Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabrial McRay series of thrillers. You can find out more about her on her website, www.lauriestevensbooks.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.
“There are only four great arts: music, painting, sculpture, and ornamental pastry- architecture being perhaps the least banal derivative of the latter.” — Julia Child
While the inimitable Ms. Child doesn’t mention the art of literature, I’ll mention it, (because we all know it should be included, right?). This being the holiday season, I decided to post something about the parallels between baking and writing. You wouldn’t think someone who writes dark psychological thrillers would go cozy and make gingerbread, but I do. My favorite days are when I can write and bake. Alas, I don’t often have a reason to bring out the flour and powdered sugar. My kids are grown (I’m waiting for grandkids) and my husband eats Paleo (no grains, dairy, or sugar). Okay, we cheat a lot, but I still can’t eat a cake for no good reason. This is why I bake up a storm this time of year. You know, all those holiday cookie baskets I have to give to the neighbors… Sure.
First off, kneading dough or cookie cutting lets you escape into your imagination. Your hands are busy, but your mind can “zone out.” How many times have you taken the car for a drive after hitting a wall in the plotting process? I’ll bet you’ve come up with the perfect idea after spending a little time on the road. It’s the same thing with baking. It helps my muse speak. I’m curious if my fellow authors feel the same way? Do you enjoy or despise cooking?
Searching out a recipe is like research. I heartily enjoy the research part of writing. I feel the same sort of satisfaction scrolling through various recipes on the Internet or perusing dessert ideas in my grandmother’s old cookbooks. Cookbooks from another era fascinate me. I have one someone gave me that strums a chord in my heart. Here’s the back cover: The sheets of paper are as brittle as fallen leaves; the faltering handwriting changes from page to page; the words, a faded brown, are almost indecipherable. The pages are filled with recipes. Each is a memory, a fantasy, a hope for the future. Written by undernourished and starving women in the Czechoslovakian ghetto/concentration camp of Terezín (also known as Theresienstadt), the recipes give instructions for making beloved dishes in the rich, robust Czech tradition. In Memory’s Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezín is a beautiful memorial to the brave women who defied Hitler by preserving a part of their heritage and a part of themselves.
Here is the link to the book on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/inmemoryskitchen
Finally, as with writing, you put in a lot of work, some cleanup, and then behold a work of art that people can enjoy.
Happy Holidays, and in the spirit of giving, here’s my mother’s sherry cake recipe. I keep the ingredients handy all year long because the dessert is that good and makes an elegant presentation. I wish writing was this easy.
Joyce’s Sherry Cake
1 package yellow cake mix
1 small package vanilla instant pudding
¾ cup cream sherry
¾ cup oil
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Mix all ingredients, pour the batter in a greased and floured cake/bundt pan, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. During the holidays, I also sprinkle the cake (or mini cakes) with edible glitter for a festive appearance.
Please feel free to share a holiday recipe in the comment section.
Life is what you bake of it.