Absence of muse definitely not amusing
writ-er’s block: n. a usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing.
temporary: adj. 1. not permanent; provisional,
2. lasting only a short time; transitory
Well, I hope it’s transitory.
The kitchen timer I set for one hour (intended to motivate in manageable segments) has sounded, been reset and sounded again.
Any minute now, I’m going to declare this a throwaway day and go see if I have all the ingredients for gingerbread biscotti.
I may just eat the batter.
I may just eat the butter!
I may hide under the table and there eat runaway Cheerios and desiccated penne noodles until the monkey typing pool in my garage comes up with the next chapter for my novel.
And, if I stay under the table long enough, maybe the men in white coats will come and take me to the eccentrics’ asylum for some rest and re-create-ion.
Although I fear, in such a place, they may not have gingerbread biscotti.
Nor will they be likely to let me play with the oven.
So — with a self-imposed 150-page deadline (the first half of a new book) circled on my agent’s calendar and the months of December and January traditionally being black holes in the creative work year, I’m turning to my writerly friends for advice and inspiration.
“Take a break. Read someone else’s book,” says Susan.
She promotes books and their authors and has sent one for me to review.
Her motives are therefore suspect.
“Get thee to a coffee shop with your laptop. Make a list of everything in your main character’s pockets, junk drawer, hope chest!” says Kim, who’s a grad student in the UBC creative-writing program.
I look inside the recipe box that my character, 13-year-old Lizzy, keeps to remind her of her mother.
And I write:
“Lizzy takes out a card labelled Cracklings, which are fried rinds of fatty pork. In the same section are recipes for Farmer’s Sausage and Bubbat, and Verenyky with Cream Gravy. In another folder, deep fried fritters called Portzelky. Cream Cookies, with icing sugar frosting thinned with cream. Most of the recipes aren’t familiar, but she reads them now, front and back, looking for something else. A hidden message in the instructions for cabbage rolls.
“But, there are no messages. Just Bible verses inked into the margins.
“‘A little yeast works through the whole batch,’ is written on one for a black buckwheat bread that Lizzy remembers as being heavy enough to prop open windows.”
Well, 33,750 words down — 6,750 to go.
Makes three dozen
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Pinch kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup coarsely chopped or slivered almonds
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Add molasses.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Add, one-quarter at a time, to butter/sugar mixture, beating to combine. Do not over-mix.
Fold in almonds.
Butter your hands and divide dough in half. Form each into logs, about 10-inches long. Place on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 350 F oven for 35 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Let cool on pan for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F.
Transfer logs to a cutting board and, with a serrated knife, slice crosswise into approximately one-half-inch slices. Place slices back onto baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Turn slices over and bake eight minutes more. Transfer biscotti to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Darcie Hossack is a food writer and author of Mennonites Don’t Dance. For past recipes, visit nicefatgurdie.
wordpress.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.