by: Joelle Charbonneau
I love to cook. There is nothing more gratifying that chopping stuff up, throwing it in a pot and watching it become dinner. So few things in life bring that same kind of immediate gratification. Hard work = payoff. Cool! So while many people treat cooking like a chore, I look forward to the adventure and I’m always beyond delighted when people love the food I make.
Until someone asks for the recipe.
Recipe? What recipe?
I mean, I understand the concept and I use them when I’m baking, but in every day cooking I tend to be a bit more freeform. I look in the fridge, pull out a bunch of stuff and throw it together with a dash of this and a sprinkle of that. I can always tell you what went into the dish, but the exact amounts – um – I haven’t a clue.
Which probably shouldn’t be a surprise. I love making to-do lists, but very rarely do I actually follow them. And while I’ve tried to follow an outline when I write, I tend to go off track somewhere around page 70 and the outline becomes obsolete. I love the idea of being prepared, but there is something about improvisation that motivates and interests me. Which is kind of a problem when I’m writing. I mean, I write mysteries. In theory, I should know where I’m going when I start. I should know who the killer is so I can leave clues. But even when I think I know what ingredients I’m going to add to a story, I find myself adding a pinch more pepper and a lot more basil and suddenly my initial vision is completely changed. Hopefully, for the better.
For me, cooking and writing seem to require a flexibility to go with what works as opposed to what is outlined or expected. Just because a recipe says you are supposed to add a teaspoon of something doesn’t mean you have to. Just because a mystery typically contains certain ingredients doesn’t mean you can’t change things up.
At least this is what I’m trying to tell myself as I work on my new manuscript and plot dinner for tonight. So tell me Stiletto readers and writers – do you use always use a recipe when you cook? And if you are a writer and use a recipe – do you also find you are inclined to use an outline to get the story from the beginning to The End? Inquiring minds want to know.