Or: Why Kook Cooks Is Written
In recent years, more Bricks have been about food. Why?
Brick started in 2003 as a continuation of themes of columns I’d written for newspapers — contemporary life, personal reflections, and local and national issues — oh, let’s call the last two politics. These self-published online columns have been humorous when that could be managed, at the least a quip or pun here and there.
They’re General Interest, a noble way to call them whatever entranced me enough to start to complete a thought and write it through. What makes my output infrequent is my compulsion to pen what doesn’t seem to have been considered before.
Everything has been considered before. Our interweb makes it so much easier to find similar opinions. That throttles enthusiasm.
Maybe that’s a cover for cowardice: Do I dare publish X about Y?
That explanation makes self-deprecation an act of laziness. I’m no chicken. Either that or there ain’t nobody here but us chickens. Evaluating risks and work to be done is the best use of two limited resources: one’s time and one’s optimism.
Approximately two explanations justify recipes in the blog Brick: Muse on News. It could be either or both, ranging from 50-50 to 90-10.
I. Kook Cooks serves as an online index card holder for my personal use.
Blogging them works better than any mobile device app. I search my website on cell phone or tablet for how to course through favorite recipes.
— Dishes may be made from scratch, but recipes never are.
Thus, all recipes here are credited, sourced, attributed. The journalist in me insists on this as a first principle.
A food editor told me ages ago that if all you do is change one thing more than the amounts of salt and pepper, it becomes your recipe. Maybe that worked for the Features department in the 1990s, but News even then would balk. I must change several ingredients or prep steps for me to claim the recipe of a chef, cook or hot-plate savant. And still attribute.
What Gets Included?
For me to post a custom recipe, it has to be one I’ve prepared more than twice and intend to make again. That implies My Beloved has to like it as well. Shady Hill Manse ain’t no short-order house.
Most of my recipes originated online. That’s another reason for a digital archive. Rooting through many dozen of print-outs, all with my scribblings in the margins and often nearly illegible from spills, is a needless delay when we’re already hungry.
What Makes Kook Cooks Different?
I have to make print-outs for non-news media website recipes. They usually have mountains of personal stories and other exposition as well as full-width photos BEFORE you’re shown the ingredients and instructions. Add to that the ads and superimposed newsletter sign-up pleas. Thus I run recipes through PrintFriendly, which allows for deletions before printing.
The second principle after sourcing: Minimal exposition before the recipe. We’re not here for trivialities nor for scrolling and scrolling, fighting pop-up ads to find the recipe. It’s my Writing Golden Rule: If the reading irks me it probably annoys you.
It’s after the recipe when I might go to town with stories and rants:
— Come for the food, stay for the show.
The other explanation for Kook Cooks:
II. Food has been my strongest motivation to write since Donald Trump began winning GOP primaries nearly five years ago.
Only rarely did I feel I had a sustained and possibly unique thought to contest the hellfire raised by this president. Then this past year, I have had less than a few possibly unique sentences on any aspect of the novel coronavirus-2019. I thus send comments on either topic to social media accounts.
If something on Facebook or Twitter rattles me enough to respond with more than a couple of paragraphs, I instead draft it out into a full column in Brick. That’s a lesson inspired by my late columnist friend Don McNay. He understood where social media helps and hinders writers.
Don’s points as I recall: Make the accounts fully public, thus keep them family friendly, and friend or follow nearly everyone who asks. The website is the hub, and social media merely are among its spokes with which to promote whatever the website is about.
I am some sort of writer, with all the meanings and implications that carry with the term. If I am a writer — the term still makes me bashful — I’ve been so throughout my life.
While nearly all of my working life has been in media, I’m not often paid specifically for writing. That’s been for a variety of reasons over the years. I know many writing professionals who get paid for writing, sometimes enough to sustain a livelihood. Also, I believe in intellectual property and not merely as a theoretical constuct.
Thus I agree no writer should undervalue their work. It’s bad for the self, it’s bad for the whole gaggle of us. Further, in our digital world, few anymore call the taking of someone else’s word-craft theft. It’s as easy and thoughtless as grabbing a handful from a basket of mints at a restaurant host stand. Online heists do not rise to the level of artists stealing from other artists.
So what the hell am I doing?
One thing I am not doing is writing a book, in this case a cookbook.What’s the point in that? It cannot be financial gain, if you know anything about publishing.
I have an ego, though it fluctuates. While this ego definitely wants credit when credit is due, it’s on the byline level not the book-jacket and title-page level.
I don’t have the specific drive of other writers to spend months and years on one project set in binding.
My other angle is more positive, on a slant perhaps, and even less well thought out:
Though I demand credit, I intend to give my words away IF I can’t sell them at a good profit.
That’s not just book authoring that seems futile but generally at this point of my life free-lancing article-length pieces. It’s not that I find marketing a hassle, as many writers do. I enjoy the challenge and cleverness required. But we should heed the buyer-seller message revealed in dividing the hours of labor and years of skill that a project takes into the $60 or $250 earned.
I recall my friend Bill Tammeus, the columnist and a nonfiction author, as nailing the issue years ago. To paraphrase:
— You either become a million best-seller or have a million copies in your cellar.
That leads away from conventional capitalism we were brought up in and toward the commons.
Curious about some of my collected thoughts? Have at it.
Copyright 2020 Ben S. Pollock