Let’s face it. We who write do nothing all day long. That is unless you consider mud wrestling with demons, chain-smoking, day drinking, chatting up shop clerks, and beating down majestic mountains of towering doubt to squeeze out 2 good pages – something! I suspect that is why I cook.
Consider the ingredients for this simple and delicious dish that I prepared last night after my third vodka & grapefruit, after I had grown weary of my nightly diet of political prattle on cable TV. Fish. Tomatoes. Garlic. Olive oil. Sea salt. And a box of dried pasta. Each and every one of these ingredients represent an alternative path that I might have chosen.
I love to fish and I have been out on a commercial fishing vessel. Even made a film about it. No day goes by upon wandering into a farmer’s market that I don’t wish I worked in the fields and came home with dirt beneath my nails. I have a friend in the south of France who invites me annually to come harvest the olives from his modest grove and another friend near the Il de Re, where we bicycle amidst the rows of Baleine de Sel. Ahhh to dredge salt and oysters by day and consume them with a fine rosé by dusk. Even the lowly box of Buitoni noodles reminds me that I once dreamt of owning a package store and cafe in Vermont near where I went to school. I even had it named. The Bean & Boucherie. That too went up in a cloud of creative smoke.
Mind you, as “ink-stained wretches” go, I’ve done okay. There are a half-dozen books with my name and imprimatur that you can actually buy, and a healthy inventory of unsold novels waiting to fund the barn in Vermont – the one where I’ll display my collection of typewriters and pen new thoughts by the wood burning stove. There are TV shows and un-filmed screenplays whose option deals paid a lot of bills. On the days when I most rue my chosen profession, I am reminded that remarkably, except for a 3-week stint waiting tables in pirate pantaloons and a 3-cornered hat, writing is how I have always made my daily bread.
And so I cook. I cook to eat. I cook to feed my loved ones. I cook because writers can’t afford to go out so much. But mainly I cook because when you roll up your sleeves and get out those knives, now it’s happening. You chop and season and boil and sauté and at the end of the process you have something real. And delicious. And as unpredictable and creative as the blank page. Only one helluva lot tastier and nutritious. Sustenance for another day, fuel for that forever hungry muse.
Pasta and Fish
• 1 serving of any flaky white fish
• 1 box of bucatini or dried pasta
• 2 almost soft tomatoes
• As much garlic as you can stand and then some
• Olive oil, salt &pepper
1. Put pot of water to boil and add pasta.
2. Salt and pepper the fish.
3. Chop tomatoes and mince the garlic.
4. Pan fry the fish in a pat of butter or oil on medium heat, flipping only once.
5. While fish is cooking, sauté garlic for 1 minute then add tomatoes.
5. When fish is near done and pasta is soft to taste, add pasta to tomato sauce pan.
6. Toss pasta in sauce, adding sea salt and pepper to taste.
7. Serve on 1 large dinner plate. The flavors go hand in hand.