Monday, May 7, 2012

Reasons Writing Is Bit Like Cooking: Part One

Back in March I posted about why writing is a bit like working out. It's a good post (IMHO) and I like it.

The thing is, I don't love to work out. It's ok. It helps me keep my girlish figure. But the main reason I go to the gym is to support my true love and addiction: FOOD!

I love food. I love to eat. I love to buy food. I love the Food Network. I LOVE FOOD!

And I also love to cook. There is no better way to wind down from a long day than to crack open a beer (another thing I LOVE), bust out some pots and pans, and get to cookin'. My specialties include pad thai, vegi burritos, stuffed cheese burgers, fried sage winter squash soup, spaghetti squash and grueyere, pumpkin roll, and my award winning key lime pie. Mmmmmmm...

I love to cook so I think about it a lot. Because of this I've noticed some definite parallels between cooking and something else I love to do and ponder: writing.

I started out intending to post five reasons why writing is like cooking but I kept coming up with more. Instead of doing an insanely long post, I'm going to make it into a three part post.

So without further ado, here are my first three reasons that writing is a bit like cooking:

  1. Ingredients Matter: I love the TV show Chopped. If you haven't seen it, basically it's the cooking version of MacGyver. World-class chefs are given baskets filled with crazy ingredients and instructed to make world-class meals. Stuff like "You have 20 minutes to make an appetizer using pig testicles, licorice candy, shoe leather, and some fruit as yet undescribed by science." Seriously crazy stuff. And sometimes they fail. Even though these are very talented cooks with years of experience under their belt, sometimes their dishes turn out terrible. The moral of the story: it's a lot easier to make a quality product if you use quality ingredients. The same goes for writing. We all know the basic ingredients of a good story but just being aware of them isn't enough. You have to get intimate with these ingredients (bow chika bow wow). You have to practice with them. Use fresh plot lines instead of dried out cliches. Avoid bland at all costs. Spice things up! Bring in outside influences and expand your boundaries. Use high quality ingredients.     
  2. Timing Matters: Good cooks manage time well. You can't start your scallops 45 minutes before it's time to serve or they'll have the texture of a Goodyear tire. If that rice doesn't have enough time to cook your guests will need dental work. Cooking a quality meal means starting things at the appropriate times, giving them the time they need (and not a second more), and then picking the right time to finish. Sound familiar? A common writing mistake (I know I've been guilty of this one) is starting a story at the wrong point. Knowing when to start can be just as important as knowing when to finish (which is also super important). A good writer needs to manage the timing of his/her story so that everything starts at the right time, is given the proper amount of time, no more, no less, and finishes when it should.
  3. You Will Make Mistakes: The first time I cooked on my own I was seven. I woke up early one Saturday morning planning to make my parents pancakes. They came out golden brown and fluffy, just like good pancakes should. So why did my dad look like a penguin regurgitating food for its young? Simple, I used baking soda instead of baking powder. And I used extra. So basically I made salt cakes. My mom and dad assured me that they weren't that bad, added more syrup, and ate them with a smile. What good parents. They're lucky the extreme sodium content didn't result in an instant heart attack. "Boy kills parents with pancakes!" Anyway, the point is that everyone make mistakes when cooking and when writing. My first writing efforts were probably even worse than those pancakes. But if you love it then you stick with it. And you get better. And you add bananas and walnuts to your pancakes. 


  1. I also love food, and I have to agree with all the points that you bring up in this one.

  2. Salt cakes? I'm not sure that one will quite make it into the recipe books. Nice points though. The only problem is, you've made me hungry!

  3. Love the analogy! I love writing analogies in general. I always think of a million of them, but decide not to share them all or people will think I'm crazy or maybe tell me I should funnel that energy into actually writing instead of THINKING about writing. Can't wait for part 2!

    1. I can relate. I think that I think to much about what I think about when what I should be thinking about is not thinking anymore so that I can get to writing.

  4. You and I may have similar tastes in what we like to write, but there is painfully little overlap in what we like to eat! I'll take salt, fat and grease any day!

    "Boy kills parents with pancakes" sounds like it could be a chapter title in a mystery novel.

    I like the points you've made thus far!

    1. Don't count me out of the bacon cheeseburger upside-down cake eating competition just yet!

  5. You had me at pumpkin roll:) I'm a no nonsense chef when it comes to dinner, etc, but I'm an excellent baker, like award winning. Okay, okay, not like an important award, but I did win best dessert two years in a row at my company picnic. One year it was pumpkin cheesecake with chocolate drizzle and the next year it was Tres Leches cake.
    I've also won writing awards, but they weren't really that impressive. They just sound that way to my mom.

    I hear what you're chirping. Good comparison.

    1. I've entered three dessert competitions and I've won all three. Sounds like we need a BAKED GOODS CAGE MATCH!!! TWO DESSERTS ENTER, ONE DESSERT LEAVES!!!


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