Monday, November 23, 2009

red ink and mad skills

My holiday neuroses are deep and do not run silent. But that said, I can always find things to be thankful for in November. Take for example the THREE paid holidays I got this November! Or the fact that on at least 2 days of this month my whole family of 5 was healthy and not on antibiotics. I can be grateful that my son, G, feels that vacuuming is a priviledge and double bonus - he earned the right to run the Eurkeka at least 3 times last week.

Of the many things I have to be thankful for, one of those things is NOT a book deal. In my lifetime I've recieved enough rejection letters to wallpaper my downstairs half bath. Most of those came in the past 7 years. By early '08, when I started working on my last book idea, I never got past a very rough stage out of sheer defeat. By now the rejection letters had tapered off, and I was past getting a rejection a week, but I just couldn't muscle through the rough draft. I would sketch out each chapter on paper, and revise, add, cut and create as I typed it into my mac. The plot was outlined, and probably 30 - 40K words were loosely written into several chapters.... all that work is now lost on my hard drive that cannot be recovered (due to a "head crash", yea, I can relate on so many levels). I never backed it up, it was worthless to anyone except me.

I was cleaning my dining room today and found the first chapter, written in free hand, on notebook paper in pencil and red ink. I suppose that maybe I will one day get it going again. But, realistically, it's probably never going to be the same. Sometimes things are just funnier the first time you think of them. I thought it would be fun to pop it into my blog, to back it, in case the head crashes on something else. Again, this was just for fun, rough draft, blah blah and all that rot. So to be clear, no one in this book is supposed to exist, the plot drivers are not intended to resemble anyone or any event in particular... well, I suspect Martha and JC will recognize themselves, but in case I publish (to blogger) the rest of the first chapter, no one else should look for themselves, unless you find a particularly flattering portrayal of a character that you'd like to imagine is you, and your intention is not to sue me. But seriously, if it's not your thing, it's not like you can't just SKIP to the NEXT BLOG.

I ultimately blame J.C.Penney & Martha for the current state of my culinary ineptitude.
As a newly married woman, I was distressed to find that I did not posses any kind of cooking skills. What was really disturbing was that my husband possessed less skill than me, and so I turned to the cute little Pillsbury dough boy and my good friend Betty for help. Before we knew it we were eating Hamburger Helper at least twice a week, and I was starting to look like I belonged on the Pillsbury family tree. The weeks passed into months, and I began to fantasize that I could become more like those chefs on the food network, tossing ingredients into a pan and producing a pork loin encrusted in herbs served on a bed of rice, if only I had the right tools.
Well, rice I had mastered. You could buy the stuff in bags that boil for 8-10 minutes.
Oh if I'd never worked for JC, then I never would have worked a shift in housewares. With nothing to do but stand around listening to the muzak and twiddling my thumbs, I passed those hours among the dishes counting the minutes until that coveted herald from above, "attention JCPenney shoppers, the store is now closed." The instantaneous roar of registers printing out their final receipts would rumble through the store like a distant thunderstorm. It was only a matter of time before the boredom and I got into real trouble.
One lonely night, when I probably should have been dusting the pfaltzgraf or folding hand towels, I stumbled across Martha's book.

The unmarred teal cover boasted a black and white photo of a slim, pre-incarcerated, smug looking Martha, happily smiling as she stood court over a kitchen island. The foreword was hopeful, promising if you will, and summed up the message was clear, "You can be as great as she, if you learn her secrets." This was it, the answer, so simple, lay before me encoded in neat Times New Roman. It may as well have been written in Sanskrit.
I randomly turned to a page in the middle of the book. Soup, great, Husband will eat that. He loves soup. I think. Does he? I don't think I know.
OK, so here we go, 1st ingredient on the list, a "fresh herb" I've never heard of, with instructions that read something along the lines of, "typically this herb is found growing in the northern hemisphere, between Longitude XX and Latitude XY, and should be picked 27 days after the plant undergoes a second bloom. Picking the herb early results in an immature bouquet, and can cause a whiny and underdeveloped flavor."
My mind was reeling. What? OK. I'll just use Thyme. From a jar. Preferably one that says "Thyme".
The next ingredient was just as bad, and by the end of my shift I was filled with despair. I couldn't make this soup. I would never be Marthaesque. Instead I went home in near tears.
The very next night I made chili, from a packet. The instructions were right there in bold clear English. "Brown one pound of ground beef, add one can of diced tomatoes, one can of kidney beans, and one packet of generic store brand Chili packet. Simmer. Serve hot. Over rice".
He didn't like it. It was "too spicy". And he "doesn't really like soup".

3 comments:

PinkAsphaltMama said...

OMG. Haven't we all been there?

TMB said...

too freaking funny! I could totally picture you making that chili! LOVE IT!

momof3 said...

Now wait a minute here ladies, this isn't ME cooking the chili; this is a fictional character, who's name is Val, she is a mother of 3, totally has a melt down, goes to therapy, reinvents her life, makes a whole bunch of new friends (they call her V) who her husband doesn't like... She's NOTHING like me. Except for the 3 kids, the therapy, revamp of life, and bunches of new friends....