Creativity by Ingredients: Recipes and Plots, Cooking and Writing

Marsy's Jars from Stock.xchng smaller.jpgThose of you who have “fanned” my page on Facebook know I like to cook.  In fact you’ve probably figured out that I like to cook from the Internet.  And it’s true. 

The Yahoo homepage I stare at every morning, is a one of a kind original, with feeds and “widgets” chosen by me. My page has nine news sites with several headlines apiece, ranging from the New York Times to BBC New World Edition.  I have several non-news magazine feeds, some standards like weather forecasts for places that are important to me, the night’s TV listings, my horoscope so I can see how wildly inappropriate it is or be stunned when it’s not, a couple of review sites–books and restaurants–and then, my favorites.

Recipe blogs.  Five of them, plus several more bookmarked as feeds.

I discovered online recipes some years ago.  I began by joining and and saved everything that sounded good.  Had I only known this was the beginning of an addiction I would have stopped there, but once begun?  Impossible.

Recipes are great, but in the past year I’ve discovered that recipe blogs are better.  I have a few I just can’t seem to miss.  101 Cookbooks reminds me of years spent in the San Francisco Bay area.  Simply Recipes gives great instructions and interesting facts.  The Perfect Pantry is packed with recipes I plan to try. 

I love reading the comments.  “So and so” from “somewhere” tried this one, but she added half an onion and a cup of tomatoes, and it was better because of them.  Someone else added curry powder and cut the ginger.  I read them voraciously, sure I’ll find the magic key to every recipe from a kitchen somewhere in Nebraska or Minnesota, where a talented cook made a fabulous discovery.

Perhaps the most fun of all is plugging ingredients I happen to have on hand into Google, then looking through the results to see if dinner is among them.  This past week, after a trip to Costco, I had an abundance of fresh asparagus, spinach and baby bella mushrooms.  So into Google those ingredients went, and out came the following, unbelievably fabulous recipes.  I can only say, try them both.

Fettucine with Mushrooms, Asparagus and Baby Spinach from Live To Eat is deceptively simple and so delicious.  I used whole grain rotini and and subbed a slice of red onion for the leeks. We fought over the leftovers.

Asparagus, Mushroom and Sausage Quiche from The Perfect Pantry was another wonderful find.  I used a particularly yummy vegetarian Italian sausage because I had it on hand. Then I used mozzarella instead of gruyere.  The quiche and the sausage are keepers, low fat and delicious. 

You may be treated to more of my Internet food romps in months to come. But while I was plugging in ingredients, and Google was spitting out recipes, I found myself wishing that the other creative task of the day was as easy.

Wouldn’t it be fun if I could plug in characters, and Google could spit out plots?  Plug in spunky birdwatcher widow and soul searching pediatrician, add five year orphan, and make sure to exclude all results in which the orphan is hurt, abandoned again, or in any way harmed.  Add a dog, preferably a beagle since this is my novel.  And voila!

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be fun after all.  Because the devil’s in the details, but so is the joy.  I’m sure every novelist who happened on that scenario would add her comments.  “Exchanged birdwatcher for horse trainer and added a parrot who hates beagles.”  “Don’t like young kids, so I changed the orphan into a teenager with Aspergers and overindulgent parents.”

In the end, we can all take the same ingredients and make something different out of them, no matter what the recipe says.  No matter what form our creativity takes, our imaginations are always our most powerful allies. Don’t forget to enjoy your own.

Note: Congratulations to Marj from South Carolina who won a copy of Julie Compton’s Tell No Lies in a drawing from comments on my blog interview with the author. Also, don’t forget to comment before May 1 and tell me your favorite cover of those featured here to enter a drawing for one of three sets of my novels Iron Lace and Rising Tides in the most recent paperback edition.


  1. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) on April 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

    I also rely on many great recipe blogs for inspiration, and I’m so glad you’ve found some recipes to try from my blog. I realized recently that I’ve published more than 600 recipes — far more than most cookbooks — and many blogs have published more!

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