Blogger: Wendy Lawton
First, let me apologize for abandoning you last week. I no sooner posted my blog than I was taken ill and found myself face down in my pillow for 24 hours. Many thanks to my cohort, Janet Grant, for fielding questions from you. I plan to do better this week.
So. . . food for thought. I’m sure you all heed the advice of nutritionists and diet specialists. They say never, never, never eat anyplace other than at the table with a complete table setting. That supposedly keeps us from mindlessly snacking and adding calories we don’t need. And they say never, never, never eat at your desk.
Yeah, right. In a perfect world. . .
Let me brush the crumbs off my keyboard and talk about food for thought. In a great 2011 New York Times Sunday Book Review article by Wendy McNaughton called Snacks of the Great Scribblers we discover that writers long used food or drink to fuel their creativity. John Steinbeck munched on cold toast and stale coffee. Franz Kafka drank milk. Emily Dickinson depended on her own homemade bread. F. Scott Fitzgerald ate canned meat right out of the tin. Walt Whitman obviously believed in protein for inspiration. His food for thought was a combination of oysters and beef for breakfast.
And Beatrix Potter– one of my favorite children’s authors– left a whole journal full of recipes recently auctioned in Shropshire. TheKitchn.com featured it a couple of years back along with her recipe for gingerbread:
Beatrix Potter’s Gingerbread Recipe
Ingredients:3.5 lb wheat meal
3.5 lb treacle
12 oz sugar
12 oz butter
2 oz ground ginger
1 oz pounded allspice
1 pint of ale
Add two thirds of the ale to the other ingredients and beat them well for some time then dissolve 1oz of common washing soda in the rest of the ale and add it just before you put it into the oven.
It requires a slow oven – (let all the ingredients except the flour and soda be put before the fire to dissolve for an hour or two.)
Me? I usually have a cup of green or white tea at hand. (Always brewed to perfection at 180º from loose leaf tea.) The funny thing is, the more involved I am in the task at hand, the colder the tea gets. I just took a sip of stone cold Peach Blossom White tea.
So how about you? Do you have something yummy sitting beside your keyboard right now? What is your favorite food for thought? For creativity? Are there some foods that scientifically claim to boost brain power? Do you celebrate writing milestones with food? Please share.
Food for thought. What do writers munch on to get the little gray cells working? Click to Tweet
Eat at the computer? Never! Well, almost never. Snacking writers tell all. Click to Tweet
Glad you’re back and feeling better, Wendy.
I’m also a tea lover. Sitting down with a nice hot cup of Earl Grey or something herbal helps me to redirect my thoughts and focus on my work, rather than the fourteen other things I could be doing. At my house, we agree with the Chinese proverb that lists tea as one of the seven necessities of life!
Besides that, I’m not much of a snacker while I work–ocassionally I’ll grab a whole apple to eat because they’re handy, healthy, and mess free.
You are too good, Laura. (No food issues here, right?) And yes, tea!
I won’t get around to food for another three hours. Coffee starts my day. Sadly, my doctor limited me to one cup. I cheat and have a second, but in the spirit of compromise, I downsized my cup. And I introduced the cup to tea, caffeine-free. The cup is adapting.
Experts say we should get up and walk every hour. I hear, “Get up every hour and get another cup of coffee.” Or herbal tea. Or seltzer.
I’d hate to be limited– coffee or tea. How does one write without a bottomless cup?
I’m so glad you’re feeling better, Wendy! For me, alas, food is a non-starter; a bit of white rice with a pinch of salt and butter is about all I can manage these days, and sometimes some shredded cheese. Barbara did grill a pizza last week, and I had a slice. Can’t drink coffee, at all…used to have 18 cups a day.
But it’s not all bad, as I can also no longer follow the “it’s five o’clock somewhere” paradigm to justify Beer for Breakfast.
On mixing alcohol and writing, The Bard said it best (albeit in a different context). It “giveth the desire, but taketh away the ability”.
I guess you are proof positive that it doesn’t take food to spark creativity.
I think my creativity comes from a home atmosphere not unlike the ambience of Henry VIII’s “gun forts”, such as Deal…they smelled of gunpowder and dogs. You might add cigar smoke to the mix. (If Barbara reads this, I’m a dead man.)
So glad you are better, Wendy. I just nibbled on a few peanut m&m candies while reading your post. 🙂 That’s not the norm though … had candy left over from having family here Memorial Day weekend. But being in the writing zone is truly a weight loss program for me. When deep into the story, food is the last thing on my mind. I guess my story feeds me. 🙂 But I make up for it during the editing phase. 🙂 And I usually have water or a diet Sprite nearby.
And I love Beatrix Potter. Did you see the movie “Ms. Potter”? I cry every time I watch it and am always inspired to write.
I haven’t heard of that movie, Shelli. I’ll have to see if I can find it. 🙂
“Miss Potter” is the sweetest movie, Jeanne, with a beautiful song … “When You Taught Me How to Dance” … just beautiful.
Wendy L Macdonald
Thank you for introducing me to the “Ms.Potter” movie, Shelli. I’ve watched it twice now. I’m like you in forgetting about food while writing. But my hollow-legged husband reminds me to eat and supplies me with chocolate on the weekends (no fear of me wasting away). ❀
How nice that writing equals weight loss. I’m a huge supporter of First Place 4 Health (a fabulous Christian weight loss program– http://www.firstplace4health.com). I wonder if the FP4H people have heard about your particular protocol.
And yes, Beatrix Potter. You should see my collection of old books and mohair characters. The movie is wonderful.
Because of encroaching health issues I’ve become pretty strict on myself about snacking between meals, and what I choose now is about as healthy and boring as I can stand, roasted almonds or dried fruit. I’ve also just quit coffee, so I choose an organic black tea with mint. Only one or two cups a day though.
You are as disciplined with your health as in your writing, my friend. I admire from afar.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
To quote Picard, “Earl Grey, hot”.
And basically, non-stop all day.
My favourite Earl Grey has to be Two Buds and a Leaf organic, but I can’t get that here, so I’ll be filling my suitcase with it after ACFW. I CONSUME Stash Double Bergamot (ber-gah-moh) but will endure Twinings if I have to.
By “consume”, I mean, my purple travel mug has “Bubba” printed on the side.
I snack on raw carrots, or eat my whole grain/sliced chicken sandwich at the computer, but rarely anything else.
Oh, and Dairy Milk chocolate if I need it.
I’m trying to get off Coke, and successfully got off Diet Coke, which is a carbonated complex neuro-toxin. I just do not need the sugar.
I’m opening my OCW contest notes soon, so you might hear the shredding of chocolate bar wrappers….
For fabulous teas check out Rishi, Mighty Leaf and Republic of Tea for starters. All ship.
Those who know me, know I love food that doubles as a toy– foods like artichokes and pomegranates. I just discovered a fabulous new tea that does the same. It’s Peach Momotaro from Teavana. It is hand wrapped into a ball and when you steep it, it “blooms” into a full marigold. It’s delicious.
Hey, I know you and I had not clue about this food doubling as a toy thing. Fascinating!
Jennifer, I’m opening my OCW notes tonight. I see a late night coast to coast instant message session in my future with a grape beverage at hand. 😉
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I’ll be here.
Not exactly a food, but I did smoke large, cheap cigars in Churchillian quantities to control pain and nausea. Had to quit when Barbara’s blood pressure started edging up (living with me would give the Dalai Lama hypertension). I also started coughing blood, which was uncool, and TOTALLY did not fit The Image.
You do need to get an author photo– Steinbeck-like– with a good cigar between your teeth. It does fit the image even if the reality falls short.
I rarely eat while writing. Now, at WORK, it’s another matter. But there eating is usually because I’m working through lunch or snacking in order to avoid something I’m not in the mood to do.
Food as a REWARD on the other hand is my downfall. One more chapter and then I’ll check Facebook and have a cup of tea with a cookie. Finish this round of edits and we’ll go to our favorite restaurant. Win that award and we’ll pop some champagne! Of course, I’m always up for a celebration–just give me an excuse! (Like Thistle sleeping through the night or the roses blooming or getting the yardwork done . . .)
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I love how you think!!
It’s TUESDAY!!! Time for chocolate! 😉
Life should be celebrated, right, Sarah?! I love that! Find a reason to celebrate!
I’m with the others. I love that you find reasons to celebrate life’s events and accomplishments. 🙂
Sarah, guess you got to pop that champagne recently then after your Selah Book Award. It’s great that you celebrate life!
I know! those are the kinds of celebrations that should have no calorie restrictions. I’m so proud of both Sarah and Ann for their wins!
I think you should celebrate commenting on this blog today, right? I also love celebrating. I’m trying to retrain myself not to use food as a reward. 🙂
Or a Selah win!! 🙂
Dark. Chocolate. Dark chocolate. Did I say, dark chocolate? 🙂 Glad you’re feeling better. 🙂
I wish I could like dark chocolate. Maybe that’s not a good goal. . .
I’m so sorry you were sick, Wendy! And I’m glad you’re feeling better.
I have a love-hate relationship with food. There’s so much of it I can’t eat. But the things I can eat, I love. Mostly fruits, vegetables and meat. When sugar slips into my eating habits, I begin to pay for it, which is a bummer. I’m learning I can eat a little. Now and then.
When I’m writing, coffee or tea are usually sitting beside me (depending on the time of day). My absolute favorite can-eat food? Costco’s frozen cherries thawed. Their flavor fuels my taste buds and my work.
And yes, when I make a big milestone (like writing The End) my family and I usually go out to eat, or celebrate with something tasty. 🙂
Wendy L Macdonald
Jeanne, what a wonderful idea to celebrate “The End” by going out to dinner with the family. ❀
I love that you involve the whole family in your triumphs.
Debbie Macomber used to feel a little guilty for taking time away from her young kids to write but after they grew up they’ve told her that watching her go after her dreams has empowered them to see that anything is possible. Her kids are all hard workers/ achievers because they saw their mother work hard.
I love that Debbie’s children gleaned from her hard work. I hope mine do too. 🙂
Sometimes when I’m having trouble staying focused but determined to reach my word count, I turn to peanut M&Ms. I get a small dish (so I don’t snarf down the whole bag) and treat myself to one every one hundred words. Usually after three of four, I get engrossed in the scene and forget to check the count. Then it’s a bonus when I come up for air and can treat myself to several at once.
Kristen Joy Wilks
What a great idea! Oooh, Nestle Dark Chocolate Morsels chocolate chips would work for this too…
Goodness! If you can stop at three or four. . .
You have a new book just hitting the shelves, don’t you? Busy, busy time. (Need peanut M & Ms to keep up the strength. It’s the protein y’know.)
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
3 or 4 ?
I would stop at 34.
Do you eat them in rainbow color order?
So glad Wendy mentioned your new release. Excited for you, friend!
Kristen Joy Wilks
Ha ha! I had a bottle of sparkling cider in the back of our fridge that was waiting for an acceptance letter. I bought it when I first started sending queries out for my first full length manuscript in 2008. I um…eventually gave up. Not on writing, I kept writing, but the hubby and I drank the cider on a date night. When I finally got an acceptance letter, I looked in the fridge and it was gone! But I bought another one and put it way in the back and have determined not to touch it until I get another acceptance letter. It was very disappointing to have that thing sit there for 5 years and then drink it right before my unexpected success.
But on general writing days, a cup of English Breakfast tea and scrambled eggs with shredded Parmesan and pepper.
I think there’s a lesson in your sparkling cider anecdote. . .
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Awww, keep that bottle safe!
I have a bottle of Coke in my “writing” cabinet.
Remember last summer when Coke put names on their bottles in the brilliant marketing ploy that was “share with a friend”? My bottle says “Mary” on it. It also has a tag I made that says “to be opened when the first contract is signed”.
I look forward to shaking that thing and cracking it open on Skype one day!
I always have some sort of caffeine near me when I write, usually Dr. Pepper. It’s hard to write and eat at the same time, though, so I usually take a break to eat.
Unless I have some Ritz crackers handy. 🙂
I tell you. . . this group is way too disciplined. No oysters & beef for breakfast here.
I’ve been known to start writing days with a breakfast of strawberry rhubarb sauce and Dr. Pepper. It’s a tasty way to start the day, but I’m not sure it qualifies me as disciplined. 😀
Wendy L Macdonald
Glad to hear you’re well again, Wendy. and what a yummy post—Beatrix Potter and gingerbread. I don’t know what it is about gingerbread, but I could eat it every day: It ranks up there with chocolate. Normally I don’t snack while writing; however, I love to eat my granola cereal while reading blogs…I had to pause there and grab another spoonful. Caffeine, in moderation, is my fuel for thought. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, and chocolate on weekends. Is it Friday yet?
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac ❀
I’m a gingerbread aficionado as well. That photo in the blog features my cookies made with one of my favorite old molds and dusted with gold.
Okay Wendy, now I know you made those cookies I’m impressed! My cooking and baking always falls into the “unattractive yet still tasty” category. I just can’t get the form to follow the function. I’m envying your skills 😉
Wow, most of you are so disciplined about snacking. Tea is my favorite writing beverage. Well, any time beverage. I say that is one of the best things about air conditioning (that I generally find too chilly and unfortunately my husband never thinks is chilly enough) but it does mean I can keep hot tea nearby all summer on my little plug in warmer. I like straight black tea and Lipton’s will do although English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast are good too. I also keep some kind of chewing gum handy in case I get a case of the sleepies while writing. I’m sure that doesn’t happen with any of you as you write, but I have to confess it does with me. Dried cranberries and a little dry cereal makes a good snack while writing and goes nicely with tea.
So sorry you were sick, Wendy. Glad to hear you’re better. Also, if I only ate when the table had a complete table setting, I would definitely lose weight. And surely be very hungry. 🙂
Ann, you are a true tea drinker. Our friend, Sarah Thomas, doesn’t even credit my “tea” as a real tea. She’s like you– black tea all the way. No flavored teas or tisanes for her.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Tea Purest Alert:
The “tea” that they serve at Teavana ain’t EXACTLY technically legally qualified as “tea”.
A true, proper and right tea is made from Camellia sinensis. Anything else is an “infusion”, or yes, a tisane.
Spits a bit.
An infusion borders on the same level of heresy as the product known as “white chocolate”. While I admit to consuming certain levels of white chocolate at Christmas, it is not an actual product derived from cocoa beans.
And yup, I drive people crazy with this rant.
Every time I walk past a Teavana store. Did you know “teavana” is from the Greek word for “complete scam”?
I can even drink tea when the weather is hot! I’m with you–black teas, ceylon, darjeeling–those breakfast teas are the best! And, as you know, I carry tea bags in my purse 😉
I do know, Sarah. And I know a certain agent who does the same. Something I have wished I did at times.
Glad you’re better, Wendy! That bug is nasty.
I’m afraid I also let my coffee or tea go cold when I take it to the computer. Somedays I heat that mug up three or four times before I drink it all.
We are kindred spirits, Carrie.
Coffee, almonds from the Central Valley, or pita chips and hummus.
Recently, I’ve had a bottomless bowl of blueberries and a small pile of cherry pits nearby, evidence of the bounty I brought back from my home town.
Ten years ago there would have been a good chance some of those Blue Diamond almonds were from our orchard. (I can’t believe it’s ten years since we stopped farming.)
Cherries and blueberries! Me, too. I hope you stopped at some of the strawberry stands. We also have the best strawberries anywhere.
We didn’t get strawberries on this visit. Have you picked blueberries at some of the U-pick locations?
I loved stopping at the Blue Diamond visitor’s center as a kid and sampling all the flavored almonds in the glass jars with large cork lids. Ah, the memories. 🙂
Chocolate? In varying quantities.
Yes! I was just telling Janet that our blog readers are altogether too good– too healthy.
Kathy Boyd Fellure
I am with you, Marilyn ~ chocolate. See’s will do any day.
The best thing I’ve ever found for keeping me focused while working at the computer is chocolate chips. Pop one in, let melt while typing, repeat when chip is gone. I could eat a 12 oz. bag a day if I didn’t keep it in a drawer away from my computer…in another room, actually. I ration myself with those small tubes you get M&Ms in at the gas stops. No more than 2 a day…or at least no more than three or four refills of two a day. Now I’ve discovered the minichips work almost as well. It’s still pop, melt, repeat, but I eat less total chocolate. Not that I should worry about eating dark chocolate. It is a health food. If you don’t believe me, I can send you the reference to the article in the science journal, Nature, where it was first reported. Share that with anybody who tells you to eat less of it! I also saw a paper correlating national per capita chocolate consumption with the number of Nobel prizes won by its citizens. That one didn’t say if it was dark or milk chocolate – poor experimental design. I wonder if there’s a correlation with Pulitzer prizes. And what about Christy awards? I read somewhere that dark chocolate also contains something that discourages tooth decay. A double benefit! Time to go refill my tubes for the nth time today. I’m not going to confess what n equals.
This weekend, I just returned from traveling (which involves copious snacking) to a routine doctor’s appointment on Monday during which he said all the ladies in his office like the app, My Fitness Pal. Now, we’re talking about food here? Oh, bother. 🙂 I think I just need to write more. It’s difficult to pop those peanut butter M&M’s when the fingers are flying across the keyboard.
Me – cold coffee or tea? Never. Thanks to my Mr. Coffee desk-top cup warmer, my drink is always hot. The only downside is that I don’t get the exercise of getting up and going to the microwave to reheat. Though I do compensate by getting up and going to the fridge for my cache of cold chocolate chips.
Wendy, I am so glad that you’re feeling better.
Sorry for the late response. Today just got away from me.
I can joyfully, truthfully say that what is beside me is an empty mug that had contained cool, refreshing club soda–no sugar, no fat, no calories. 🙂 Now to be completely honest, this blog caught me on a good day because I am not always so good. Tea is a favorite of mine. Again, fairly healthy. But I definitely have munched on chocolate candy of varying kinds, particularly on days when I’m feeling really stressed and struggling to get a word written. Cheetos also have computer-side companion at times. The great thing for me about writing is, once I get going, get immersed in the writing, I can’t eat because my hands are otherwise occupied. When I am really immersed in the writing I tend to forget about food or anything else. I eventually have to make myself get up and make lunch and / or dinner (depending on the time). I’ve had many a cold, barely touched cup of tea beside me as well.
I don’t keep food by the computer. Otherwise, I eat way too much. If I want something to eat, I make myself get up and go get it. There are not many times I will interrupt good writing flow to stop and get a snack. I will stop for a meal but not a snack. I do, though, keep water, tea, or Diet Dr. Pepper beside me at all times.
Welcome back to wellness, friend!
I adore Celestial Seasonings Apple Cinnamon tea. Being Southern, I have mine iced, of course. 🙂
Kathy Boyd Fellure
So glad to hear you are feeling better, Wendy. Will keep praying for your health.
Today I am drinking ice water in my Wild Cherries Coffee House cup. (My favorite hang out in Truckee, CA.) But most fall/winter mornings it’s either tea or coffee. Summer is almost here and I crave water when it’s 100 degrees by 9 am.
I just finished a tin of dark chocolate slivers from my recent trip to Tahoe City. How I wish I could say it was a healthier snack.
Pretty soon all the luscious fruits of the season will be available and I’ll bring cherries, apricots, plums and peaches to my desk.
Brain power food = a variety of nuts.
There are crumbs at my desk too. I bake a cookie power bar with oatmeal, coconut, cherries, and pistachio nuts. Take your basic oatmeal cookie recipe, delete white sugar and use only dark brown, and add the three extra ingredients in a cookie pan. I use real butter, no Crisco or margarine. 350 for twenty minutes or until lightly browned. Cool & cut. Tasty & sustaining.
I’ll be trying out Beatrix Potter’s gingerbread recipe at the Tahoe cabin later this month. Thank you for the share, Wendy.
Glad you’re feeling better, Wendy! I always have food around me which I know I shouldn’t. But I do try to be healthy. Always have a drink — usually milk, water or tea — and nuts or grapes or cheese.Baby carrots and peanut butter. I like little finger-y foods to munch on. The crunch stuff especially because it keeps me awake. But it’s dangerous for the waistline! I ate a whole (small) can of peanuts yesterday and didn’t realize it until they were gone!