A good recipe has the same characteristics as a good novel. And cooks like novelists are pantsers or plotters. Social isolation is the test of both. I am a self-acknowledged pantser. I was raised in a southern, struggling to make ends meet, kitchen. That’s code for making do with what you have. Boom or bust my pantry staples include grits, cornmeal, peas, and beans. Every kind of peas – crowder, field and black-eyed. Every kind of dried bean – navy, red, black, and pinto. In their native form, none sound appetizing but like a writing inspiration, it is the possibility of each. My travels sometimes on limited funds lead to other pantry staples, soy, pesto, capers, yuppie tuna, and ramen. My career opened doors to savories I had not known existed. Today’s pantry is a mélange of days good and bad and the sum being greater the parts.
I read recipes like I read novels. I want a sense of place, culture, character, and accessibility. Nothing like a plot twist, the expected ratcheted up a notch by the unexpected.
When I deviate from my nature I shop with a list of ingredients for recipes I imagine I will cook someday like novels I think I will write. This has led to a pantry, freezer and corner cabinet filled with the esoteric. Before the advent of COVID19, many items were threatened or doomed by an advancing shelf-safe date. Lists are a luxury unaffordable in a pandemic. My kitchen has become a lab of reverse engineering.
A week ago I bought a ham at the local butcher. Yesterday two cans of butter beans became visible with a roulette spin of the lazy Susan. Voila. The plot soup. The characters – the antagonist ham dying to be used while still viable, beans the protagonist, use me before I’m thrown on the heap. Subplots include spices and savories. Accessibility the trigger of all five senses heightened by anticipation, memory, and comfort. Reward gratification of accomplishment and leftovers on shelf or in freezer for re-reads.
My sense of possibility housed in my sense memory is not unlike the rules of grammar. Both are meant to be revered and broken on the altar of creativity.
What’s in the pot?
Red Pepper Flakes
Pinch of Ground Cloves
Canned Butter Beans
Play with the flavors and the proportions, taste, edit, revise and serve.