Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mental Can Openers & Writer's Hash ~ Lesson From An Old Spud

Brad Leach brings us the wisdom learned from an old spud...read on, he is so funny, he makes me laugh each and every post he sends m.  


       When I was a teenage boy, mashed potatoes were on the menu every other night. And anyone who grew up in the Midwest knows those potatoes either triumph or parish based on the gravy. In my grade school days Mom’s gravy shared a lot with socialized medicine; it probably wouldn’t kill you, and it was usually better than nothing.
      But thanks to her mother-in-law (Grandma Snodgrass to me), her gravy progressed from a bland saltwater mix, hinting at carbonized meat and burnt flour, to a creamy pale confection of meat drippings, butter, and cream.  Grandma was a Kansas farm woman.  In her hands a wooden spoon became a wand, and rumors still circulate in abandoned, backwoods freezers that the Olympian deities battled each other in the storm clouds to see who would lick the ladle.

      From such a legend Mom learned, but despite her success with gravy, as her teenage son I felt entitled to micro-manage her kitchen maneuvers. The fact I couldn’t successfully toast a frozen waffle (I learned the butter goes on after the toaster) bounced off my testosterone-armored ego. You know. That same ego that assures boys everywhere their mothers know nothing, but the sophomore cheerleader with blonde hair is divinely qualified to pronounce their existence either worthy or pointless. And the right of every young lad to verbally improve his mother’s cooking was put into the Constitution by one of the colonial Toms or Massachusetts Johns, I felt certain.

      I always complained she had added too much water, too little salt, or not enough butter, and those covert chances to taste the brew early on confirmed this to my tongue. She would patiently explain how it would change as it boiled down and thickened, until she tired of my hormonal haranguing and chased me out of the kitchen with the potato masher. (A fate I now could wish on most of our current Congress.)

      Then, a miracle worthy of any Catholic bingo hall across the States would occur and delicious gravy would manifest itself from the uninspired brine. Were my insights providential?  Did the brief brush of my lips have transformative power?  (The girls at high school certainly hadn’t noticed.)  But I felt Mom and I had a kitchen rapport – she bumbling along with a spoon and my gifted lips and critical insights invoking the miraculous.

      What has all this got to do with writing, I hear you ask? Stories are like gravy; they start out with a lot of words, ideas, feelings, and descriptions, but then they need to be boiled down and blended into one flavorful essence. To do that as authors, we must learn to make gravy with our words.  It’s not enough to have all the ingredients.  It takes practice. You’ve got to know the recipes. You have to chase out the critics. Stir things up. Then boil down what you want to say and how you want the reader to feel using the fewest of words.

      Powerful stories turn life’s daily potatoes into a feast.  They can help transform insufferable egos who burn their own waffles into those who appreciate a fine meal and a good cook.  They make life’s starchy lumps palatable.  They nourish hungry souls, soothe mashed hearts.

      Mom and grandma impacted lives, in part, by cooking.  I want to do it with stories.  Remember fellow pen-mates, ‘burn’ flour the right way and gravy will come.

~Brad





9 comments:

  1. I love the analogy Brad, especially since I ate both your mom's and my mom's gravy. Who knew then that the Inca Way and Clayton Street kitchens would be laboratories for successful writing? Cheers

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    1. True Med, I don't think two cooks could have started further apart than your mom and mine.

      Brad

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  2. Oh, Brad, you made me laugh again, especially since my childhood experiences with mashed potatoes and gravy were far different from yours. Both were lumpy, which is why you'll never find either mashed potatoes or gravy on the menu at my house. Stories, on the other hand, are always available.

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    1. Lumpy potatoes are bad, but lumpy gravy is worse! Your stories on the other hand are superbly smooth. Glad you got a chuckle. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Another winner of a blog. I hear you about the varying qualities of gravy. And the varying qualities of writing. I'm still trying to get mine (writing that is, not gravy) out of the lumpy stage. (Jane)

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    1. Thanks for the comment Jane. And your stories are far from lumpy. They display the same quality as your collection of fine purses.

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  4. A big shout of thanks to L.A. for the great art work! Really adds to the flavor of the piece.

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  5. Hysterical! As always, Brad, you make a powerful point with your wit and humor. Blessings to you as you make a lot of deliciously rich gravy with your words!
    Donna

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    1. Thanks Donna, looking forward to seeing the group tomorrow.

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