Saturday, May 05, 2007

Food and writing

When I opened the fridge I realized I had eggs. Not such a surprise since I usually open the freezer to take out something to nuke or take fruit and vegetables out of the basket on the counter to fix dinner instead. There is even sometimes popcorn in the basket and the oil is always near the stove. (Truth be told, everything is near the stove in my kitchen. It's rather small, but comfortably so.) I also had some button mushrooms, which are not my favorites but were on sale, and, since I hate to throw out anything that has a bit of use in it, and it costs more to buy them dried when I can dry them (by forgetting they're there) in the fridge for less, I took them out. I also had half a still fresh onion and omelet was on my mind.

The reason I'm not all that fond of button mushrooms is because they have so little taste, not like porcinis and meaty portobellos and (my favorite) shiitakes. But the buttons were there and still edible, so I chopped them up and scooped them into the pan where the canola oil began to sizzle. I cut up half the half-onion and scooped that into the pan, whisked up some eggs with a little water, sea salt, and white pepper and, as soon as the mushrooms and onions were tender and the onions still slightly crisp, the eggs went into the pan. I already had oatmeal simmering on the stove, so while I waited I washed a few dishes--I hate just standing around waiting for things to happen and fiddling with the food. The smell was incredible and I began to wonder if I had misjudged button mushrooms.

I had.

As soon as I took the first bite I knew I was wrong. Button mushrooms don't have much taste when they're fresh, but let them dry out in the fridge and something wonderful happens. The taste isn't as pronounced and rich as a porcini or as fragrant as a shiitake, but it is good. Next time button mushrooms are on sale 2-for-1, I'll get a couple more packages and forget them in the fridge until they dry out. I'll bet dried buttons are a good substitute for flour in making gravy, too. I prefer dried, ground porcinis, but they're a little expensive. I think I need to buy some shiitakes and let them dry out, too. Could be that Portobellos would be good, too, although I prefer them with spices and pureed salmon baked in the oven or with chicken breasts or in veggie lasagne instead of meat.

Don't get the wrong idea. I'm not going completely vegetarian. I couldn't go totally without meat, especially an occasional juicy medium-rare steak with sauteed onions, but mushrooms make a great substitute without resorting to soy fillers. I wonder how they would taste in lentil chili. Hmmmm.

Since it's Saturday and I don't have a VE session in Woodland Park this weekend, I'm doing what I usually do on Saturdays: writing reading. I finished the review for The Cat Master last night, wrote and posted my review, so I don't have to start another review book right away. I have some personal reading time. I have a stack of books I want to get through and some literary, writing and specfic magazines to read. I'm not just enjoying myself, should that be what you're thinking; it's research and one of the writing rules: before submitting to any magazine or publisher you should know the competition and what they publish, get a feel for tone and type of stories and articles. Like I said: research.

I did have some good news this morning though. Angela Hoy of Writers Weekly is buying an article from me and, if my retool of another article flies, will buy a second article from me. Next Wednesday, 05/09/07, my letter will also be printed. I wrote in response to an article and Angela wrote back and asked if she could print it next week in the newsletter. How could I refuse? (only by being brain damaged) Since my name was already on her mind, and she knew my byline, I decided to take a chance and send her a success story and an article. She asked me to rethink a couple sentences and I rewrote the paragraph and sent it back. A check will be in the mail this coming week. The article is a little harder sell, but it's worth negotiating. If Angela doesn't buy it for Writers Weekly then I'll redo the query and send it to a couple other writing magazines. One of them is bound to buy it.

That's the thing about writing, it takes sweat and effort and moving outside your comfort zone. I was happy where I was, writing reviews and articles, editing and pitching magazines; it was safe and I was content. A writer should never become too safe or too content; it's bad for business. But not all writing is about business. Writing is about--writing, expressing yourself, your thoughts, feelings and observations. Publishing is secondary, but only if it's a hobby or you have no desire to see your work in print. Whichever path you choose doesn't make you any less a writer.

Make no mistake, reviewers and columnists and editors and ghostwriters are writers, too. They may not have a book on the shelves with their name on it but that makes them no less professionals and no less real writers. Like I said, a writer writes. No one would say Emily Dickinson wasn't a poet because she didn't publish her poems while she was alive, hiding them in the attic and keeping them to herself, except for a handful that were published during her lifetime, most of which were published anonymously. She wrote.

In this all too over-exposed world we live in, too many people have come to see success only when it is prominently displayed. I remember (misremember) a quote that says: "They also serve who stand and wait." Publicity is nice but publicity does not make a writer real. That is not the measure of success. Real success is in writing and continuing to write--whether it is in a private diary or journal, stories, books and poems you keep in a drawer or bound and hidden away, in a locked blog only you can see, or wherever you write--and continuing to evolve and grow, writing because not to write would drive you mad and render you miserable to be around.

The world measures success the way it measures faith, as something that can only be quantified in numbers and dollars and cents; that's a poor way of measuring anything. For me, it isn't about success in terms of recognition, although that would be nice; it's about writing. I am miserable when I'm not writing, unhappy with my life and tense and cross with the world around me. I live a half life when I'm not writing. And I am also selfish.

I do not want to share my time and my writing with a 9-5 job or any job. I begrudge the time and the effort, knowing I have no other choice if I am to continue living in an apartment instead of under a breezy and well traveled overpass or bridge.

I'm not a troll nor do I come from dwarf stock. So, while I like to visit caves and dank and dark places on occasion, I prefer living above ground in warm rooms with walls and furniture and amenities and, occasionally, food. In order to do that, I have to give up the reliable and constant companionship of unhappiness and the feeling of missing my life in pursuit of work and a paycheck, move out of my comfort zone (miserable as it sometimes is) and feed my soul by writing. I am a writer, a real writer; I can do no less and retain my sanity and my self respect. I no longer wish to spend all my energy and my time only on the mundane day-to-day pursuits. Work is necessary, but it's not everything. For me, there has to be writing . . . and occasionally food. It's who I am and what keeps me ticking.

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