Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What does it mean to write a book?

I just recently announced to my facebook community that I am writing a cookbook. I had been working on it over a month already, but announcing it out loud to people really made it real.

I have been thinking about writing a cookbook since the year after I got out of culinary school, 7 years ago. At that time I was busy trying to adapt recipes for my own food allergies, making notes, trying them out on other people (without allergies), and sometimes sharing them on my blog. Writing a book was always in the back of my mind, but I was so busy trying to work, getting as much cooking experience as I could, and just trying to make a living at a new career. So there never seemed to be any time to put into writing more than an occasional blog post.

Fast forward to this year and that nagging desire still lingers. Up until April I was still convinced I had no time to write a book, and then a bunch of circumstances suddenly came together and created space in my schedule. I had the choice, go looking for more clients to fill the time, OR use this time for something else. At that same time, I discovered that the nutrition school I attended back in 2004, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, was offering a course on how to write a book, and it was starting the very next weekend.  I did some soul searching, and decided NOW was the time. There was never going to be a "perfect" time, so why not NOW.

Writing a book is an incredibly difficult exercise in persistence and trying to foster creativity. Most of the time I struggle with making sure I am moving forward even when I don't feel like writing. To keep moving forward even when I have doubts.  I can see why getting a book done takes most people years. I have been trying to squeeze it into 8 months. It is hard to force yourself to be creative.

And then there comes this question: I know I can cook, but can I write?

The other day I was working on getting some recipes edited so that I could send them to a friend to test for me. As I was writing the email I was gripped by thoughts of "what if he doesn't like them" and "will he judge me if I give him a badly written recipe"?  I had to stop and take a deep breath and send the email despite my fears.  I feel confident of my cooking skills when I cook for people, but I realized out of this that I am more nervous to hand over a written recipe for evaluation, than to just cook it myself. I am not even half way through this process and have had to work through many feelings of fear and doubts.

Most of my time is taken up by sitting here at this computer, going through an excel file where I have all my recipes noted. I have color codes indicating the status of each recipe like "needs to be written", "ready for recipe testing", or "test again" with notes on what needs to be changed. Each time I go to make a dish, I have a print out of the recipe page and a pen nearby to make notes, like this recipe for a cacao smoothie below.

Having a visual of all the ingredients and their cuts and sizes helps in this process too, like in this picture of all the "mise en place" for meatloaf.

I take this kind of picture before I make each recipe for the first time, which helps to make sure I have all the ingredients ready, before cooking (this is a huge tip for success in the kitchen for any cook), and also as a reference to look back on when I check to make sure I described all the ingredients accurately.

So there is the writing, and testing, but there is also the pictures...... below is my makeshift photography station near the best light source in the house, my office window. I use the big round light diffuser when the light seems too bright as it helps soften shadows on the food.  I will eventually need to hire a food photographer, but for now, taking my own pictures helps me to know whether the dish looks good enough and what needs to be changed.

I love food, and cooking really great food for people is my absolute passion in life. I hopefully can translate that onto paper and create an amazing cookbook that people will actually use.   I am 5 months into the process and it is going slowly, but at least it is going. Hopefully next year I will be able to say I am a Chef and Author.

Thank you to everyone who is supporting me through this process. It hasnt been easy, but it will be worth it.

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