I have one of those burning questions for you over which you may (or may not) lose sleep: Why didn’t Wordsworth ever write an “Ode to [Insert Favorite Food Here]”?
If I was more, or better, in the habit of waxing poetical, I might write a poem about food. Maybe.
Poets in centuries past have brooded over the weather; have paid homage to nightingales; have proven positively pathetic in their ramblings about love—and yet, no poet in the line of Keats or Shelley or Pope, as far as I know, has ever dared to venture even a stanza in honor of a delectable dish.
I might be going a little too far. I’m not altogether certain that poetry and food belong in the same sentence. And that’s not for any lack of love on my part—if anything, it would be a lack of precedent. (I also don’t know that the endeavor would reflect well on either the food or the poem—but that’s another discussion. I think food fits better with prose. Iambic pentameter just doesn’t seem like it would do the job.)
The point is, I love food. Who doesn’t? Most of the conversations in my family revolve around food. If it’s not, “What’s for lunch?” it’s “What’s for dinner?” and if it’s not that, then it’s “What’s for dessert?” or “That was an R-rated meal!” (My brothers came up with that. The “R” stands for “repeat.”)
Meals at my granny’s house are an Event. We get to the table early and often stay for an hour or two—dinner, more dinner, coffee, dessert, ice cream. Being Palestinian, Grannie usually asks, after we’ve had two or three helpings, “Would you like more?”—“No thanks, I’m full”—“Are you sure?”—“Yes, I’ve had enough”—“You’re looking thin—here, eat some more!” The same goes at Grandma’s house—we’ve never quite had enough, and there’s always room for more ice cream.
I’ve inherited my love of Middle Eastern and “traditional” Southern Ohio food from the many happy times around those tables—but it’s my mom who has taught me the most about cooking and baking, and we’ve spent hours in the kitchen together.
Whenever I’m at home, I like to try out new recipes. Some of them have been smashing successes (and yes, “R-rated,” according to my brothers)—others have not turned out so well. The picture at the bottom of this post is one of my most recent triumphs. Fried Apple Pies. I have this irritating habit of tweaking a recipe before I’ve tried it out. With this one, I added a brown-sugar-and-butter glaze and drizzled melted chocolate over the top right after they came out of the oil. It was a pretty simple recipe, but absolutely delicious!
I approach food-making (ah, you say, here’s the connection!) similarly to the way I write. There are writers that I love, just like there are recipes that I love, who provide inspiration and insight. But the writing needs to be my own, of course. (The analogy sort of falls apart here, although I’m not sure it was ever that great anyway, because recipes are meant to be copied—just not passed off as your own.) And, most relevantly, both in writing and food-making, there needs to be a certain level of comfort with making mistakes. Major ones. And then trying again.
As I mentioned, I’ve had some really disastrous cooking adventures. One of my first times making pavlova, I added the sugar to the egg whites before I beat them. I’ve used about eight eggs to make pavlova because four of them (I think; frankly, I lost count) were rotten. I’ve burned butter, the combination of inexperience with a gas stove and being of the daydreaming sort proving particularly dangerous. I’ve had battles with ovens and lost. I’ve cried a little. The list could continue.
To continue with the analogy—many’s the time where I have thrown aside my proverbial pen, vowing that I never have written anything good and never will write anything good and for heaven’s sake I might as well get a decent job or something and not even dream about making a living out of it. If you want a good, long laugh, email me and I’ll send you excerpts of a novel I wrote several years ago.
I still write, and I still cook and bake. I can’t help it, really. I need to eat. I need to write. And no matter how much I try to silence them, characters inevitably come marching back into my mind, demanding that they be heard. It can be horrible, wonderful, hateful, peaceful, and peace-less—but there it is!
So, if you ever happen to drop by, I’ll give you a chair, a cup of tea, and more food than you could possibly ever want. We can settle into our seats comfortably and have a nice chat about the joys and headaches of writing, or of anything. Just know that, whatever we talk about, it won’t be my fault if you leave still hungry.