Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cooking the Books

Scenario 1: It’s a little after 5 pm. Where has the day gone? Amazing Child insists she’s moments away from falling away to a shadow from hunger, and a phone call from Darling Geek shows him to be grumpy and hungry too. I check the cupboards and realize I was supposed to go to the grocery store today. Ooops. I’d call for pizza, but in the 45 minutes it takes for delivery, Amazing Child will have wasted away to nothing. Anyway, calling for pizza means that, once again, I’ve been bested by something that billions of women world-wide manage each day without a problem: Dinner.

Time for MacGyver cooking. What, you’ve never heard of MacGyver cooking? You have 3 cans of beans, 1 old lemon, 1 chicken breast, 2 hot dog buns, capers (how did those get in the cupboard?), 4 frostbitten fish sticks, and a banana. You have 27 minutes. GO! Make dinner! *

Scenario 2: I’m making one of Mom’s recipes. Her recipe calls for a 13- ounce can. I look at my can—it’s 12 ounces. I call Mom. She says “Oh, don’t worry, they changed the amount in the cans 15 years ago. Just dump it in.”

“But, But, But,” I sputter, “I’m an ounce short. Won’t that screw it up?”

“Nah,” Mom says, “just add a little extra water to make up the difference if you’re worried.”

“A little? Define ‘a little.’”

“Oh, I don’t know. Add some until it looks right.”

HUH? What does “right” look like? Can I just hold the phone over the pot and let her tell me when it looks “right?” Sadly, I don’t have a video phone, so Mom is zero help there. If I knew what “right” looked like, I wouldn’t have made the phone call in the first place.

Cooking is always an adventure in my house. One of my favorite recipes is for “Surprise Gravy.” It’s always a surprise if it turns out to be edible or not.

Seems as though I write a lot like I cook. There’s MacGyver writing, where I have a couple of interesting characters, a couple of ideas for cute scenes I’d like them to be in, and maybe a great piece of dialogue I want to stick in somewhere. I have 275 pages to fill: GO! Write a book.

Or I’ll have a scene. It’s not working, but I don’t know why. I send it out for comments and get remarks like, “Well there’s something missing ...”

“Okay, so what does it need?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe alpha up your hero. Or make the heroine react a different way. Or…”

Argh! Can you vague that up for me a bit more?

So, my writing is a lot like my cooking. I’m a pantser (but I seem to be in some good company). And though MacGyver always makes his thingamajig work perfectly the first time and saves the day while my book often needs some rewriting, I still get it done in the end. And sometimes, I’m left playing with a scene trying to make it “look right” with no clue as to how. But once it looks right, I know it.

However you write it, be proud of yourself for getting it written. Then make your Darling take you out for dinner.

Problem Child.

*If anyone actually said to themselves, “Oh, I can make a yummy dinner out of that,” don’t tell me. I’m shamed enough as it is. (And just a little grossed out.)

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!


Playground Monitor said...

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Happy Valentine's Day to you too!

4 frostbitten fishsticks, huh? Yick! Add "Clean out freezer" to your next to-do list. *g*

Wal-Mart has some great casseroles in their frozen food section. They don't take long at all to nuke. There's lasagne and chicken fettucine that I can remember. I usually keep one or the other on hand for those "MacGyver" moments.

Angel said...

Aaahhh, a subject close to my heart! I am learning that I absolutely hate to cook. Didn't used to, but with 3 picky eaters in the house and one borderline diabetic diet, dinner time can become a war zone filled with angst or guilt. That's definitely the situation to kill any love of cooking that once glowed in my heart.

My ideal night? A restaurant where everyone can order what they want. My "MacGyver" recipe? French toast.

I enjoy cooking my books so much more!!! :)

Happy Valentine's Day. My husband got me an Angel t-shirt.


Angel said...

Okay, I'm a little slow, but I just now noticed Counselor Shelley's post.

I'm sure I have a few issues that need to be addressed, anonymously!



Instigator said...

Okay, I am so in work mode. I read cooking the books and thought someone was stealing money.

Cooking? I have a darling husband who has dinner ready for me when I get home with the kids every night.

My favorite MacGyver dinner? Scrambled eggs with bacon (the microwave kind)

I'm a panster too. I like the idea of refering to it as cooking the book. That's often how I feel. Like it's just simmering away in my head until I get it just right and can finally put it down on paper.

Happy Valentine's Day!!


Playground Monitor said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who saw the post title and thought EMBEZZLEMENT! **gg**

Smarty Pants said...

Just a random thought before I head home - in the spirit of Valentine's Day -

May all of you have an evening free of crying, temper tantrums, ear infections, fussy eaters, and boo-boos (this applies to those both with and without kids).

May your conversations (at least not all of them) NOT revolve around going potty, bills, work crap, family drama, etc.

May you wear your "good" panties with pride and have someone actually appreciate it.

May you get the candy, flowers, jewelry, mixed tape, lingerie, or power tools you were hoping for.

And finally, may you have a night that might actually inspire you to write some interesting scenes in your book tomorrow.

Angel said...

Well said, Smarty Pants!