Cooking For Writers

So here I am, stuffing a bunch of jarred spaghetti sauce mixed with angel hair pasta into my maw, and I begin thinking: what exactly is the best food for writers?

This question has become more apparent for me now that I’m writing full-time, since I now have to interrupt my writing every day to fuel the petty bio-needs of lunchtime.  These regular interruptions have given me a lot of trial-and-error of what works and what doesn’t, and here’s what I’ve learned:

It Either Needs to Cook Fast, or Really Slow

Hard boiled eggs.  Toast and jam.  Salads.  Sandwiches.  Anything you can make in under ten minutes is great writer food.  These dishes minimize the amount of time you spend cooking, which can be important if, like many writers, you’ve got the attention span of a teething puppy.  Alternately, they also allow you to get going straight out of bed in the morning, which is crucial for upping your word count.

But there’s a lot to be said for slow cooking, too.  I’d have never survived writing Critical Intel while carrying a day job if it weren’t for my crock pot.  Crock pots are the perfect thing for a writer – it’s almost impossible to overcook anything, which is important since we have a tendency to wander off and become absorbed with the bot boiling or a pizza in the oven.  I ruined a lot of pots and set off many smoke alarms before figuring this out.  With crock pots you just chop up the meat and vegetables, crank it up and let them sit for a few hours while you work.

Soup Is The Devil

Don’t eat soup while working.  It requires two eyes and both hands.  Gets all over your manuscript pages.  Makes it almost impossible to read when you’re trying not to spill it.  I know it’s tempting to eat so-cheap-and-actually-quite-good soup at your desk, but unless you’re taking an actual break from writing for lunch it’s not worth it.  Go for something one-handed you can eat absent-mindedly like a sandwich, a salad or even stew.

Nutrition: Kind of Pretty Important, Actually

What you put in your body matters, full stop.  Nasty, fatty food makes you feel nasty and fatty, and it makes your brain run slow.  Don’t exist  on pork rinds and mac n’ cheese unless you want what comes out of your brain to grease up the page.  Hit the vegetables and lean meats.  Change up your cooking patterns.  I learned to stir fry recently, and I’ve been eating a lot more vegetables due to that revelation.  If you don’t like vegetables, try spritzing them with a squeeze bottle of lemon juice.  Anything to avoid too many carbs or fats that’ll make your mental clock tick slow.

Vary Your Routine

If I eat the same thing too many days in a row, I start getting restless and thinking Maybe I’ll just nip out for lunch, hit a restaurant, get some ramen.  That always seems like a good idea – hey, take the computer! get some work done at a coffee shop! – but often it means I waste time in transit, linger too long at the restaurant or get caught up in an added-on errand.  I avoid this by cultivating a decent culinary repertoire – not only having the ability to make something different when I feel like it, but making sure I have ingredients on hand that can make a variety of different dishes.  Today’s stir fry is tomorrow’s soup.

Cook In Advance

Cooking great cauldrons of food and eating them down all week can be a really good idea.  My wife and I are fans.  We’ll make chili or soup on the weekend and eat it one meal a day until it’s gone.  Chicken soup is a my personal favorite, since you can get one of those rotisserie chickens from the store, eat it for dinner, then throw whatever’s left in the pot.  BAM.  One meal becomes three or four – great for the budget-conscious scribe.  Plus, pour it over some steamed rice and it’s chunky enough to eat while working.

Anyone else have good suggestions for writer food?  Recipes?  Kitchen gear you can’t live without?  Let me know.

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One response to “Cooking For Writers

  • Shawn

    I find that spending the time on a good homemade breakfast gets me going early and keeps me motivated and energized throughout the day. Eggs and bacon are easy and fast, but spend the extra 20 minutes preparing homemade buttermilk pancakes and you’ll have that “3-hour morning breakfast excursion” experience in less than an hour.

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