I’ve been shopping the most wonderful (non) diet book by a licensed dietician to editors these past couple weeks. It makes me think of all the good (and bad) food advice. Of course, 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 auctioned a while ago in Shropshire. TheKitchn.com featured it a few years back along with her recipe for gingerbread:
Beatrix Potter’s Gingerbread Recipe
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 one oz 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. (And yes, the photo above features my own gingerbread cookies, dusted with gold and made with a reproduction of an age-old cookie mold.)
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
OK, Wendy, you just won the prize for the hardest subject for a sonnet, on a whole lotta levels.
Oh, man, this was hard to read,
for eating’s not my thing.
Kind of the last reminder I need,
letting nausea take wing.
Don’t get me wrong, I used to bake
with almost professional skill,
but appetite’s one thing cancer takes,
and now nutrition requires will.
I’ve got to force the calories down,
and yes, sometimes repeat,
for reasons likely clearly known,
which I hope you never meet.
What goes down comes up again,
and Lord, how I wish it would remain!
I write biblical fiction and I have been trying biblical recipes for over a year. It helps me feel part of that world. And I think my readers sense that. Besides, it’s the perfect excuse for postponing writing when a particular scene is giving me trouble! ?
That’s so smart. Food as a sensory prompt, like music or smells, helps us enter our book world.
I read the recipe to my Brit husband. Now I have to make them. lol
Let us know how it goes. 🙂
Damon J. Gray
Oh goodness – never eat at one’s desk. Well, having just finished an omelet at my desk, I’ll confess that, yes, I have peanuts by my right elbow. It’s not the healthiest snack but there are worse things I could eat.
As for dieting, we’re not ON a diet, but Alean and I have changed our diet permanently, and are finding it quite effective at shedding unwanted pounds.
Are you able to share the title of the forthcoming book you’re shopping?
It’s only got a working title so far but it’s Eat with Grace:
Embracing the Imperfect Body in a Diet-Crazed World
Ah…a cup of green tea, or coffee with cream and sugar if I really need a boost.
To celebrate, once my I’m published, we will open a bottle of wine with the same name as the title of my book!
Thank you for the fun post! Never thought about what fueled our writers!
I never eat at my desk. But, I do keep a bottle of water with me. 🙂
I’m impressed (and the wee bit envious).
There are just five groups of food
that need be mentioned here:
beer and pizza, more beer’s good,
then pizza and some beer.
A simple diet is the best,
and one must keep up one’s hydration;
ice-cold Foster’s passes the test
to save one from desiccation.
And pizza, well, the food of kings
that takes so many shapes,
garnished with all sorts of things
from anchovies to grapes.
Your dieticians may be aghast,
but he laughs longest who laughs last.
I’m so late to the discussion, but right now, I have nothing to eat beside me, which is just sad. The only thing beside me is a can of Sprite Zero. If I had my way, I’d have a dish of white chocolate peanut M&Ms. They aren’t the healthiest, but I love writing with them. My brain wakes up. And the white chocolate ones aren’t as rich to me as the milk chocolate ones, so that’s a plus. I do love having a Sugar-free vanilla latte to accompany me, especially in the early morning hours, from my favorite coffee shop.
Those cookies are lovely!
I nearly always have a pot of loose leaf tea on a tealight warmer next to me (that way only a cup at a time gets cold if I get distracted in-between sips). Actual snacks – not so much, although I do prefer my pre-writing time to include a high protein (and, ahem, high fat) breakfast of bacon, bannock, and sometimes eggs.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Those look great, Wendy! I have a cup of African Rum Nut tea beside me … and I forgot to make my lunch, so I better go do that!
I have been relying on unsweetened banana chips to keep my stomach occupied. I live in Kenya and am unfortunately on my last bag I brought over Aldi. A cup of cold (or room temperature) Coke Zero is a must as well.
Tea is a favorite; especially green tea. Meals at regular times. But never have desserts or treats as I usually save a special one if I’m plotting, or writing a particularly difficult passage. Really helps me though–like a carrot over a donkey’s head. 🙂