How writing a novel taught me the pleasures of cooking

For the first 27 years of my life I didn’t really cook. Søren, my husband did most of the cooking at home after we met and before that I didn’t really eat much. Food hadn’t been a cornerstone and partly because I didn’t know how to cook and partly because I had never learnt to appreciate or eat food like a normal. I could make this and that and follow a recipe but I couldn’t just look in the fridge as my husband could and put a meal together. And in any case I wasn’t interested in food.

Serving Crazy with Curry
Serving Crazy with Curry

But then we moved to Denmark and that too to the ass-end of nowhere on a small island way up north. Suddenly there weren’t takeout options. No Armadallo Willys, no Boston Market, no Dasaprakash for Indian food, no gourmet pizza place at the corner, excellent (and affordable) restaurants, seriously nothing. Food choices were limited and even the grocery stores weren’t helping much with variety. I was starting to itch for good food.

So while I was craving good food that wasn’t available readymade, I started to write Serving Crazy with Curry. The book is about a woman who attempts suicide and during her recovery starts to cook (while she doesn’t speak). I learnt to cook with my character Devi who was cooking outrageous meals.

The process didn’t happen overnight and thanks to Epicurious, Jamie Oliver and other helping hands I started to experiment with food. Since I was writing full time I had the space and the energy to cook.

Søren would come home for lunch because we lived so close to his work (in all honesty the island was so small that rush hour traffic was another car on the road with you and everything was next door). I made salmon mousse for lunch. I baked rosemary bread. I made French onion soup. I made Louisiana barbecue shrimp. I made warm

Tobias eating escargot in Paris
Tobias eating escargot in Paris

raspberry salad. I made duck a l’orange. I made stuffed mushrooms. I cooked up a storm.

Not everything tasted as it should but between Tobias who was just over one then and I, cooked a lot. He would sit on a counter in the kitchen and “help” and taste everything I put in front of him. Once he even accidentally bit into a chili and seemed to contemplate the taste even as tears rolled down his face. Today, Tobias is adventurous with food and will always order the “strange” thing on the menu. He will try escargot in Paris; and he will try spaghetti alle vongole in Rome and would like to taste rocky mountain oysters. I like to think that while I learnt to cook, he learnt to eat.

For someone who had a very dubious relationship with food and I used to be unable to remember when I had my last meal – I have become a bit of a foodie. I love food. And so does my family, so I continue to experiment and they continue to eat. Sometimes, my very polite older son will not take a second helping and say, “It was nice but not to my taste,” but all in all they’re all onboard the food voyage.

Basil-Blackberry Panna Cotta
Basil-Blackberry Panna Cotta

I went from looking at a piece of steak suspiciously to wanting it medium rare and appreciating it with a glass of Amarone. I went from not understanding that wine goes with food to knowing the kind of wine I want to drink with the food I make. I went from never ever eating to sushi to it becoming a staple in our takeout lives. I went from never eating shellfish to making kick-ass lobster bisque from scratch. I went from curiously looking at Corky’s barbecue ribs in Memphis to having my own barbecue sauce recipe (with espresso and Chipotle) that goes really, really well with slow cooked and then grilled ribs (and I know the vast difference there is between grilling and barbecuing, which is often confused in Europe).

And I owe it all to Serving Crazy with Curry and my crazy character, Devi.

Thanks to her and the book I’m planning a dinner for guests tomorrow and am contemplating a Tiger prawn antipasti; primi: sweet potato gnocchi with truffle shavings and fried sage leaves; secondi: monk fish with leeks in a saffron sauce; and dolce: a blackberry-basil panda cotta. And of course Italian wine to go with each course.

Buon appetito!

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2 Comments

  1. ak says:

    Looks like you are becoming quite the chef! Nice work.

  2. taizers says:

    Know my plot, but don’t write an outline- I know a lot of writers like to outline their main storyline, subplots, individual scenes, everything. For me, though, that takes the emotion out of my writing- it makes me feel less like my characters are prompting my words.
    http://besteservices.com/

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