I have always loved to cook. I still do. I don’t collect cookbooks. I don’t even collect recipes, although I have been known to go on the Internet and check ingredients for a particular dish when I get stuck. But basically, I just cook. I love blending ingredients to see how they come out in the end.
I’ve come to realize that cooking is a lot like writing. You have to do it or you’ll starve.
Oh, it’s great fun to read recipes and watch cooking shows on television. It is part of becoming a good cook, just like reading other authors is part of becoming a good writers. It is at this stage we learn techniques and tips on how to make our creations in the kitchen come to fruition. But at the end of the day, unless you actually go into the kitchen, take out a bowl and a spoon (or other necessary utensils) nothing will ever happen. Right?
The secret to a good meal is to make something mundane–like hamburger for instance–into something extraordinary–like a spicy meatball that melts in your mouth. The same is true for writing. You start with an everyday occurrence and turn it into an extraordinary event in your story. Along the way, you have to add the right ingredients and cook it properly to have a story come alive, just like a perfect meatball.
But once the meatballs are cooked are you finished? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never eaten just one meatball. Do you serve it alone? Not likely. You will probably want put it into a sauce and combine both with spaghetti. This is where the plot thickens.
Now you have to make the sauce. A REAL cook doesn’t open a jar of sauce, she/he makes it from blanched and seeded tomatoes, garlic, onion, oregano or basil, salt and pepper–and here’s a secret —a little bit of sugar. Shhhhh–I didn’t just tell you that.
After your sauce cooks down to the right consistency, you add the meatballs, while in another pot you’re cooking the pasta until it is el dente. When it is the right time, you put all the ingredients together.
Your meal will finally be complete with a salad, a good red wine, and some crusty garlic bread. Perhaps you’ll serve your masterpiece on everyday dishes or your good china because company is joining you. The trick to serving a memorable meal is getting it all on the table at the same time. This, my friends, takes practice. It’s more than knowing what ingredients to combine, and at what temperatures they should be cooked, it is also knowing how to get all the ingredients on the table at the same time, so you can serve your guests with grace.
It’s the same for writing. You have to know how and where to begin, what elements of your characters are important in your story, how to weave them together and serve them up to your readers, so they will salivate at the sheer fragrance of what is coming. You keep them turning pages, so they can get to the end you have set up for them. And like a good meal, a great book is something they will want to remember for a very long time.
Both good cooking and good writing only come when they are practiced. It takes so much more than reading recipes to become a good cook, and it takes more than reading great author’s to becoming a good writer. Both require doing. Both require confidence, patience and practice. And both are satisfied when you hear that the meal or the book was great.
Happy writing everyone! Mangia, too!