top of page

Food for Writing

A sampling of my cookbooks...color coordinated by my daughter

If you follow me on Instagram or visited my old blog, you may have noticed that I’m a big believer in good food. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that writing is hard work. When you’re spending serious time creating, revision, and focusing on your work, your body needs high-quality fuel (and also sleep and movement) to have the strength to reach the finish line. Another reason is that I have kids, and I’d like them to be healthy and reach adulthood. And food is delicious.

Some of my kitchen companions include Laurie Colwin, Ann Hood, Kathleen Flinn, Jamie Oliver, Mark Bittman...and I’m always finding and adding other writers who know good food and how to capture it on the page.

But it’s important that you know I’m no chef. Food can be fresh and home-cooked, and still fast and convenient. I do subscribe to CookSmarts, which does the planning and organizing (and then someone in my household does the shopping), but I also collect recipes with minimal hands-on work for maximum results. A favorite is taking a chicken, putting a lemon in it and rubbing the whole thing with butter or olive oil and paprika, then sitting it on some potatoes and carrots and roasting it at 350 until it reaches 165 degrees (usually 20 min per pound plus a bonus 15 min). That’s 5 minutes of hands-on time...the roasting time is your writing time. If you want more writing time, Laurie Colwin roasted her chickens at 250 degrees, and it comes out so so juicy!

The next night you can dip into Kathleen Flinn’s book The Kitchen Counter Cooking School for her chicken stock and her no-knead bread recipe. Stock sounds intimidating, but it’s so simple. Take the bones of the chicken you just roasted as well as any leftover old vegetables, plunk them in a saucepan with water and bring them to a boil, then simmer for a couple hours...during which you write. I suppose you could make this overnight in the crockpot, but then you’ll be sleeping instead of writing. Transform it into soup by straining it and adding the leftover diced chicken from the previous night as well as fresh sliced vegetables (or the leftover cooked ones). You could add rice or pasta, but I like to serve this with no-knead bread. It’s another recipe with less than five minutes hands-on time, perfect for your busy life.

Bread is one of my favorite metaphors for writing. For centuries, it’s been made of simple ingredients--water, salt, flour, yeast. Combine them, add heat, and they are transformed into something completely different--springy, nourishing, portable, versatile. And the entire time humans have been breaking bread together, we’ve also been sharing stories. We take words--the same ones that spill from our lips, are posted on signs and scrawled under bridges, abbreviated in texts and tattooed on our bodies--and we combine them on the page into narratives that take the reader into another life. Food and story, ancient alchemy.

Even if you squeeze your writing into the edges of your days, even if you’re on the run from dawn to dusk, there’s time for good food and good work.

What are your favorite recipes?

bottom of page