Food and Writing

By Jennifer Williams, Contributor, US Daily Review.

Never write when you’re tired. It’s not a good idea, even if you proofread later. Those ideas you first had will stick in your head and you will read them over and over again without realizing you are missing a word – an article, a noun…maybe even a verb. That’s the tough part about writing. You have to write frequently to be good at it. Anything worth mastering takes practice. Cooking can be the same way. When you read the list of ingredients, you need to gather everything together to make sure you have the ingredients and in the right amounts. This process is called mis en place, meaning everything in its place. And you have to make a recipe several times to understand it then work on modifications to make it your own. If you take a few cooking classes, you learn how to cook without a recipe. That process requires skill and time to master the basics. You don’t need culinary classes but it helps to teach technique and proper knife skills to make the attempt at mastery more enjoyable.

You don’t need a college degree to write well. You do need to read good writing and then start writing. One of the issues I have with the proliferation of blogs is the hack writing jobs. Use complete sentences, watch your punctuation and be clear and concise in your writing. If all you ever read are tweets and status updates, you will not learn how to write. If all you ever read is Cosmopolitan and comic books, you will not learn a darn thing about analysis and logic in writing. I suggest wrestling with Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Federalist Papers, for starters. You might not quite understand the archaic prose but you will read beautiful writing and thoughtful analysis. Having said this, I often do not write well. I go back and wonder what the heck I was thinking. That’s why I counsel my students to NOT write when they are tired, stressed, or otherwise distracted. I want them to read good secondary sources as they gain historical knowledge and share their insights on the information. Deep reading requires time and thought. As early as 2002, texting and e-mail shorthand began to show up in student papers. One student used “l8r” for later. Really??? Go read a book and get back to me when you know how to spell. If all u do is type ur life away in shorthand, ur spelling skills will be awful. Like it or not, we do judge people by their ability to express themselves – grammar, punctuation and spelling are a part of that criteria. Somewhere along the line, you may have to write a $10,000 grant for your organization or a $1 million grant. Spelling counts. A well thought out and well-written presentation could be the difference between zero and $10,000. Do you want to be responsible for losing that kind of opportunity?

If you misread a recipe, and we all have from time to time, it may make a huge impact on the final product. Baking is more of a science than an art – if you read a ½ cup salt instead of a ½ teaspoon, you will have dramatically different results from the one you intended. So pay careful attention to the recipe and read it more than once. That is why mis en place is important – it sets the tone for the rest of the recipe. It’s the place where you can correct any issues before it shows up in the dish. Writing has a version of mis en placecalled a rough draft. It is a rare gift to have the exact and correct product the first time. A rough draft gives the writer time to revise, rework and proofread for clarity, structure and spelling. Place your best dish, carefully prepared, before your family and friends. Place your best writing piece before your professors. Take the time to care about the final product and you will have a much more satisfying experience producing it as well as the final results.

Never write when you’re tired. It’s not a good idea, even if you proofread later. Those ideas you first had will stick in your head and you will read them over and over again without realizing you are missing a word – an article, a noun…maybe even a verb. That’s the tough part about writing. You have to write frequently to be good at it. Anything worth mastering takes practice. Cooking can be the same way. When you read the list of ingredients, you need to gather everything together to make sure you have the ingredients and in the right amounts. This process is called mis en place, meaning everything in its place. And you have to make a recipe several times to understand it then work on modifications to make it your own. If you take a few cooking classes, you learn how to cook without a recipe. That process requires skill and time to master the basics. You don’t need culinary classes but it helps to teach technique and proper knife skills to make the attempt at mastery more enjoyable.

You don’t need a college degree to write well. You do need to read good writing and then start writing. One of the issues I have with the proliferation of blogs is the hack writing jobs. Use complete sentences, watch your punctuation and be clear and concise in your writing. If all you ever read are tweets and status updates, you will not learn how to write. If all you ever read is Cosmopolitan and comic books, you will not learn a darn thing about analysis and logic in writing. I suggest wrestling with Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Federalist Papers, for starters. You might not quite understand the archaic prose but you will read beautiful writing and thoughtful analysis. Having said this, I often do not write well. I go back and wonder what the heck I was thinking. That’s why I counsel my students to NOT write when they are tired, stressed, or otherwise distracted. I want them to read good secondary sources as they gain historical knowledge and share their insights on the information. Deep reading requires time and thought. As early as 2002, texting and e-mail shorthand began to show up in student papers. One student used “l8r” for later. Really??? Go read a book and get back to me when you know how to spell. If all u do is type ur life away in shorthand, ur spelling skills will be awful. Like it or not, we do judge people by their ability to express themselves – grammar, punctuation and spelling are a part of that criteria. Somewhere along the line, you may have to write a $10,000 grant for your organization or a $1 million grant. Spelling counts. A well thought out and well-written presentation could be the difference between zero and $10,000. Do you want to be responsible for losing that kind of opportunity?

If you misread a recipe, and we all have from time to time, it may make a huge impact on the final product. Baking is more of a science than an art – if you read a ½ cup salt instead of a ½ teaspoon, you will have dramatically different results from the one you intended. So pay careful attention to the recipe and read it more than once. That is why mis en place is important – it sets the tone for the rest of the recipe. It’s the place where you can correct any issues before it shows up in the dish. Writing has a version of mis en place called a rough draft. It is a rare gift to have the exact and correct product the first time. A rough draft gives the writer time to revise, rework and proofread for clarity, structure and spelling. Place your best dish, carefully prepared, before your family and friends. Place your best writing piece before your professors. Take the time to care about the final product and you will have a much more satisfying experience producing it as well as the final results.

Jennifer Williams is adjunct faculty in American History at Ashland (OH) University and the American Public University System. She is also the teaching chef for the New Day Family Resource Center in Sandusky, Ohio. Her interests are photography and curling. She lives with her family in Norwalk, Ohio.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*