Friday, April 2, 2010

What's in your fridge?

As I’ve mentioned before, I love to cook.

As I’ve also mentioned, I’m lazy.

But since I’m a bit of a food snob, I’m seldom satisfied with a dinner of Pop Tarts and root beer.

Fortunately, my good friend Larie shares these same three admirable traits, which often leads to conversations like this:

Me: Want to do dinner?

Her: Sure, what do you have?

Me: Half-a-pound of leftover taco meat, four tomatoes, and a beet. You?

Her: Leftover roast chicken and some Gorgonzola not too far past the expiration date.

Me: Lettuce?

Her: Uh-huh. You have wine?

Me: Do fish fart bubbles?

Her: Be here at 6:30.

The two of us will spend a few minutes clicking away on our favorite recipe websites, and will soon formulate a plan for homemade gourmet pizzas (one barbecue chicken, one taco) with a nice side salad of fresh greens, beets, Gorgonzola, and candied pecans.

Much better than sitting home alone eating leftover taco meat, plus our husbands enjoy getting together to talk about cars and scratch themselves.

Writing is a lot like that.

I don’t mean the scratching (though I won’t judge if that’s part of your writing routine). I mean the idea of creating something fresh and new out of the hodgepodge in several people’s refrigerators.

I was stumbling the other day trying to get a handle on a couple of the characters in my new manuscript. Right away, critique partner Cynthia Reese threw me the names of several actors she thought might fit the bill, giving me a much better mental picture of who these guys are.

One of the wine industry professionals I met last week told me about holding tastings in a barn, and it gave me a nugget of an idea for this scene I’m working on. Hot Lips (my grandma) said something funny on the phone the other day, and it sparked a thought about another character I’m writing.

Does that mean I’m packing my novel with descriptions of Owen Wilson, the layout of Illahe’s winery, or the joke Hot Lips made?

Nope, not at all. When I’m done chewing on them, the characters, places, and phrases bear little resemblance to their original inspiration.

Kinda like the pizzas. In either case, devouring someone else’s leftovers can be remarkably satisfying.

Do you repurpose things from other people’s kitchens or lives and make them into something deliciously new? Do share!

I’ll be over here nibbling on leftover pizza. Hmm…wonder what this could be tomorrow?

23 comments :

BeautifulDees said...

Oh I cant believe it, I just cleaned my fridge and oh my what a sight!!!!!!!!!! My fridge is in the garage because we built a new home and I refused to have it (the ugly beige fridge in my new stainless steel kitchen) well everything but the fridge. My hubby say's just be partient, we will get the new one in about three week's.(I pray so).
Love,Debbie

Talli Roland said...

Haha! This post made me laugh because over at my blog I just equated writing to burning pasta! It's all about food for me, but right now my fridge is fairly empty. I love taking new ideas, and recipes, and fashioning them into my own creations.

NWFoodie said...

Happens all the time - both the cooking and the characters. Old family stories area always good to thread in. And I'm constantly looking at people saying..hm..ya know he might be right for the role of X in Y scene.

And now I'm hungry. Hm...let's see chicken, rice, tomato sauce, shredded cheese tortillas and salad fixings...hmm.......

Marisa Birns said...

Yep, that's how it usually works for me. Sitting in a coffee shop and seeing two people having an argument at the corner table, with one flinging coffee in other's face and storming out says "romantic comedy" to me!

Then my best friend who is married to a blind man calls me up and tells me she needs a day to herself because her husband is sick with the flu and is too "needy" makes me think of a drug overlord.

And the delivery man from the local pizza parlor? High speed car chase.

I, also, enjoy taking old ideas, new ideas, and in between ideas and blending them all on high speed and seeing what kind of smoothie comes from it.

Karla Nellenbach said...

hahah! i do much of the same thing. I'm constantly doing a leftover-potluck with my friends...and my writing...well, you're talking to the woman who once hid in her shrubs every night for two weeks straight on a "stake out" cuz I swore that the neighbor had bodies chopped up in his freezer...well, i still think that's true...

Linda G. said...

Tawna! You've just given me a wonderful idea! I mean, I hadn't even THOUGHT of pairing the Pop Tarts with root beer. Now I know what to have for dinner tonight.

Seriously, great post. :)

Debra L. Schubert said...

Too bad, I love Owen Wilson. And, I don't cook, but I do love to eat and I always mash things together when I write. (Or maybe my muse does it for me? Hmm... more food for thought.)

Okay, I'm hungry now. I'm going to dig out my Owen photo album and bake some brownies. (I'm kidding about one of those things, but I'll never tell which.)

Jamey Stegmaier said...

"Do fish fart bubbles?" might be the best rhetorical question ever. Well done :)

Tawna Fenske said...

BeautifulDees, maybe I should hold another contest, eh? People can post photos of the contents of their refrigerators, and blog readers can compete for who can come up with the best recipe.

Talli, I will have to go read your pasta-burning blog post ASAP! Thanks for the tip.

NWFoodie, let me know how those tacos turn out! :)

Linda G, funny thing is, that's a meal Pythagoras would really eat. I once caught him eating a breakfast of cheesecake, leftover Mexican food, and fish sticks washed down with root beer.

Debra, when the book comes out in January 2012, you're welcome to search for the Owen-inspired character!

Jamey, you know what's funny? I spent an hour trying to come up with a clever line for that and couldn't come up with anything that wasn't offensive, stupid, or both. I finally gave up and used the fish fart line, which I thought was stupid but at least not too offensive.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Tawna Fenske said...

I'm a moron, somehow I missed a couple of you up there in the comments. My apologies!

Marisa, I like the way your mind works! Eavesdropping is solid gold for authors.

Karla, I'm dying over your story of hiding in the shrubs. If you haven't already blogged about it you MUST! (and I think you're right, the neighbor is totally keeping chopped up bodies in his freezer).

Tawna

KAK said...

While I'm not into the scratching, I do admit to the panty-picking, 'cause, really, the things wander while my ass creates intriguing patterns in the seat cushion.

There's your pretty image for the next mash-up.

Christi Goddard said...

LOL. My dinner WAS Poptarts and sweet tea.

Cynthia Reese said...

Nuh-uh, nobody's getting into my fridge with a camera until I clean it OUT. Why is it that I put leftovers in there with the BEST of intentions, and they skulk away to the back of the fridge?

And writing is so much re-purposing. My family has almost reached the point that they shut up when I come in the door. And they don't begin to share anecdotes until they preface it with, "You CANNOT use this in your writing. Deal?"

Tawna, if you lived any closer, you'd have a lot less leftovers, the way you make them sound so tasty!

Claire Dawn said...

Completely agree. Being a great writer (like being a great cook) is not about inventing something completely new. We've been on this planet too long to have any completely original stories left. The secret to being a great writer is in taking the elements you have and turning " a hunk o' junk " into "Greased Lightning!" ;)

WendyCinNYC said...

Oh, I absolutely do that in my writing! My friends are all terrified to talk to me. It's probably worse than being BFFs with a shrink in terms of everything you say being up for interpretation.

Jen said...

Oh I love this post!!! How brilliant! Whenever someone can mix writing with food I'm a happy girl!

I don't need an all original idea just a few pieces of others inspiration to help inspire my own story!!!

I actually just recently cleaned out my refridgerator and it's pretty clean now! Nothing interesting... at least my writing isn't that way!

Tawna Fenske said...

KAK, that is indeed a lovely image. Have you considered using it in a book?

Christi, try the root beer next time!

Cynthia, by myself, I'm not so good at consuming leftovers. I think that's why the system with Larie works so well. We're tired of what's in our own refrigerators, but not sick of each other's leftovers. Combining them gives us a chance to make something neither of us is sick of yet!

Claire Dawn, you totally hit the nail on the head with this: "Being a great writer (like being a great cook) is not about inventing something completely new." Amen! I think it's so easy for us as writers to get hung up on this idea that we have to come up with something NEW and DIFFERENT and TOTALLY UNIQUE. But there aren't truly any stories that haven't been done before in some way, so the key is just to take something old and make it fresh.

WendyCinNYC, I suppose it can't be easy being the friend of a writer. When I was writing for Harlequin/Silhouette Bombshell, I used to kill my friend Larie in every book. I'd give the character some variation of her name and then figure out a unique way to kill her. Surprisingly, she's still my friend.

Jen, I know! Writing and food, does it get any better? Well, maybe sex. I guess you could scroll down to the last couple posts and look at the phallic wine stopper for that.

Thanks for reading, guys!

Tawna

LR said...

That's what's fascinating about writing, all the random stuff that goes into it. At one point I realized I was patterning a novel character after a girl I knew in elementary school. Who knows why? It's a mystery.
The fish bubbles is awesome. Another good one is "Does a rooster have a pecker?"

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I grab inspiration for characters from the people around me all the time -- so much so that I often wish I could hide behind a pseudonym. The wrath of my family and friends keeps me motivated to mold characters into something they won't (immediately, at least) recognize!

Great post, as always!

Lola Sharp said...

Yep. And there may be some scratching involved.

Mmmm. PopTarts and root beer. *drool*

Happy Monday,
Lola

Lola Sharp said...

Oh, and I've put your phallic contest in my sidebar, like a good little minion.

Lola out.

susan said...

You are way too clever!

Tawna Fenske said...

LR, LOL on the rooster pecker joke. Will have to use that in the future, along with random references to elementary school friends. Thanks for the tips!

Nicole, the book I'm writing now has a couple that's modeled very, VERY loosely after my parents. I have a feeling my mom might beat me when it's all over.

Susan, why thank you!

Tawna