During Christmastime when I was 14 years old, the boy I was dating was over at my house helping my family bake cookies. We had baked snickerdoodles and gingerbread, and we were moving on to my favorite peanut butter cookies. My boyfriend, Gary, was instructed to add the salt. These being cookies, the amount of salt called for by the recipe was quite minimal – one teaspoon for the batch. To anyone who had baked anything before, I’m sure this would have seemed like a normal amount. Gary, however, had apparently never baked anything before and somehow ended up adding an entire cup of salt to the cookie dough without my knowledge. The cookies were on a baking tray and ready to go into the oven when my younger sister, licking the spoon, complained the dough was way too salty. Gary was confronted, the truth came out, the dough was ruined with too much salt and we had to start over.
I read a lot of cooking blogs. If you’re a fan of a bad pun, I devour them. My love for recipes and cooking began during my last bout of writer’s block. I like good food just as much as the next person and have always had a romantic idea of becoming a chef. So, as I felt my writing stagnate and frustrate me, I started turning my sights towards cooking.
I have one of those terrible sounding clocks that blare’s its alarm like a warning of impending doom. The maroon digital clock radio was a Christmas present from my grandfather when I was 8 or 9 and my brother received a matching one in teal. It’s followed me from Connecticut to Chicago and wakes me each morning with one or two blasts of its heinous alarm. The next half hour or so is spent quietly scrolling through my phone, reading the day’s headlines, and trying not to wake my slumbering girlfriend who has only come to bed a few hours earlier after her late night shift at the bar.
I wander into the living room of our apartment, plop down onto the couch while simultaneously turning on the television, and open up my laptop. And despite the fact that I’ve spent the previous half-hour checking Facebook and espn.com on my phone before I open up the Microsoft Word document that awaits me, I can’t help myself from watching the top ten plays on Sports Center and logging into Zuckerberg’s time wasting machine.
I didn’t acquire my driver’s license until the age of twenty-three when I absolutely had to. I went to graduate school in an itty, bitty village Southwest Michigan that had two stop lights, and the city girl inside me stomped her foot and demanded driving skills. A friend -who would become one of my most memorable romantic relationships- offered up his Honda Pilot for lessons, assuring me that he had great insurance and that he was a patient teacher. He taught me all about donuts and defensive driving and the one thing that terrified most new drivers: how to drive on the expressway.
When I’d look over at the expressway as a passenger, moseying along a residential street, I couldn’t understand how the cars were driving so fast, and switching lanes at a moment’s notice. It didn’t help that I knew people who never drove on the expressway, opting to take a longer route rather than merge onto what they considered an accident waiting to happen. But I finally drove that Pilot onto the 31 South toward South Bend, and something happened; I found my lane, the fastest one, and I flew!
The first thing I remember quitting was softball. We were warming up, tossing the ball back and forth to one another. My hand-eye coordination has never been anything to envy, so, when my teammate threw the ball to me, I missed the catch by an inch or so, leaving the ball to connect with my ten-year-old belly. When the ball hit my stomach, it knocked the wind right out of me. I don’t know if I fully regained my breath before I quit. Growing up, I quit a lot of things. I gave up on ballet, art classes, soccer practices, piano lessons, the list is embarrassingly long. As a kid, I was under the impression that I would know I was good at something, based solely on the fact that it came easy, that I would want to do it every single day. Therefore, everything that was too hard or didn’t come naturally, well, I wouldn’t give it a fighting chance.
It took me a while during my freshmen year of college at Columbia to discover what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My first semester, I declared a major in journalism, concentrating in magazine editing. Partially, it was because I loved the process of editing and how images and words can mesh together beautifully. It was also because it would be something that the world (and some members in my family) would judge as a practical choice for a career. My first journalism class went horribly. We were required to write about a social issue that we cared about on the first day. I chose income struggles for families in America; it was filled with statistics and boring quotes you would hear on CNN. Ultimately, my professor for the course said it was “too emotional.”
Ernest Hemingway is often misquoted as having said “write drunk, edit sober.” However, as he took his craft very seriously, he would have dismissed this practice as an affront to his process. If he did take up pen while inebriated, it was usually for the purpose of letter writing. He composed his stories in the mornings, standing up with his typewriter on top of a chest of drawers, ready to start where he’d left off the previous day. His advice was to stop writing while you still knew where the story was heading so you had somewhere to begin the next day.