Friday, December 11, 2009

Writing about food

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?


Peg said...

I knew we had more in common than writing, Rachel :) I really don't like to cook and I shy away from recipes--they never turn out the way the look in the picture, right? Most of my cooking is like my writing: seat-of-the-pants. A pinch of this and a dash of that . . . taste . . . add something . . . taste . . . you get the idea.
Merry Christmas to you and Tony.
Love ya!

Rachel Hauck said...

Merry Christmas, Peg. I cook a lot by the seat of the pants too! But who knew so much science was involved!

Love lots, Rachel

Leigh Duncan said...

And I do cook. It's my stress reliever. When things aren't going well, when life frazzles my last nerve, I head for the kitchen. Dirtying every pot, pan and bowl in my kitchen is theraputic. Washing, drying, and putting them away is my way of cleaning the slate and getting ready to start over. And in between, there are wonderful smells filling my house. For me, it doesn't get much better than sharing a yummy dish I made with friends and family.

Sharon Hayes said...

I think my most enjoyable time cooking was baking cookies at Christmas time - and trying to find hiding places so they wouldn't be all gone before Christmas Day. :o) The first time I baked a Red Velvet Cake for Jesus' Birthday.

Julie said...

My sister likes to tell the story of me when I was little and my mom would make mashed potatoes. I would go to the trash can to make sure there were real peels in boxed stuff! I was foodie back then too! lol :)
I guess that is what makes us all unique is our different passions. I rather check out cookbooks to read then the latest bestseller. I guess for me, I feel like I am nourishing my family and knowing that I can give to them with my own hands...a labor of love. I am also intrigued by ingredients and the role they play in taste and nutrition. It's all so exciting! Now, there are those who love new technology and gadgets...I could care less....just show me how to turn "off" and "on"!

Jessica said...

Hey Rachel,
Thanks so much for popping over today. :-) I don't know if people will ask questions or not, but feel free to be as involved as you want.

As for cooking, I HATE it. Seriously. I'm so glad there's other people out there who aren't enamored of this stuff. LOL I do bake chocolate chip cookies and I made a cherry pie once. It was really good but something was wrong with the crust I made. LOL

Jenny B. Jones said...

Omigosh, I so relate. I don't like to cook. I don't like the dishes that follow. I don't like that when I'm done it took 3x as long as it said and it looks like an F4 twister spun through my kitchen.

I'm much better at baking as well. But I avoid that as much as I can. I come from a family of excellent cooks, while I'm excellent at picking out a store-bought cheese cake.

If I had to find my inner foodie, I think I would just sit down with a basket of Red Lobster garlic/cheese biscuits. Something about eating those things that makes me see revelations, prophecies, and Rachael Ray-like joy to the world.

Merry Christmas, Rachel!!!