It's About Food
Chances are you're online right now because you're looking for a recipe. Or you're checking directions to the house or apartment or restaurant you're going to tomorrow to eat yourself silly. Admit it: you only made it to Grub's blog today because a) you got the email reminder and clicked out of habit or b) you thought you would bone up on all things publishing so you could better answer those pesky questions from family members around the Thanksgiving fowl, like "How come James Patterson sells so many books but you don't?"
So, let's talk about food. Literary food. Food one consumes while engaging in literary activities. Even food that serves as a gustatory good-luck charm for a writing session.
Many years ago, as I was making my first steps towards taking myself seriously as a writer, I took breaks from my writing sessions by driving to a nearby coffee place to retrieve a coffee and a scone. This particular kind of scone would never be mistaken for an English scone, for it was dark and dense and studded with golden raisins and nuts and, if memory serves, cranberries. It was wonderful, and I began to feel that I could only begin a writing session if I had a scone by my side. Over time, I came to feel that the scone consoled me, nourished me, and even inspired me. I told myself that the scone was my lucky scone, and so it indeed became lucky. The mere fact of its presence on my desk made me believe that my sentences would come easily for the remainder of the afternoon. And so they did.
My appearances at the scone purveyor became so regular that the staff began greeting me as "Mrs. Scone" in lovely Brazilian accents. As soon as they saw me approaching the counter, one woman would call out her hello, and another would grab a scone and slip it into its little paper bag. Then one day, my Brazilian friends greeted me with long faces. The purveyor had discontinued the scone. I was stunned. It seems silly to think of it now, but at the time, I really did feel that my writing would suffer without that particular baked good, that I would no longer be able to enter into that charmed mental space that allowed me to make things up. I must have registered my dismay fairly clearly, because when I asked the women if there was a way for me to get the recipe, they told me they would try. The following week, one of them handed me a photocopy of the purveyor's recipe--for a batch of 20 dozen scones.
I did make one batch--dividing the amounts by twenty--and the scones turned out fine. For a time, I imagined making my own lucky scones bi-monthly (six a week!) to fuel my creative engines in perpetuity. But even before I pulled that first cookie sheet out of the oven, the lucky-scone routine had lost its mystique. Part of its charm, after all, was the trip to the store and the smiling greeting from the staff who came to know me as a regular--that brief social moment in an afternoon of isolation.
I have had other writing routines in the years since, but none have involved food. Looking back on my scone period now, I suspect the scone became important to me then because I wasn't sure of my own innate abilities as a writer. I felt I had to rely on some external substance for inspiration. To my younger self, I would now say that this is rubbish. If it's energy you need, eat some carbs. And if it's inspiration you want, sit down, write, and then take a break to say a kind hello to someone. That's how to get some nourishment for your creative soul.
I had hoped to write a post about literary meals, but the only one I can remember is the cold fried chicken and beer that Tom and Daisy Buchanan sit down to after all the tragedy and mayhem of The Great Gatsby has settled just beyond them.
What are your favorite fictional meals?
Henriette Lazaridis' debut novel The Clover House was published by Ballantine Books in April 2013 and was a Boston Globe best-seller and a Target Emerging Authors pick. Her work has appeared in publications including ELLE, Narrative Magazine, Forge, Salamander, the New England Review, The Millions, The New York Times online, and the Huffington Post and has earned her a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant. She has degrees in English from Middlebury College, Oxford University where she was a Rhodes Scholar, and the University of Pennsylvania where she earned a Ph.D. She taught at Harvard for ten years before leaving academia to turn to writing. In the summers, she runs the Krouna Writing Workshop in northern Greece (www.krounawritingworkshop.com).See other articles by Henriette Lazaridis