Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reading Response: A Cooking Cure to Writer's Block

Writers get writer’s block: moments when all the words one could possibly string together into a sentence sound choppy, when a page is blank, or half-full, or covered in doodles, and when doing just about anything—snowshoeing, mopping, running—sounds better than writing. I’m sure Shakespeare had these kinds of moments. Most bloggers probably do too. When I start erasing sentence after sentence, I often try to fix my block by visiting Pinterest for crafting inspiration, making some tea, eating frozen bits of chocolate, or looking at my would-be-writing and moaning. I’ve yet to find an antidote to consistently cure words that just won’t fit together. Sometimes occupying my body and mind is helpful, but like the common cold, I’ve just decided that writer’s block must take time to go away. Jane Kramer, however, may have found the cure.
When The New Yorker writer can’t find the words to tell a story properly, she cooks. In “The Reporter’s Kitchen” Kramer writes, “The thoughts and characters I bring home go straight into a stockpot on my big stove, reducing old flavors, distilling new ones, making a soup that never tastes the same as it did the day before, and feeds the voice that, for better or for worse, is me writing, and not some woman from another kitchen.” The culinary imagery in this phrase makes me feel desperately like cooking must be the best, the only solution to writer’s block. As she describes the way chicken curry reminds her of a man she wrote about who killed his wife, the way cooking rabbit makes her want to write about art, and the way sorrel brings her back to Rio de Janeiro, I think to myself, “That’s it. Cooking must be the way to resolve my writing woes.”
In Kramer’s world, cooking and writing converge in such a romantic way—how could preparing exotic and intricate meals not inspire a reporter to write? I visualize myself as I see Kramer in this essay: I’m strolling down a Parisian street with a cookbook, a baguette, and a basket of fancy cheese, ready to eat and write my heart out. It seems like this would be the perfect lifestyle. If I adopted Kramer’s cure to writer’s block as my own, I could spend my days writing a little and eating a lot. Then I remember: I have a lot of writer’s block. If I started cooking every time I wrote something big, I might not have any money to do anything else. I’d also probably gain a lot of weight. Suddenly, I think maybe this isn’t for me.
Like Kramer, my memories of food throughout my childhood aren’t of delicacies and dinner parties. My parents cooked often, but I wouldn’t proclaim us “foodies.” Even on a trip to Greece when I was eight years old, my younger brother and I insisted on ordering hamburgers for every meal. Still, I believe that food bonds people. All of my best memories, like that trip to Greece, are tied to the food I’ve eaten. This, I think, is the point of Kramer’s essay. She writes, “The cooking that helps my writing is slow cooking, the kind of cooking where you take control of your ingredients so that whatever it is you’re making doesn’t run away with you, the way words can run away with you in a muddled or unruly sentence.” Though cooking and eating while writing might cost me a few dollars and pounds, I’m inspired by Kramer’s sentiment. I would love to tame my writing with slow cooking. Next time writer’s block hits, perhaps I’ll try to remedy it with a pistachio cannoli or an almond-filled banket to bring me home.


  1. I love the way your response flows from one idea to the next! Also, I agree that if me, you or anyone else adopted Kramer's lifestyle we would probably all be heavier. I wonder what she looks like? Hmm.. Anyway, I do like the idea you pose coinciding with Kramer's: that cooking something slow, possibly with lots of ingredients, would give someone the time to mull over things. I think it would be a great part-time hobby, but I don't plan on dropping out of college to move to Paris and become a full time food-enthusiast.

  2. The way you addressed this piece by Kramer was amazing. The flow of your thoughts is very interesting. I agree with you and Taylor both, I would also get a bit heavier, but I feel as though even thinking about a meal, rather than cooking one for myself may help to cure a writer's block. There is just something magical about remembering all the senses of a family Thanksgiving, or even a special meal attached to a wonderful evening. Those certain moments in themselves may just be enough of something to stomp down writer's block.

  3. When you propose the image, "I’m strolling down a Parisian street with a cookbook, a baguette, and a basket of fancy cheese, ready to eat and write my heart out," it suddenly seems as if it is the only way I can picture you. I really enjoy the flow of this response. I can feel you coming in and out of food, and you use the food the same way Kramer does in a binding thread. I can appreciate that you've also used her article as a supposed solution to your "writing woes" and I think that it is not going to only be a delicious cure, but also an effective one.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your response :) I love how you romanticize Kramer's cooking life, and even envision your own such lifestyle. And then I really dig how you brought back the piece to a more realistic tone. I totally agree with you, Kramer's lifestyle is probably not for every cook/writer out there. However, I think a nice compromise is to prepare her elaborate dishes only for a writer's block. Thanks for the charming piece, can't wait to read more from you!

  5. I wonder if any chefs get "cook's block" and if they write their way out of it. Also, fyi: Jane Kramer is a bit squishy in the middle. :)