So my friend Donna kicked me in the ass – in a metaphorical sort of way – yesterday when she pointed out it had been a while since I had posted one of the short stories or even just blogged. And she’s right, it has been. Although certainly not from a lack of spending time at the keyboard!
Or also, I should quickly add, time with paper & pen. I know! Crazy to still be writing letters by hand, but that’s what I do with sympathy notes and birthday cards at the very least. And sometimes, if you’re very good and I’m missing you very much, a handwritten letter, too!!
Let me explain about the short stories first. I have sent off four of them, the ones I like the most or that I believe have the best potential, to my cousin David. He’s brilliant – he’s a professor, an editor at a big publishing firm in Toronto, he’s been instrumental in a couple of major literary awards in Canada, and on top of all that, I really like him. It took me several deep breaths to sit down to write the cover letter for the stories but, I bravely did that, I printed out the stories, and it all went in the mail to him a few days ago. Until I hear back from him, I’m not going to do too much more work on the stories – I might be going in a direction he thinks is all wrong! – but I do have one story that’s pretty close to posting, so I will do that this weekend.
Just for Donna.
But because I write, because I cannot seem to stop writing these days, I have begun on a new project. Again, like the short stories, the idea has been floating around my head for a long time. Longer, in some ways, than even the short stories, because it began as my father’s idea.
He often spoke of writing a book he was going to call “Vehicles & Victuals”… or maybe “Victuals & Vehicles”, I’m not sure… and it would be about the adventures he & my mother had with travel and food. And not only travel in the commercial sense, but even the simple pleasure of taking the boat from the cottage over to one of the islands for a shore dinner. He even wrote a few pages for it, a kind of introduction, and he bought a book on how to write a cookbook, because this was going to be part memoir and part cookery book. I always thought it was a clever idea, really, and wished he’d carried it out.
But he didn’t, and I’ve never stopped thinking about it.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a little cooking myself, and a little sorting out of the family recipes as well as recipes I’ve cut out of various sources for the past, oh, decade. It’s a project I never seemed to have time and space for before, and I’m actually rather enjoying it. But it started me thinking more coherently – rather than simply enjoying passing memories – about the foods we ate as very young kids, and how our food world expanded both as the six of us got older and as Ross & Joy started reading more about food, going out to restaurants more, and so forth.
And I remembered “Goof” and “Golden Rod”, ketchup on toast and salty blood bread, 100 boxes of Chinese food for Christmas Eve, lemon goo and lemon parmesan chicken, and the wonderful autumn smells of chili sauce and dill pickles. And I remembered Ross’s first trifle, of which he was so proud, I had to take a picture. And there are lots of other stories about food in our family that don’t necessarily come with recipes – Ross, the dog and the ice cream cone; the second slice of Lemon Mousse Cheesecake that my mother ate (she who didn’t ever eat dessert); braised celery at family dinners; the Christmas of the cookbooks…. Just so many stories.
So I sat down and started to write about why I was writing this. And in one afternoon, I came up with 2,000 words and places where at least three recipes could be inserted. And I’m barely started. The best remembrances from my life aren’t in there yet, and I haven’t sent out the letter – to my siblings, my uncle & aunt, my maternal aunt-in-law, my cousin, my parents’ dear friends Jackie and Mary – asking for their help and memories. Because, even though there is only eight and a half years between me and the youngest, my childhood was mine and that makes it different from Andy’s, or David’s, or Greg’s, or Michael’s, or Max’s. My parents were, in many ways, different from theirs, many of my experiences were different. Not better, not worse, just different. But some of the experiences were the same, although they may have been interpreted differently, so I want to hear what they have to say and try to incorporate some of that in the book.
As time goes on, I will be looking for proof readers/cooks, people who are willing to read a chapter and give me some feedback on both the writing and the recipe(s). Let me know if that includes you!
GOOF: Meals & Memories From a Happy Childhood That’s the working title. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.