On Cakes and Courting
A few days ago I hand one of those strange middle of the night revelations. I realized that I had never baked a cake from scratch. I’ve done plenty of cakes off the back of a Betty Crocker box but never out of a cookbook. I should point out here that I actually worked as a private cook for a time. I can, and have, done from scratch brownies, fudge, pies, crumbles, scones, and cupcakes but never just a cake.
This bothered me. It felt up there with an inability to drive a manual car, but unlike driving a manual baking a cake should be much easier. First thing I needed to do was find an excuse to bake a cake. Contrary to my social network photos I actually don’t have much of a sweet tooth (give me salt), so just saying ‘I want to bake a cake’ doesn’t work.
I finally landed on baking a cake for the guys at work. Due to the Rugby World Cup they have been working their asses off for months and I know they’re going to get no real credit. There will be the standard ‘Thank you to the little people’ form email but last I checked the guys are not even getting overtime despite being around until 3 a.m. after every major game.
And since I’m a total loon I’ve decided to start off with a vertical layer cake.
So, what does any of this have to do with writing?
While I still had baking and food in general on the mind I started going over the outlines for my three novels. I realized there was a lot of food in them. The first one, which is well outlined and started, has a wealthy character courting a working class single parent. A lot of nice restraints are involved in this. The second novel, which has a solid outline, has a character practically raised in a professional kitchen going after someone who is totally indifferent to food, eats the exact same thing every day, and doesn’t eat much more than what is needed to stay alive. The third novel, loosely outline, the vampire novel (with no teenagers, no damned souls, and nothing sparkly), has the father of the vampire as a good cook which happened in a fit of post-divorce passive aggression. He is very concerned that his son is suddenly avoiding family dinners and has become quite adverse to his favorite dish. Garlic prawns in angel hair pasta.
I spent some time wondering if courting actually involves that much food for ‘normal’ people. I know it did for me. I’m not exactly classically pretty and I have some personality flaws that even my therapist has given up on. But my cooking has gotten me marriage proposals from gay men, straight women, and the general love of the guys in the office. And I do mean guys. I’m the only woman on the entire floor.
I spent a couple of evenings thinking about all the food in my writing and have decided to leave it. Write what you know, right? Plus, despite what the screaming harpies on all those weight loss shows say, food and shared meals have been pretty closes to, if not the center of, human social life and family life for a very long time.
Other animals have learned how to use basic tools. Some of them have fairly complex systems of communications. But we are the only ones who have figured out how to throw meat on fire and serve it with a béarnaise sauce, kumara mash and lightly grilled seasonal asparagus.