt water does clean away burnt food.
Cooking and writing do not mix. If I cook, I must stay in the kitchen. I picture my stove as having a malevolent personality that turns up the heat when I walk away. Whatever cause the stove to misbehave in such a fashion, I decide it needs watching. I have come to the assumption that I cannot write and cook at the same time. How about you?