The first day back from our holiday yesterday and there was so much to do. The unpacking, obviously, load after load of washing, ironing, dealing with all the practical stuff that had piled up, dental appointments hairdressers, school uniforms…
Yet I found myself cooking, baking: lemon cake, shortbread, soup, stew, wings, savoury muffins, bread… I didn’t mean to ask anyone round for Sunday lunch, but it somehow happened anyway… Well it was raining outside. Hard, insane for August. Windy too. Perfect indoors weather, and a wonderful contrast to a series of hot outdoors days, just right for some ‘nesting’ before it’s back to work on Monday.
Was I procrastinating? It isn’t like me, generally, but I have hardly written a thing for several weeks. Not so long ago, I was so proud of my ‘something every day’ habit, but now, the smallest break in routine seems to throw it out. So not blocked exactly, but in need of a measure of discipline.
Instead, to the kitchen. And possible displacement. But it’s the ultimate analogy, isn’t it, cooking and writing (as well as eating and reading)? Here are some manifest similarities:
- It generally takes longer to prepare than it does to consume – although the pleasurable memory of a good one may linger.
- It’s all about what goes into it – get those ingredients right and whilst success isn’t guaranteed, you’re on your way.
- Anyone can learn to do it, but some evidently have more creative flair (and also patience) than others.
- Despite that, you can still improve with practice – another common analogy is that a first effort is like the first pancake – you’ll probably want to throw that one away.
- There are rules, and you can follow a tried-and-tested recipe, but it’s even better when you start to add your own twists and spices.
- Sometimes it’s all about the planning, at other times, inspiration may strike.
- An impressive final product can look ‘effortless’, but it’s underpinned by time and skill – and sometimes simply mundane labour.
- In the end, what people enjoy or have an aversion to is very much a matter of taste – though in either case, they may still admire the skill of the creator.
- Like most things, it works best if you like what you’re doing.
- Even if you don’t ‘turn professional’, you can continue
to delight in the process, and may find a small but appreciative audience. Part of the satisfaction comes in entertaining others.
For me, too, it’s an exercise in control. At those times when I feel I have less control over what happens in my life, thanks at the moment to a rocky work situation, I turn to the activities where I can apply my own principles and preferences, whether in the kitchen or at my desk.
And whether you write, cook, or both, but are concerned there is nothing new on earth in terms of dishes, combinations, theme, plot, character, setting, etc., we can end with a quote from Austro-American restaurateur Wolfgang Puck:
“Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colours, there are only so many flavours – it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.”
(Although my favourite food quote is actually from Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”)