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A Fall Menu for Writers


Pie à la mode 

More pie if it's cold outside. More mode if the day is globally warmed. Listen to that old guy in your family who always said you should eat dessert first in case you die today. It's true.

Early Bird Special

If you wake up very early to write, or if you can't handle all that sugar on an empty stomach, then  begin noshing before dawn on something very savory, like chilaquiles with beans or green tea soba noodles with fermented-fish soup base. Wake up to new and interesting flavors.

Remember to save room for your pie and ice cream.


On Fire

It doesn't much matter what's for lunch, as long as it's on fire. The food itself can be literally on fire, as in  flaming saganaki, or it can be cooked with fire, or it can be something that simply lights you up. OPA!

Is it cold outside? Do you have a fireplace or woodstove? Roast, sear, or cauldron-boil whatever you find in the fridge. Never mind cooking with love. That's all fine and good for breakfast. For lunch, cook with the lust of a hangry cavewoman. Satisfy the animal cravings beneath your indoor-cat persona.

Is it so freakishly warm outside that the trees seem to be shedding their clothes to beat the heat? Choke down your alarm at this sign that the end is nigh, and do your best to enjoy it. Eat outside with interesting and creative people. Sample handcrafted pizzas that have been wood-fired in an oven handcrafted from unearthed garden bricks and a trashcan lid. Let your children eat while sprinting over the grass, their pizza slices clutched in greasy fists.

Or lunch with your ladies. Lunch with fancy ladies like those of us in the Pigasus Pen novelists' group, who like to sit on a local tavern patio among tropical plants in the middle of October.

Remember to drown your fears and anxieties in plenty of fluids. Meditate upon the ways in which the approaching apocalypse is warm and pleasant. Finish with a cold glass of resolve to get your novel completed, because even if we have definitely postponed the next ice age, even so, alas, winter is coming.


Pease Porridge in the Pot Nine Days Old

At our last pleasantly apocalyptic lunch, Pigasister Victoria reported that she has been spending more time creating portrait drawings of people and pets. She has recently completed a big academic work project and has turned toward more meditative pursuits outside of her novel-writing time. At dinnertime, be like Victoria. Take it slow, and let the flavors build.

Victoria also complained that she has been randomly selected by a promotional company to receive a giant stack of magazines for free each month. To me, this would feel like winning the lottery, because I love sordid, glossy magazines full of freak shows and humanoid beings that are not remotely #JustLikeUs. But, like most other women I know, Victoria hates these rags jamming up her mailbox. So she gives them to me, and I happily peruse them with my husband at the dinner table.

The October issue of Vogue features a spread on aged foods, which is sort of gross and totally delicious. It describes how fermentation and aging processes serve both to develop the flavors of foods and to preserve them for a long shelf life. It seems that as the apocalypse draws nigh, a warm one in which we might not be able to use our garage as a freezer during a winter power outage, it will be useful to develop our tastes for and understanding of aged foods.

Pickling is a lovely skill to learn right about now, if you're into that sort of thing. Take your time contemplating what moves you, and choose one new hands-on skill to learn at a time. Make sure it is something you will enjoy.

Dinner is best accompanied by conversation and entertainment. Try it. Read Vogue with your life partner while discussing the arts of controlled decomposition. No topic is "off the table," as long as you both find it fascinating and each conversant spends more time chewing and listening than yammering.

This is especially true if the conversation gets political. Are you an educated white liberal? If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you might be. If so, focus on listening deeply. You probably know a lot of luscious academic lingo and fancy facts, but if that was all we needed to fix the world's problems, we wouldn't be in this pickle together, would we? Take all the imagination and open-mindedness necessary to relish a supremely moldy dollop of cheese, and use that sensitive palate to savor the complex nuances of your most problematic dinner companion's feelings, opinions, and ways of communicating them.

If nothing else, it will make you a better writer of novel characters.

If you feel a callout rising into your throat, take a big gulp of garage-fermented hard cider and consider whether the outcomes of your outburst will produce a net gain for your cause. Are you constructively educating a potential ally, or are you cannibalizing self-righteous outrage to assuage your own white guilt or other privilege shame? Writer Maisha Z. Johnson breaks down the difference in a recent article in Yes! Magazine (which does not get stuffed into Victoria's mailbox, so I read it online).

But don't be too hard on yourself, either. Self-care is more than a dumb hashtag or an expensive massage. It's just as vital to justice and art as constructive criticism. The November issue of Vogue contains an interesting piece on this subject by Maya Singer, who writes,
Taking time to reconnect with core values, plan ahead, refine discourse--while getting a massage, or not--that's important, indeed necessary, work too. Ideas matter. And they, at least, are something I can effectively organize.


She concludes that
finding joy in the work--that's the most productive self-care of all.

I find that finding joy in my work requires finding joy in other writers' work. Fine!

At some dinnertimes, I like to enjoy a documentary film, a raunchy yet brilliant TV show such as The Mindy Project, or a novel about small-town drama, set in Michigan. (I am reading plenty of those these days, by other Capital City Writers.) Sometimes books or the TV make great dinner companions. Same as with human companions, try to read or watch them without yelling back. Take all your big feelings and brilliant thoughts and save them up for your own creative work.


One Piece of Halloween Candy

Did you make it to the end of the day alive? Congratulations! Even if you ate pie and ice cream for breakfast, you deserve just one little bite of a sweet finish. Go ahead. Reach into that plastic pumpkin.

Please take only one.

It doesn't matter what kind.

But it must be 100% sourced from local strangers wearing clown costumes or other festive attire in a seasonally appropriate scary, silly, or salacious style.

Have sweet dreams, rise, write, and repeat.


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