One of the unexpected side benefits of entering the culinary field has been that I've become more aware of my creative tastes, what I like to do - not just food, but with fiction and even music. (Since this is a writer blog, though, I'll focus on the former.) Part of it is metaphor; I'm used to drawing comparisons between disparate things, to seeing the application of a thought or technique in something else. But mostly, it's sheer volume: I invent more dishes, cook more food, than I will ever complete short stories, flash, poetry and certainly novels. So a pattern emerges in a much more concentrated form.
First of all, though I enjoy some traditional elements, I'm bored by (most) straight interpretations. I like my mac-n-cheese with goat cheese, chorizo, or even avocado. I'm mostly drawn to unusual, even unlikely, flavor combinations. If it makes you go, "... wait, what?" I probably want to try and tackle it. One of my favorite discoveries of late has been carrot risotto; speaking of carrots, parsnip cake is so much better than carrot cake.
And I do this in writing, too. I tend not to find inspiration until I've put two unrelated ideas together; sometimes, the more unlikely, the better. I'm currently editing a story for an anthology I describe as my "spy tree" story.
Which leads me to: I enjoy a challenge. Give me a new dish, a new technique, something precise to mix and measure, and I will dive right in. As a cook, I started with Indian cuisine, which isn't usually beginner friendly. As a writer, I just had to try writing a mystery novel from the POV of a nonhuman character ...
But I don't like things that are overly elegant and polished. I'm not a fan of ornamentation and garnish work for its own sake. That doesn't mean the plate is always plain, but the garnish has to serve some purpose: taste component, moisture (sauce), or in the case of a pastry, hinting at what is contained within that chocolate (etc) shell. I like things that look handmade, rustic, perhaps a bit messy, even random - but the design is often far more composed than it looks.
All of this applies to my writing, too. I'm at home with peculiar, off-beat descriptions, but I don't like lengthy passages or purple prose for its own sake. And I'm averse to stories that are too tidy, where absolutely everything presented is germane to the plot and everything gets tied up. I enjoy showing glimpses of the setting, the characters, the past, that aren't strictly linked to the story, but they do contribute to the feeling of a living, breathing world beyond the page.
In conclusion, cooking has actually helped me hone in on some of the things I do in my writing that I might have recognized in passing, but didn't really think about in detail.
January 25, 2022
Creativity and Inspiration
January 4, 2022