Shut Up And Let Her Cook
I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows lately. I mean, I’ve always been into them – but now, even more so. I go through phases with what I watch; for a while it was nothing but true crime shows. Then old sitcoms. Now, if a show’s got the word “chef” in it, you can pretty much guarantee I’m watching it. Top Chef, Master Chef, Extreme Chef…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s not forget Chopped and Hell’s Kitchen and Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. I am fascinated watching a group of competitors open a mystery box to reveal ingredients they must use to create a dish. Some of these shows really stretch a chef’s creativity by including oddball ingredients like blueberry jelly beans and duck testicles and cheese crackers. I get a kick seeing what the contestants will come up with, and I think the reason for that is simple:
I’m a foodie.
Which is really just a fancy term for “culinary snob.” Whatever – I can admit it. If it’s processed, frozen or comes in a box, I typically wrinkle my nose in disgust. I’m a fan of Richard Blais on Facebook. Plus, I’m not afraid to pay $6.00 for eggs. I am forever trying new recipes, and the fancier, the better. Last night for dinner, I had my parents over, and I wanted to dazzle them with my cooking prowess, so I whipped up a sage and black pepper crusted pork tenderloin served with green chile and garlic grits cakes, an apple slaw, and portobello mushrooms brushed with basil oil. It was all quite good – but man, a lot of work! And for the record, I don’t really think I’m special because I can put together a meal like that – cooking doesn’t require much more than the ability to follow directions. I’d be more impressed if I create recipe ideas from scratch, like the contestants on those cooking shows do. When confronted with a basket full of hot dogs, butterscotch candy, carrots and chia seeds, they do not wither under the pressure. Instead, they create dishes that are original, daring, and usually – according to the judges – pretty good. Until I can do that, I’m very blase over the whole thing.
Even when I don’t have the kids and am not having company over – when it’s just me – I tend to go overboard with my meal creations. The stereotypical bachelor lives on Top Ramen and bologna sandwiches. Not me, though I wish that were the case sometimes. It would be a lot less work. Occasionally, I’ll grow bored with cooking or feel too tired to whip up something gourmet, and will resort to the ol’ guilty pleasure standby: a tuna fish sandwich. And if there are Cheez-Its on hand, even better.
I have to admit it, I get especially excited when somebody else is doing the cooking. My parents usually have me over once a week, and those are good days because I don’t have to lift a finger. I do sometimes find myself telling my mom to soak her chicken in buttermilk first, or use smoked paprika to bring out the flavors in such-and-such a dish, and I’ve got to knock that off. She’s been cooking since before I was born, after all. We foodies can be an annoying lot, I’ll be the first to testify to that. I’m making a vow from now on to just shut up and let her cook.
The highlight of this past weekend? On Sunday, I received an e-mail from Todd, the graphics designer with Booklocker tasked with creating the cover for my novel. For two weeks I’ve been anxiously awaiting his response, dying to see if the cover he came up with would do my story justice. I had communicated my ideas to him early in the process, suggesting things like incorporating red to signify bloodshed and green for the environment, while keeping the tone of the cover dark. I mentioned some possible images that would fit the story – a whaling trawler, black helicopters, the planet earth. All I can say is, Todd paid attention. When I opened the attachment and got a first look at my cover, I gasped out loud. He did a fantastic job with it, turning out something I find not just visually appealing, but stunning. Much better than I’d hoped for.
I sat there and stared at the cover for a full hour. I am not even exaggerating! I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to see it…one of my friends remarked, Holy Smokes!! It looks so “REAL”!! And I get that, I do. One of the most important things a book needs – self-published or not – is a good cover, one that will grab your interest, and I think this one does exactly that.
Plus…there’s my name. In print. With a barcode and an ISBN # on the back. This is real…and it feels amazing! The culmination of so many years of hard work. Best of all, I’ve got an amazing and supportive group of friends who are contributing their time, money and talent to give me a fighting chance at success. Heidi, my friend who puts out Sacramento Book Review and its sister publication, has promised me not only a free review of my book – something that is crucial for exposure and sales – but also a half-page ad that she will personally design. Another friend knows somebody who owns a bookstore in the area and says she can get my book on the shelf there. This outpouring of support has me stoked, and while I have no illusions of becoming either rich or famous off this book, at least I am content in the knowledge that I have some big advantages other new authors don’t, and am grateful as can be for that.
I suppose if I don’t make it as a bestselling author, I can always train to be a chef.