Monday, February 18, 2008

My novel and the kitchen: Two worlds collide

I know it's procrastination (like blogging isn't?), but sometimes when I should be working on the novel, I read about working on novels. Raymond Carver once said "You have to decide whether you're a reader or a writer." I guess I'm still working on that.

Last night, when I should have been writing, I started James Wood's How Fiction Works. I'm still early on, but since two of the first characters he quotes are Maisie Farange (from Henry James's What Maisie Knew) and Mr. Mallard (from Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings), two characters I have come to love over the years, I suspect this will be a good read/distraction/whatever.

Swirling through my head today is the Henry James epigram with which Wood kicks off the book: "There is only one recipe -- to care a great deal for the cookery."

What a lovely observation. Without respect for our tools, the products of our tools won't be worthwhile.

This dovetails nicely with a welcome non-fire-extinguisher-requiring cooking experience I had yesterday. I made Jane the North African cauliflower soup from one of the Moosewood cookbooks, a recipe with which I've had success in the past. I wanted to be careful to respect the instructions and I followed them much more closely than usual.

So I was disappointed when the soup turned out noticeably thinner than usual. I was nervous -- did I put in two few potatoes? too much bouillon? -- but Jane complemented me on it.

Jimmy: But it's not thick enough.

Jane: Yes it is. You usually make it too thick.

Respect your tools. Sometimes it's the Moosewood collective offering them up, sometimes it's Henry James. And sometimes the person opposite from you at the kitchen table will be kind enough to let you know if, at last, you finally paid attention.

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