Reading, Writing, Cooking, Eating

DSC_0033_5 Lately, I've been focusing on my writing. I've gone beyond just thinking about how I would like to write more (or that I should) to actually doing so. I feel accomplished when I write a blog post or an email, or a note to a friend. It's like some sort of dam has broken within me and I don't feel quite so stagnant.

This is all good, I think.

Then, tonight, I was reading in bed, reveling in the joy of not having to go to work the next day. It's a new book, an advance reader's copy, and so, it can be argued that I am reading the book so that I can write a review. I love it. I can't wait to share my review with you. I have been tasting the words on my tongue, rolling them around in my mind and savoring them. I have had to remind myself several times that I don't have to memorize every word, I can read it again (and again and again). But for some reason, I felt a little guilty. Here I am reading this wonderful, beautifully written book when I should be writing one of my own, right?

This book is also about food, and, since God has a sense of humor (and apparently doesn't want me to be completely confused and frustrated by the workings of my own mind) slowly, while reading and feeling guilty for enjoying it so much, I began to see a connection.

I've never been much of a cook. I have gone through phases in the kitchen. One such phase: food coloring. There was no limit to the items of food I would add it to. One morning (these things always happened in the morning) I made bright red oatmeal. Another, more infamous meal was biscuits and gravy. The gravy was green. I couldn't eat it.

The summer before I graduated from college, I decided that I wanted to learn to cook. I started with appetizers, trying them first with my family who are used to my antics (my baking soda biscuits are still discussed) and then inviting friends over and trying them out for prime time. Dairy and I are not really friends, but I love dairy-laden appetizers. I used this time to play with recipes that made my indulgence less painful, and gained a slam-dunk appetizer recipe: my stuffed mushrooms, found with a random google search. People actually ask me to make these (I am not making this up).

my famous stuffed mushrooms

That same summer, I cooked dinner for a boy on our third date. Even though the relationship didn't work out, I still think, with pride, about that dinner. It was 20 clove chicken made in the crock pot with celery (and lots of garlic), Greek salad and (you guessed it) stuffed mushrooms. It was the first time I'd ever made dinner for anyone I wasn't related to, and it was wildly successful, which surprised me a little.

In college, I sometimes snuck into the kitchen and borrowed a pan to sauté some sliced zucchini, or mushrooms or spinach in butter. I used to write down what I wanted for meals so that the cooks could make me something without dairy. Once, I asked one of them how to spell "sauté." "Just write 'fry'" she said. After that, I would go, every so often and cook a little myself.

I don't cook very often these days, I find that I am tired, or my mom has cooked something for us (one of the benefits of living at home). When I have parties, I heat up mini-quiches from Costco and ask everyone to bring something to share. Only rarely do I look up a recipe, get the ingredients together and cook.

But I haven't stopped eating.

I love to go out to eat with friends. It's entertainment. We talk about what we should order, and what we are tasting and what we would do differently. We "ooh" and "ahh" or shrug and smile.

eating out

I have dinner with my family most nights and we eat just the sort of food I grew up with: tacos with flour and corn shells fried crispy in a skillet, homemade macaroni and cheese, breakfast for dinner.

Sometimes my friends will invite me over and cook for me. They make melt in your mouth corned beef and cabbage for a late St. Patrick's Day or blueberry crepes from scratch, or broccoli beef as a thank-you for babysitting. They fill me up with more than just food. When someone cooks for me, I feel that they have given me a gift.

Eating and cooking have something to do with each other, but one is not better than another, I'm learning. I'm not a great cook yet, and perhaps I never will be, but I want to learn. Saying that I should stop eating until I cook more would defeat the purpose. Eating will only inform the way that I choose to cook. It will help me grasp what flavors work well together and how things should be (and sometimes how things shouldn't be).

I think writing and reading walk hand in hand in the same way. Reading was the reason I wanted to write in the first place. I loved the way an author could use something made up and inanimate like a collection of words to take me someplace else. I wanted to do that. I still do. Ceasing to read while I try to write is like starving myself while I learn to cook. This author is taking me somewhere wonderful, and instead of feeling guilty that I'm not doing that myself right at the moment, I need to sit back and allow her to feed me. If I can't enjoy consuming someone else's words, how can I expect anyone else to enjoy consuming mine?