As I enter the fourth month of cookbook–writing adventures, it’s time to pause and reflect on the experience. Here are some of my deep, deep thoughts:
Some Most Every Day s I Eat Too Much
I only regret that I have but one stomach to give to recipe testing. – Anonymous food patriot
There are two of us humans in our household. Each with only one, pathetically inadequate stomach. Some days I make more than one recipe for the book, plus “normal” meals. My recipes are generally created to serve a family of four. Even with three full meals a day the result is a refrigerator and tummies packed to the gills. Yet the food keeps coming. Share with the neighbors, you say? You haven’t been to Oklahoma, have you?
Some Days I Really, Really Dislike Food
As a result of the above, there are days when the thought of lifting a fork- or spoonful of food to my mouth makes me want to heave. All I want is herbal tea and a belly rest. But then I remember The Deadline (see #12 below) and know that skipping meals right about now is not really an option. Anyone up for the Green Smoothie Challenge starting October 2??
Recipe Testers Are Saving My Ass
Whoever invented recipe testers has my unending admiration and gratitude. I cannot imagine going through this process without these wonderful people – who quite possibly are gluttons-for-punishment. They:
- buy strange and sometimes expensive ingredients;
- spend hours cooking/baking/dehydrating recipes that may or may not work or even appeal to them, and then they make them again after I’ve done more tweaking;
- make why-didn’t-I-think-of-that suggestions for substitutions and time-savers – and also point out where I’ve skipped a step or ingredient.
- take the time to leave thoughtful feedback that without a doubt improves the quality of the recipes, and
- then take photos of the results and share them on various social media outlets.
I can’t thank my recipe testers enough. I love you.
Recipe Testing is Humbling
Having pledged my undying love to my testers, nothing will deflate one’s ego like a negative comment on a recipe. Believe me, I would rather hear it from the small circle of trusted testers than from some pissed-off reader who shelled out $15 for the book plus loaded up on agar, medjool dates, hemp seeds, and specialty flours – only to have the recipes disappoint. Yes, this is going to happen anyway. But recipe testers will root out a good majority of issues and you can go to print knowing you did your best. Screw the people with lousy taste anyway, right?!
I Am Compelled To Make Every Recipe Count
Recipe ideas come in nearly unmanageable tsunamis or they don’t come at all and I can hear the lonely sound of crickets in the vast Mojave of my creative mind. Some days nothing I try works; on other days my pots and pans are blessed by the benevolent Cooking Fairy. But there is one overriding thought: everything I make from now until October 1 must be for the cookbook. Of course, that is irrational, but that’s what it feels like. I feel as if can’t spend time on any other culinary frivolities (sorry, Kel, we’re buying our bread for a while…). And that feeling, my friends, is Crazy-Making.
I’ve had many a sleepless night, brain churning like Ma Ingalls making butter; wondering why the H-E Double Hockey Sticks I got myself into this mess and how am I ever going to pull it off? People: I’m a fake, a phony, a fraud!! Can I come up with over 130 recipes by October? How am I ever going to get all of the photographs done? Will anyone buy my cookbook? If they buy it, will they like the recipes? How long will it be before my book ends up in the bargain bin at Books-A-Million? And so goes my racing mind. I despise those nights. No amount of pep talking and face slapping can get me out of one of those jags. Only daylight (sometimes), time, and just moving forward relieves the doubts. A nice comment from a recipe tester helps tons, too. In the end, it’s all going to go the way it goes. And if that isn’t some profound shizz right there, I don’t know what is.
Why Are There So Many #@!* Ingredients??
One of my weaknesses as a home cook is that I tend to get caught up in a More is More mentality. The thing is, there’s this plethora of intriguing ingredients out there! And I want to try every one of them! Every week or so I have to rein myself in, mentally smack my fingers with a ruler and say, keep it simple(r)! It’s tough. Make no mistake about it, creating simple + tasty food is not for sissies.
What, The Photos, Too?!
I can control freak with the best of them, so I’m actually happy to be the one taking the photos for my own book – but it really adds to the time crunch. Especially when one is as inexperienced as I am behind the camera. Work flow? What’s that? Thankfully, a few months ago and prior to being contacted by a publisher, I took an online photography course, bought Lightroom, and I invested in a new lens. All of those things have made a huge difference in the quality of my photos. Don’t get me wrong, I have a boatload left to learn, but I don’t feel quite as freaked out as I would had I not taken that course. And – even cooler – I was fortunate enough to get my feet wet taking the photos for a dear friend’s upcoming cookbook.
Some Recipes Cannot Be Saved, Salvaged, Fixed, or Redeemed
I’ve learned to read That Certain Look in Kel’s eyes when a recipe just doesn’t cut it. (God love him, he eats it anyway.) And try as I might, wish as fervently as possible – some recipes still resist all attempts to make them edible. It’s deflating, for sure. But I try to chock it up to an inevitable part of the process – a kind of collateral damage in the fog of cookbook-writing.
How Do They Do It??
A lot of my blogging compatriots are also now working feverishly on their own cookbook projects. It’s amazing how vegan cookbooks have really taken off and its heartening to see that so many of the people I admire will be sharing their amazing recipes with a much wider audience. If you are one of those bloggers who is busy creating recipes/writing your book/taking the photos AND YOU ARE STILL POSTING REGULARLY TO YOUR BLOG: I salute you with both hands. You, my friends, have The Right Stuff. I do not. I simply can’t focus on both a blog and a cookbook and produce quality product for either. P.S. What’s your secret?!
It Still Makes No Sense
On those self-doubt days, the whole scenario defies logic. What kind of publisher contacts a low- to mid-level blogger with acceptable photos and untested recipes and asks them to squeeze out a cookbook in 6 months time? Whatever their reasons and motivations, I care not. It’s cool.
I Need To Enjoy the Ride (While Still Meeting A Deadline)
I haven’t had a serious deadline looming in my life, oh, since my days as an administrative assistant to a CEO. And that, my friends, was many years ago. I’m an organized person. I like lists and spreadsheets and work progressing in an orderly and quantifiable manner, but up until now, any “deadline” was a phantom, a self-created shifting line in the sands of time. October 1st is out there. It’s heading towards me like Sandra Bullock in Speed a.k.a. at a frightening clip. Summer is going to blow by and soon I’ll have weeks, then only days to pull all of this together. Can I do it? Yeah. But I’m going to need some serious yoga and chocolate afterwards.
The last thing I want to do is let this singular time in my life get by me without feeling it. I don’t mean in the sense of wasting time or putting stuff off – a la as in college when I had 4 weeks to write an essay and I waited until the night before. Especially since – loathe as I am to say this – I’m at the midpoint in my life. What I mean is that difficult though some of them are, every moment right now needs to be
enjoyed acknowledged. And truly, this is one amazing time of my life.
Going whichever way the wind blows.
Tearing out the pages,
Just to watch them fly
Let it go. It will get easier.
Let it go. Just enjoy the ride.
– Pete Droge, Going Whichever Way the Wind Blows