Friday Speak Out!: I Don’t Write in the Kitchen!

Friday, January 29, 2016
by Claudia Mundell

Food…an issue for writers who are wives and mothers too. Does James Patterson have to set a timer so he doesn’t forget to tend scalloped potatoes in the oven while he writes? Does Nora Roberts tie a string on her pointer finger as a reminder to boil the spaghetti? Every writer knows how muddled her mind becomes during interrupted inspiration and creation, how the house could burn down as she thinks the smoke is just from her blazing hot love scene on the computer screen.

Food at my house is a complex issue due to diabetes and Crohn’s disease. Since certain foods are prohibited, prepared food can have an abundance of both sugar and salt, and throwing a sandwich on the table every day is not permissible, I have to plan ahead for meals. That means having a well-stocked kitchen, allowing a stretch of day for chopping, dicing, cooking, and plating….oh, and cleaning up! All that takes time and when a scene is racing through my head, I can’t always stop and get it written down. The nature of intense and roiling ideas isn’t always to wait for me!

This winter I am trying a new plan. I take one day to ignore writing completely and devote it to cooking and make enough for leftovers to last the week. Thankfully, hubby isn’t too discriminating and doesn’t object to repeated foods…for a week at a time. A huge pot of soup on Sunday will last until the next weekend. Soup with crackers, soup with cheese sticks, or then the last of the soup vegetables ladled over rice. A large old fashioned meatloaf added to an oven full of baked potatoes with serve again as rewarmed meat and chopped baked potatoes pan fried. At the end of the week, a meat loaf sandwich is so good. Even baked oatmeal with fruit can be warmed in a microwave getting one or two extra easy meals. Cooks and writers get the idea.

The idea is to have food that can be thrown on the table, eaten and the mess picked up fast. Knowing ahead that the meals are at least semi-prepared allows my mind to concentrate on stories and poems the other days. My day isn’t chewed up by cooking chores or the resentment of doing them. I have some extra minutes, even hours, built into my week.

When the writing goes well, maybe a story is not only finished but submitted, I treat both myself and hubby for his patience. We leave kitchen and office behind and step out for a meal. If I’m lucky, even enough leftovers will remain to bring home in Styrofoam boxes…the beginning for tomorrow’s meal. He thinks dining out is for treat or reward. Only I know it is writing research: people-watching and eavesdropping to gather sights and sounds for a whole new story idea!


Claudia Mundell loved words when she first met them. Reading and writing were keys to the world outside of Southeastern Kansas. She started collecting snippets of great thoughts as early as third grade, was writing poetry by fourth grade, and never stopped putting thoughts to paper.
Writing is both work and hobby. It is satisfying to work hard on a piece, to bring it to creative completion. Once into a story, it is hard to leave and come back to the real world cooking and cleaning. Her other hobbies are knitting, reading, collecting Blue Willow dishes, and drinking good tea. 

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Claudia--Thankfully, in my house, my husband does most of the cooking. I'm very lucky...

Your tips help out not just writers but those "working women" who not only work outside the home but then come home to more work...

Kate said...

Hello Sister Kansan! Here in Wichita, I'm considering spending one day a month making bagged for the freezer crockpot meals with my busy daughters and daughter in law. I also find it difficult to swing between cooking and writing (or really anything else and writing!) Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Unknown said...

Claudia, thanks for your insights! We are a grab and go family at my house. However, I like the idea of having something homemade and nutritious at the ready. Writers need their strength!

pat couch laster said...

Claudia, I can relate to the trying-to-cook-and-write dilemma: twice I've let eggs boil dry while waiting for them to come to a boil. Good advice--even for one living alone--with two cats.

Linda O'Connell said...

This piece resonates with me. There is always some distraction, and I think preparing meals ahead is a win-win. Also considering crock pot prep ahead.

Susan said...

Loved this piece. And Claudia is right on! A day to cook and the rest of the week, write! Yes! Sounds great. Susan

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

My hubby will be happy I read this article. His standard evening comment is, "Are you cooking tonight, or am I microwaving something?" I get so caught up that even on the nights I plan to cook, it doesn't always work out. Creative re-use sounds like a good alternative.

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