Have you ever pondered how similar the acts of writing and cooking are? It struck me one day as I dropped chopped onions and other ingredients into hot oil for frying. First you get all the ingredients together—the vegetables, the spices, the seasoning. The characters, the plot, the setting/s. Then you proceed to chopping and churning. Character style sheets, plot outlines (for those who do), setting details. And finally you begin cooking. The writing ensues. All this while, as the stew simmers and as the words flow off the keyboard, you are anticipating with anxiousness something good would emerge out of your efforts. Yet, you remain unaware of the final outcome. It is creative uncertainty at its nervous best, and for me, it’s a childlike joy to go through the process. Finally, when your dish is ready and the story’s last word is typed, there’s a sense of relief. A breath of contentment at having created something from scattered, raw ingredients.
I guess the process is same for all creative pursuits. Food attracts me because of personal inclination, that’s all. And while we are at it, I will skip onto another note, while staying on the same octave. Food, being as vital a part of any culture as music or arts, has often found delicious expression in the words of writers. I would even go on to say that is one of the hallmarks of great writers—to successfully transfer the experience of the taste buds onto the writing page. I find that challenging myself, yet very inclined to attempt, too. For now, let’s savour some masterly literary relishes:
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”
—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
“Bread, milk and butter are of venerable antiquity. They taste of the morning of the world.”
—Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), The Seer
“…and every Saturday we’d get a case of beer and fry up some fish. We’d fry it in meal and egg batter, you know, and when it was all brown and crisp — not hard, though — we’d break open that cold beer…” Marie’s eyes went soft as the memory of just such a meal sometime, somewhere transfixed her.
—Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
“Well loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes. And for to drinken strong wyn, reed as blood.”
—Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
“Huge lemons, cut in slices, would sink like setting suns into the dusky sea, softly illuminating it with their radiating membranes, and its clear, smooth surface aquiver from the rising bitter essence.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke