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.
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.