Writing and cooking
They have much in common, from a standard recipe that can change at the preparer’s discretion, to the finished product that satisfies a craving.
I love cooking and writing. Today is my aunt’s b-day. I told her last week I would cook dinner for her to celebrate. I asked what she wanted and she didn’t hesitate with her answer. “Your rack of lamb.”
It takes time, patience, and all the right ingredients to successfully prepare this dish. Same as a story. Time, patience and all of the necessary ingredients.
Let’s look at my roast rack of lamb process.
I didn’t always know how to cook lamb. It was a trial an error process, but one of the many things I learned a long time ago from my chef friend Nitra, was how to tell by touch how cooked the meat was, either on the grill or in the oven. I’m pretty proud of the fact I don’t go by time, I go by touch. I know when too long is going to be too long and I know when too soon is too soon.
Blindfolded with a pair of short tongs I can tell if a piece of meat is rare, medium or well done. It’s all in timing, paying attention and making adjustments. In the early days I burnt the hell out of prime rib roast, or served it so raw all I needed to do was apply a band aide and it would get up and walk off the table. So timing is crucial. As with meat, you can undercook or overcook your story. Trial and error can remedy this.
Now cooking the meat is only half of the process. The preparation, the seasoning is as crucial. Again trial and error. Do I use fresh herbs or can I squeak by with the jarred stuff? Do I braise the meat first to seal in the flavor or do I just prep and roast?
As I cut fresh rosemary from my monster bush out in my herb garden this morning, I looked around at my other herb pots. Oregano overflowed its clay pot the tips of the branches sweeping along the cement. My basil was blossoming in a chaotic show of health. And my mint? Out of control. The thyme and chives looked so dainty amongst the big bushy rosemary I could barely see it. For me there is no other choice but to use fresh herbs. In writing I strive to make my characters fresh and engaging.
The next part of the process was putting all of the ingredients together so that as a whole they created something special. Much like layering a story.
I washed the rosemary and cut the little leaves then ground them, cleaned and pressed a whole head of fresh garlic, mixed the garlic and rosemary into a half cup of virgin olive oil. I then added, salt, pepper, fresh thyme and a dash of balsamic vinegar.
For the herbs and spices to mingle and infuse into the oil, the mixture needed to sit for a half hour or so. I then add Italian bread crumbs. I allow that mixture to infuse for another half hour. If I don’t give the mixture enough time to infuse the full affect of the herbs won’t come through. So patience and not rushing is vital to the nuance of the taste. Once the bread crumbs are saturated I’ll slather it all over the cleaned racks and let them sit for a few hours. Much the same as I would after the first draft of my story. I let it sit, to simmer in my mind before I go back for the final phase.
Once the rack has marinated, I’ll braise them in seasoned olive oil, then arrange them in a special clay roaster and roast, all the while testing the meat with my tongs, making sure not to overcook my creation.
I make sure to pull the meat out about ten minutes before it’s at the desired temperature, because I know that meat still cooks even after it comes out. I also know you need to allow meat to stand at least ten minute before you cut, otherwise all of that lovely juice will run.
I mean really? After all of that work do you want dry meat? Same with a story. Make sure you give your characters every minute they need to cook to perfection, because if you pull them too soon, they will dry up, and not taste nearly as good as they could have with just a bit more patience.
Of course the meal would not be complete without the perfect wine. My preference is a mellow merlot, although I’ll always be game for a fat cab.
So, I’m wondering, since cooking seems to be a lost art in this busy world we live in, do any of you like to spend the afternoon creating yummy meals, or would you rather go out to dinner?