It’s important to understand this first: I do the bulk of the cooking for me and my wife. And we’re not just talking grilling and smoking or opening a can of soup. No, I was the one who wanted an Instant Pot. I was the one who wanted a KitchenAid stand mixer and then the pasta extruder and meat grinder attachments. Yeah, the reality is if I could stay home all day and bake bread and muffins and make pasta and sausages, I would.
As for cuisines, I dove into Mexican, Asian, Jewish, German, Italian, and any other interesting thing I could find on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or Tumblr. I’ve got a list of ideas for when I retire including the purchase of a deep freezer to store this stuff. I might even take up canning.
After all these years of cooking and writing, it finally dawned on me while participating in the OWFI Conference, Bridging the Epic Gap that my cooking and writing were more closely related. For years, I referred to both as creative outlets. The notion of taking disparate “ingredients” and forming them into a cohesive whole was easy to grasp. But somewhere this past weekend, the notion of cuisine as genre (or vice versa) became glaringly apparent.
I studied filmmaking and screenwriting at the University of Miami in the early 80’s. Most of my fellow classmates wanted to be Steven Spielberg or the next great MTV video director. In the early 90’s I turned toward poetry and then was involved in some extent in the Boston Slam Poetry scene. It was poetry that provided me an entrance to meet other creatives in Wichita. Then it was short stories and back to full length fiction. From contemporary crime fiction, I segued into historical crime fiction. As of January 20, 2021, I completed the four book series of the Ark City Confidential Chronicles. Now, I’m moving on to a new series.
Both the culinary and literary processes are the same as far as the analogy goes. Preparation, ingredients, following a recipe and then maybe deviating from it, allowing yourself to trust the process, and then having a completed product, whether or not you are ready to share it. Now, I realize there are subtle nuances based on the genre you write (or the cuisine you cook). Ultimately, it is the flavor that protrudes out from the whole, a certain sense that makes it different from all your other work, whatever that work may be.
Of course, making dinner takes a lot less time than writing a novel. “What’s for dinner?” gets replaced by “What are you working on?” In the end, we are only looking for something palatable to offer those joining us at our table.