Monday, September 20, 2010

Cooking and Writing

God, I love to cook. Wait, that’s not exactly true. I like to cook, but I love to eat. And I especially love to eat what I want when I want, made with ingredients I have selected. To get that, I have to cook. And as I said, I like cooking. It takes a lot of time and is tiring on the legs, but it is often a good way to rescue the day from wherever it went off course.

Two nights ago, I cooked my first meal from Molto Gusto, a cookbook by Mario Batali. Batali is a man with confidence, with the courage of his convictions. His recipes are easy to follow and none takes up more than a page of this small-ish cookbook. He assumes some intelligence and skill on the part of his reader. What some people call simple, I call good editing. He mixes flavor profiles I wouldn’t have thought of. Lemon marmalade and olive oil?

The meal (mushroom and tallegio pizza with homemade crust, anchovies and fried bread with spring onions, and misticanza – a salad of arugula with radishes and fennel in a lemon vinaigrette) was amazing. Why? Because: 1) I gave myself enough time to do it all and 2) the recipes were excellent. They embodied the principle that less is more if you counted the number of ingredients. If you considered the flavors, the guiding principle was more is more.

When I think about my writing, I realize that is what I want to do: be minimal with the number of words but also maximize the power of each one.

Cooking and writing are both creative processes but the end result of both often involves sharing. I know you can write for yourself but not if you want to make a living at it. You can also cook for yourself, but really when it’s just me, I have an egg or a bowl of cereal. Writing and cooking are generous activities. I want whoever reads my words to enjoy them like I’m sure Batali wants people to enjoy his recipes. I write for my readers, whoever they are.