Well, I had a great day of writing. It was one of those “focused” days. I call it being in “my zone.” I got a lot done, even though I have a UTI and had to go to a lab and dribble in a cup for a culture and then go to the pharmacy for medication. Normally, that would ruin my whole writing day, but I went, I did my thing in town, came home, and immediately returned to my office. Yay! Another book is being born, and I feel really good about that.
But about the dribble thing. They give you this little cup, about two inches wide at the mouth. Does anyone else have trouble hitting the target? It was especially bad for me today because, with a severe UTI, just getting some production going on is challenge enough. Enough about that. I could get way too descriptive. Let me just say that my aim was off.
When I got back home, I worked until after five. Ben is surprising me at every turn. I am not a particularly witty person during conversations. If I can reflect back on a conversation, I can think of all kinds of stuff to say, but on my feet, I’m pretty much a dud. So picture me, fingers flying over the keyboard, and my hero is a smartass. Not in a bad way, but he’s quick. This is so totally weird for me. I’m writing at high speed, without time to think about what he’ll say. Ben has just taken over.
I suppose that every writer must encounter this at one point or another. That strange place, where the characters become real and propelled by their own personalities. I can’t really describe it, except to say that the writer becomes a vessel instead of a creator. The character/s emerge and have wills of their own. It’s fascinating when a character becomes so real that I am no longer the driving force behind his or her personality. It is particularly pronounced in this book because I have two characters who are taking over. Sissy is no slouch when it comes to witty conversational exchanges. She is definitely giving Ben a run for his money.
So, moving on to after five. John has been hanging dry wall and mudding and taping in the loft above the shop. He started at seven this morning. Translate that to mean that he is working his tail off. I’m writing away, oblivious to the real world, when suddenly my stomach tells me the dinner hour is approaching.
I doubted that John would feel like cooking. He may not be a certified chef, but he is a hard act for me to follow. He prepares some of the most divine meals! I actually feel intimidated. Hello, I cooked for him for years, but suddenly I feel inadequate in the kitchen.
Two days ago, I went shopping and got the bright idea of getting stuff for a Chinese stir fry. John chose to fix steak that night. But tonight I was on my own. I had Yakisoba noodles, cabbage, leeks, red and green bell peppers, plus chicken breast fillets. So, being the kitchen coward that I’ve become, I decided to prepare all the vegetables for a stir fry, cook the chicken, and wait for John to come in and quickly prepare something magical.
Well, that didn’t happen. It got dark. I was all ready to cook. It got darker, and he was still working in the shop. So I said to myself, “Okay, Catherine, put on your big girl panties and get this done.” I had no idea what to do with what I had. So I looked at the package of refrigerated noodles–as in directions to cook something. It essentially said to cook the noodles and do a stir fry of a variety of vegetables. I had the noodles and the variety of vegetables! But I didn’t have the called for Yakisoba sauce, out of a bottle.
So I decided to see if there might be a recipe for Yakisoba sauce online. I found two, and they were so simple and similar that I couldn’t believe anyone would go out and actually buy the bottled sauce. I already had the chicken cooked. So I whipped up the sauce, just ingredients in a bowl with a whisk, and then I cooked the noodles, and then I stir fried the vegetables. It got tricky because you don’t want the vegetables to be mush. I wanted them to still have some crunch, and cabbage is quick to go soft.
The Yakisoba sauce was really strong. I added a bit more sweetness, but it was still really strong. So after I had everything in my pan, I was very careful as I drizzled sauce over the whole works. I stirred and sneaked tastes. I didn’t want to have a whole big pan of stuff that would make everyone shudder.
So I aimed for delicious but mild in flavor and saved back the remainder of the sauce. I warned John that I didn’t know what I was doing. He was so tired that he didn’t really care. He collapsed on the sofa with his feet up. So I delivered a bowl of my concoction to him. I had used very little oil. I figured that at least it would fill him up and give him some protein. He took a bite and said, “Wow, Mom, this is really good.” Coming from John, that is a compliment. Then, after a couple of tastes, he asked if I had any more of the sauce. I did, so he drizzled on some more and gave it a stir. He was happy, and I felt really great! I had wandered into the sea of “gourmet cooking,” and I had at least produced something that didn’t make anyone gag. As for more sauce, I think it’s better to go mild and let diners add more flavor than to overdo it and have a failure.
John was munching away and said, “Wasn’t it fun, Mom?” I thought, “No, it was more like stressful! When I started with the basics, I thought you’d finish it up.” And then John said, “Your father is up in heaven right now, saying, ‘I knew you could do it, Taffy!” That was my nickname as a young girl, and my father never called me anything else until he died. He was a chef and owned several restaurants. French. He loved to cook. “It’s all in the genes, Mom,” John said. I was eating my portion when he said it, and I thought, “No, it’s all in the jeans, particularly across my hips.”
That’s my story for today, and I’m sticking to it.
Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that. The story I’m writing isn’t actually my story at all. It is Ben’s and Sissy’s. I’m only along for the ride.