Friday, January 27, 2012

Recipes and outlines

I am a foodie, to put it mildly. I am a foodie to the point where I don't understand how I was ever a picky eater. These days it feels like I'm constantly craving something new and delicious... which is really too bad, because I'm an assistant on a budget.

So I try to cook as much as possible. I don't make very elaborate recipes most of the time - by the time I get home from work, I just want something that's quick and not terribly labor-intensive. But on the weekends or when I have company, I love going all out!

Last weekend, I had some friends over, and I made them salmon cakes and goat cheese mashed potatoes. I had to look up the list of ingredients for the salmon cakes, because I've only ever watched my friend M make them, but I played it by eye in terms of proportions. As for the potatoes, it's a simple recipe, so I improvised and played around with the spices and herbs I've had on hand.

In some recipes, like spinach and artichoke dip, the proportions and the order of the ingredients is important, so I keep the list on hand as I cook. But in other recipes, like risotto, I've made it so many times it's like second nature to me, and there's plenty of room to tweak the flavor as I go. My recipe repertoire is ever-expanding, but within my mental cookbook, each recipe requires something different.

I'm sure you've all heard this question in the writing community: are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you outline, or do you improvise as you go? I almost always have a bare bones outline, but for me, different scenes are like different recipes. In some scenes, there are several points I need to hit before moving on, and I need to write down those points in order. I make notes for future events that need to be foreshadowed, but the timing of that foreshadowing depends on where it'll fit naturally. And for dialogue-heavy scenes, I write off the cuff, and edit/rewrite them later as needed. It all depends on how complicated the scene is, and whether the primary purpose (character development, action, exposition, etc) is playing to a strength or weakness of mine. It can be hectic, but somehow it all comes together!

And now I've made myself super hungry, and I still have half an hour until lunch. Happy writing (and cooking), everyone!


  1. You've made me hungry too! lol

    I completely agree with this! I usually just write what comes naturally, but I jot down notes as I go. Then, when I go in for the first big rewrite (cause I always need one) I write an outline first and decide if I want to switch the order of any of the events. It works for me.

    I'm gonna go have lunch