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The Blank Cookbook

Cooking is hard, but apparently people think it's a manageable skill for a rat to master. I want to see a movie with a chipmunk using Hemingway as a marionette.

I found a new refuge in cooking. A few weeks ago I was still under the spell of a writer’s block. I hadn’t quite found the key that would unlock the creativity I had hid

den deep inside myself, somewhere underneath a pile of unrealistic fears and yet-to-be-had epiphanies. But I was on a mission to get up off my ass, and if I couldn’t write, I needed something as a substitute.

I had spent the last couple of weeks feeling sorry for myself. I was really embracing the idea that my life was going nowhere and there was nothing I could do about it but sit around and wait for something good or different to happen to me. Then I got a kick in the ass and realized I had to do something besides wait around and watch myself decompose.

So I started to bake. I decided not to add more weight onto it by pledging to bake every night, or write my own recipes, I just decided I would make an effort to bake every few nights or so.

It was more therapeutic than I expected it to be. I’ve always enjoyed baking more than cooking. My Mom hated to cook. When I was young, she would come home dead tired after a full day’s work and the last thing she wanted to do was use up what was left of her energy slaving over the stove, so cooking is still something I’m learning later in life on my own.

She did teach me how to bake though, which was always fun because it was a special occasion sort of thing. You bake for birthdays, Christmas, and other special occasions, and it’s extra enjoyable because you don’t have to think about the nutritional value of what you’re making. You don’t bake because for your health, you bake because you want to eat something that tastes good. And it might even look good, too, if you take the time for icing and sprinkles.

I think there’s something really healing about following a recipe and knowing that you’re going to end up with a tasty treat. I mean, granted, something could go wrong you could accidentally toss in ¼ cup of salt instead of sugar into your cookie dough (I’ve witnessed this happen, it’s possible), but for the most part, when you start making chocolate chip cookies, you’re probably going to end up with chocolate cookies. Writing is not always so successful, or predictable. I’ve started endless poems, short stories, books, blog posts, and facebook statuses only to watch them turn into something I never intended them to be, or just to not finish them at all.

Chances my book is gonna be this delicious? Slim. But it will definitely be less fattening.

Anyone who has written a book and says it’s not hard either is a masochist or was completely high while they were writing it. I think the hardest part is that it takes forever! It’s just not something that can be done well in a condensed period of time. There would be a lot less cupcakes in the world if it took as long as it did to write a book. And just like writing a book, not only would you question your motives along the way, but you’d forget what the ingredients were when you read the recipe a year ago.

So, baking is kind of the antidote for writing. It’s everything writing isn’t, with significantly more positive and predictable results. And it’s way easier! You don’t have to invent sugar every time you need to sweeten the pot. You just go buy some sugar! Also helpful: instructions. I’m a big fan of doing things by the book in order to make sure the result was worth the time and energy I put into it, but writing comes with no instructions and no such guarantee. There is also no real fast and hard rules, like whether or not it’s acceptable to have a dragon wander onto page 233, or if there even should be a page 233. Writing isn’t so much like cooking from scratch, as it is inventing the recipe, making up the oven temperature, and harvesting the ingredients yourself. But, on the plus side, if you do manage to publish a book, it will have a longer shelf life.


3 responses »

  1. What wonderful connections you make here between those ‘other’ things writers do that have a way of nourishing our writing. For me, there was something about my rediscovery of knitting about a year ago that had a similar effect on me. Like you, I’m now on WordPress (see my link below), but here’s a link to a post in my former incarnation (“I write, therefore I knit”), Will look forward to more of your posts, and connecting via She Writes as well.

    • I just checked out your blog. Beautiful post, Deborah! I really loved it. I really love how you explored the same sentiment that I did in your post. Knitting something warm and fuzzy for a loved one is very similar to making chocolate chip cookies for your kids!

      There is nothing like a nurturing activity to get you through grief. When my father passed away I took up running while listening to Buddhist podcasts. When my cat passed away, I took care of a little mouse and nursed it back to health. It’s funny how profound simple things become when you are overwhelmed by your own emotions.

  2. I love baking too. Not only tasty treats, I like baking bread too. It is, as you say, therapeutic! That said, it is a bit like writing. You start, you let it rest, you work on it a bit, you let it rest, and if you don’t follow this process it doesn’t work…
    Good luck with the writing!


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