Monday, 1 April 2013

magic mixing

This last few weeks I have mostly been distracted from writing thinking about cake ... 
I like cake, a lot, but because I am very strong willed, for the duration of my grocery shop at least, we do not have cake in the house unless I make it ... and so reader I bake. My love of baking is fuelled only by my love of eating. Although I do like the fact that people tend to be impressed with my efforts - I am in NO WAY a fancy baker but what doesn't look/taste good covered in chocolate or custard or BOTH? 

Flour + Sugar + Fat + Eggs = MAGIC!


Earlier this week whilst carefully combining ingredients - (ok, after chucking it all in the mixer and pressing 'pulse') I got to thinking how baking is a bit like writing. If you've been here before, you will know only too well how much time I spend thinking about (if not actually in the act of) writing. Having been working at the writing for a few years now, I think I've identified three key aspects of my learning as a writer:

  1. studying the craft of writing - learning from writers talking about their writing and (usually very generously) sharing their learning about writing
  2. reading - LOTS and across a VAST range of texts ... there is ALWAYS something to learn from ANY kind of writing
  3. writing myself - every day, often making very little sense but working on building my writing stamina and confidence about putting one word in front of another and hoping to one day get them into some kind of order. 

I juggle with these three aspects daily in my attempt to build my writing skills and establish a foundation onto which I can build my ideas.

Studying the craft of other writers, learning from their reflections and lessons on writing is a bit like adding flour to the mixing bowl - it needs careful selection and sifting. There are lots of different kinds of writers out there with lots of different things that work for them but only certain kinds will work for me in my mix. I have made cakes without flour, it is possible but tricky and less stable than other mixes.

photo.JPGReading LOTS is sweet like sugar. Sometimes thick, heavy molasses is just what's needed; sometimes a light dusting of fine icing sugar but all have their place and knowing what to apply when ensures a tasty experience. I did actually make a cake once without sugar (in ERROR) and although the end result looked like cake it was empty and lacking in flavour.

Writing myself - every day; this is the 'fat' of it! Doing so is helping me build consistency into my writing, without this 'fat' I really am just dreaming (and hungry). What is particularly comforting to know, in cake making as well as in writing, is that the fat needn't be the posh stuff. Basic cake recipes benefit from good old stork margarine - I have used expensive butter, just as I have tried to litter my daily writing with 'clever' literary tricks but the truth is, the basic stuff works best in terms of establishing consistency. 

Anyone reading this with even a rudimentary knowledge of either science or baking will know we are missing the eggs - how are we going to get THAT into the metaphor MrsT? Well, as I've said on many occasions, I think these things through thoroughly. The eggs are what really bring the magic to the bake. 

I think the eggs are me and my imagination. They are tightly packaged and need to be cracked into but, once the protective shell is broken, they have the power to transform. They are a natural ingredient and can vary in size and quality. Did you know that the best victoria sponge is achieved by weighing the eggs first and then adapting all other ingredients to fit that? try it! 

The addition of eggs transforms the other ingredients into something special, something particular to the mix, where the cake (with some 'cooking') becomes more than the sum of its parts. 

Happy magic mixing!