I'm writing about a character who can't cook, but food is central to her world. It's challenging -- not only to write a sympathetic engaging character, but one who lives in the foodie world but does not feel apart.
In that way, Joy is very much like me. But how do I show it?
I don't get the foodie world. Watching the Food Network doesn't make me want to run to the kitchen and break out the pots and pans. Reading recipes only irritates me. Why does any dish need more than five or six ingredients?
I once tried a mac-n-cheese recipe from Pat Conroy's cookbook. Oh my gosh, what a mess. I dirties three pans, per his assembling instructions, never mind the mess on my counter. And I'm not a slob. I kept thinking, "all this for mac-n-cheese?" I never wanted to make it again. I stayed out of the kitchen for a week after that night.
I don't want to cook for cooking sake so don't ask me to add citron to a cake. I'm not going to do it. First, what is citron? Second, how is it going to enhance the chocolate taste I'm baking the cake for in the first place?
Asking me to grate a lemon rind equates to asking me to grate my own nerves.
One friend said to me, "It's like everyone is in on this great secret about food and not telling me."
I've read Molly Wizenberg, Judith Jones, Suzan Colon, and Julia Child memoirs with fascination. What makes their heart zing over recipes?
I love food. I love to eat. And maybe that's why I don't like cooking. Because I want to EAT what I've cooked. Weight and I are not friends. "It" wants to control me. And don't want "it" to control me.
Yet, I love the aromas of baking cakes, cookies and bread in a warmly lit fall or Christmastime house. It's comforting and homey. But whose going to eat the warm treats I bake?
Still, in the midst of it, I'd rather read or write than stand in the kitchen. I'd rather walk or bike, or frankly, I'm being honest here, I'd rather Drive-thru.
In the midst of my writing and research, I have yet to connect with the heart and love for food as those I've read. God didn't give me that gene. I understand what the writers are saying and I appreciate every fine detail, but my emotions are not moved.
Growing up, I was never fascinated with the kitchen or watching my mom or grandmothers cook. In fact, I avoided the kitchen at all cost fearful they'd put me to work. One cannot cook without dirtying a few pots and pans. I never liked doing dishes either until college. Now I'd rather clean than cook.
Lest you start the violin strings for my hubby, I do cook. I can't afford not to! But cooking must not involve a recipe. If it does, no more than six maybe seven ingredients and nothing that I cannot pronounce. It's just not worth it to me. I'm not "into" it.
I bake. I can make mean chocolate chip-peanut butter chip cookies. I have a few tricks for making a box cake that is yummy. However, I can eat the whole thing myself, so let's not go there.
My can opener is my number one tool and the Rachael Ray knife I use to cut onions. I do love onions.
So, back to my character. There's something about food she does love, something she is longing and looking for, and it will spill out on the pages. . . eventually.
What about you? Do you cook? Do you like to cook? What are your favorite food memories?