Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cuckoo for Cookbooks

A couple of days ago, I talked about writing prompts and how we used them in the creative writing workshop I took at Squam.  For one of the exercises, Lizzy, our instructor gave us a minute to think of a common object in our homes and then gave us about 20 minutes to write about it.  The rules were 1) don't think about what you're writing, just write whatever comes to your mind, and 2) don't censor yourself.

Here's what I came up with:

My cookbooks sit on a shelf arranged in no particular order.  Various sorts of tags stick out from the tops and sides of the pages all down the row.  Each style of tag represents a separate session of combing through each book and selecting the group of recipes that I'd try next.

Some are yellow post-it notes.  Some are long, thin strips of paper that I tore off from a scrap sheet of paper.  And some are plastic strips with arrows pointing to the marked sections.

All these recipes, none ever made.  The organizing is the easy part, the follow-through requires more effort.

My mom's dinner rotation consisted of Shepherd's Pie, Tacos, Curry, Chili, Spaghetti, repeat.  My dad bought cookbooks for her to encourage her to mix it up a bit.  The bindings stayed in tact.  The only time they were opened was when my dad threw them in a fit of rage, weary of eating the same five meals over and over.  Cookbooks lay splayed across the floor displaying exotic dishes we'd never taste.

I have a collection of Asian cookbooks bought during the time I discovered Asian food.  When I was a vegetarian for a year and a half, I bought a copy of every vegetarian cookbook I could find.  My years at Weight Watchers produced a growth in the diet cookbook section.

I have a few of my mother's old cookbooks, too, but I haven't made anything out of them.  Although I do frequently refer to mom's Betty Crocker cookbook to remind myself how many minutes it takes to hard boil an egg.  For some reason, I can never remember.

I learned three things from this exercise and the workshop in general:
1)  Free writing, when you don't censor yourself and you write down whatever comes to mind, even if you don't want to, is a really, really good way to figure out why you do the things you do.
2)  I constantly think about food!
3)  I constantly think about food!!  (Did I mention before, I took a sewing workshop here as well and made.... an apron.)

I had lunch today with my good friends Linda and Jan.  Linda did use one of her recipes and made fabulous Black Bean Burgers with Mango Salsa and Sweet Potato Fries.  Dessert was Sugar-Free Ice Cream with fruit toppings and some sugary things of which I did not partake.  (But to be completely honest so that I can sleep tonight... she had some trail mix out, I took some, and when I saw the mini chocolate pieces in it, rather than moving them aside, I ate them.  So...technically, I had sugar today.  But psychologically, I haven't.  Does that make sense?  I don't feel guilty about it or feel like I failed.)

Linda and Jan.  True Blue Friends.  I'm grateful for our lunches together.

(Naturally) Sweet Dreams!


  1. You said that you looked up writing prompts. Did you find a good place online for them? I think I may start trying some!

    I have wanted to enjoy cooking since I can remember and I still haven't figured it out. I would rather eat toast and jelly than think about planning a meal. Like you, I have collected cookbooks and bookmarked recipes that I thought I would like and then when it comes time to eat, I'd rather have cereal than to think about it.

  2. Yes, I did find some great sites for writing prompts! And they help a lot. Even if I don't like the prompt, it always takes me off somewhere that I do like. Unfortunately, they're all bookmarked on my laptop at home, so I'll send you the links later tonight. But in the meantime, just google "writing prompts"... TONS of sites pop up.

    I hate trying to plan meals during the week, so what I try to do is pick at least one new recipe each week and then make it on the weekends. Since I have no one else to cook for, I usually have leftovers for lunch all week. Dinner is always something fast and easy, like pasta with fresh tomato sauce, or my new favorite - veggie nachos (sans the potato, they're better that way). Prepping all the ingredients on the weekends is key for me, too, so that everything's ready to use when I get home.

    And I actually do love cooking, despite the implication in my writing. ;) Creative license.

  3. I can relate to both of you - I buy cookbooks but I rarely cook real dinner from the books. If it is just for me, it is cheaper to buy deli food, otherwise I end up throwing away a lot of food... But I still dream about becoming a cook-a-holic me :)

    Glad to know you had a great lunch with your friends :)