Stuck in the cornfields . . .

My husband used to eat well.  Very well.  Boursin-stuffed chicken breasts, Julia Child’s roasted chicken with tarragon, and tilapia in a delicate lime-butter sauce.  All washed down by some lovely vintage courtesy of our membership to the Wine of the Month Club, a wedding gift from a friend.

And then . . . I started to write.

Six months after the wedding, we packed up our earthly possessions, including one disgruntled cat, and moved to a small town in the Midwest so that husband could begin a graduate program in philosophy.  After giving up a high-paying career, the Colorado mountains I loved, and close proximity to friends and family, I ended up in—yes, you guessed it—a cornfield.  Oh, the things we do for love. 

So there I was, a childless, over-educated, career-focused women in her thirties, stuck in a less-than-inspiring, pink-collar job in a town where the only thing to do was join the local book club—a book club where professors’ wives drank too much Cabernet while discussing the remodels of their cute Victorians, the new first-grade teacher, and their dislike of that scene in Audrey Niffengger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife where Henry licks Claire before she steps into the tub. 

My ultra-trendy, cosmopolitan sister, already an accomplished dentist at the age of twenty-six, saw the probability of despair before I did. 

“Why is he taking you out there”?  She tossed her blond curls, fresh from a salon appointment on Boston’s fashionable Newberry Street.  “What on earth are you going to do out in the cornfields?”

As usual, The Philosopher didn’t miss a beat.  “I can think of lots of things I’d like to do to your sister in a corn field,” he told her.  Despite the tweed, The Philosopher is a red-blooded male who possesses a unique talent for irritating The Tooth Fairy.

I had always wanted to be a writer.  Since reading Jane Eyre at the age of thirteen, a series of outlandishly romantic plots had run through my head like a collection of bad screenplays.  I was too chicken to apply for Mary Gordon’s creative writing seminar at Barnard College because the application required a writing sample.  While in graduate school in my twenties, I penned a young adult novel and showed it to an editor—who promptly crushed my enthusiasm.  “That’s not how you write,” she said with the kind of bluntness one encounters in New York.  I had written the only way I knew how—like Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte Bronte—all rolled up in one.  It seemed, however, that the Victorians were out, and chick-lit a la Bridget Jones was in.  Who knew?  I threw my precious manuscript in a drawer and did my best to forget about it.  After all, I had a dissertation to write, men to date, and a career to launch.

But holed-up in a two-bedroom apartment on the edge of the cornfield, bored and on a grad student budget, the stories returned in vivid technicolor, along with the irresistible urge to write them down.  After all, I wanted something to show for The Philosopher’s six years of graduate school—something that I had accomplished, something all mine. 

So I began to write. 

The Philosopher was supportive.  In fact, he told me that I was good—but that I treated my writing like a hobby, and if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to write more.  That was his mistake. 

I began to write—everyday.  I snuck out of work early, walked down the street to my favorite coffee shop with the loose-leaf tea and chocolate-chip scones, and wrote for two hours before heading home.  On the weekends, two hours would stretch into four and five.  After a few years, I had a 200,000 word manuscript, which, I later learned, was much too long for a work of commercial fiction.  Only J.K. Rowling and Diana Gabaldon can get away with something that big.    

And so . . . instead of Boursin-stuffed chicken breasts, The Philosopher ate rubber chicken, stewed too long in the crockpot.  And frozen pizza.  And mac n’ cheese with some Kielbasa thrown in—his own creation.  The time and creative energy I once poured into cooking elaborate meals went into developing scintillating plots worthy of a re-make of Dynasty, complete with strong-minded heroines and sexy heroes.

Along the way, I began to assemble a repertoire of fast, easy, and inexpensive recipes—tasty and nutritious dishes that I could throw together after an eight-hour work day and a two-hour stint of writing.  When I discovered I had an intolerance to gluten, the recipes evolved to include different ingredients and techniques.

I’d love to share those recipes with my readers, and, because the last thing cyberspace needs is another food blog, I want to write about other things too—books, the art of writing, and becoming a novelist.  This blog is for readers, writers, and eaters—in short, anyone who has a passion for food and books.

I’ll be looking for guest bloggers, so let me know if you’re interested. 

Stay tuned, and let’s have some fun together . . .

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