11 November 2008

Write Better, Eat Better

In early October, a friend gave me two eggs, saying he thought they wouldn’t keep until he returned from his honeymoon.

Last Saturday morning I decided to have them for breakfast.

So I whipped out the two-cup measure Mom planted in the cupboard and dumped in the eggs. Toni, a helpful coworker, said I could scramble eggs in the microwave, so that was the plan.

The eggs definitely didn’t look fresh, but then most supermarket eggs don’t look fresh, and these didn’t smell bad, so I started looking for additional ingredients.

Somehow making scrambled eggs brings to mind the story Mom tells about how Dad once put dried bananas in an omelet. Unfortunately…Mom had morning sickness that morning.

But I didn’t have dried bananas, so I opened the refrigerator door and spied a jar of salsa, some marble jack cheese, and the sad remains of a stick of butter—enough for one slice of toast, with five or six crumbs stuck to one edge.

The salsa went in first—two forks full, because there wasn’t a spoon on the table—then the butter and enough cheese so that it wouldn’t overwhelm the eggs.

The butter and the cheese didn’t really stir in, but it all went into the microwave for three minutes. Then I stirred it, added some salt, and put it back in the microwave for 30 seconds.

The inexactness of the measurements, the lack of a recipe, and the lack of documentation would probably annoy some of my information technology or engineering friends. But the process reflects a lot of the creative process required in writing.

Most writers think about meaning, which we might compare to nutrition. Writers also make stylistic and poetic decisions, which we might compare to taste. And writers usually have to obey grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling guidelines, which we might compare to sanitation and other technical details.

Maybe we could call this “Cooking for English Majors.” Participants could share recipes written in paragraphs or in stanzas.

They could even develop different genres—history, mystery, horror....

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