Friday, 6 July 2012
I have a confession.
I am writing a proposal for a cookbook.
Writing a book is something I have daydreamed about for years but never really thought would transition into reality. Then I received an email in April from a literary agent, Juliet Pickering at A P Watt, saying how much she liked the blog and asking if I had any book ideas. We sent emails back and forth and she tried a recipe of mine. Literally two hours before I went to the Guild awards ceremony, we finally met.
And so - I signed. I have an agent. (I keep on having to repeat that one back to myself to believe it). I'm even on the website! You can find me by looking in authors (!), then G for Gardner, Emma.
Around the time of the awards, several editors and other agents approached me. I have to admit that at the time I found it all hilarious. Ridiculously, they-must-be-joking, absurdly hilarious. Now I've spent a lot of time working on an idea, it doesn't feel so funny.
It feels absolutely terrifying.
The only experience I can vaguely equate it to is falling in love. The excitement and thrill firmly streaked with the terror of loss and rejection. The all-encompassing nature that means you can't think about anything else. The excitement itself is scary - the more you want it and believe it will work, the harder it is to think of it failing.
Having said that, there are differences. I don't remember falling in love being so stressful... or such hard work.
For some reason I haven't quite pinned down, I really want to share this with you now. Not later, when I've avoided public failure. Now, when I am at the beginning.
Yesterday, Tara posted a quote on twitter from an interview with Cheryl Strayed:
"I find the most important thing for aspiring writers is for them to give themselves permission to be brave on the page, to write in the presence of fear".
I am definitely in the presence of fear, both on my proposal document and right here, sharing this with you. I can't decide if this is brave or foolish (or, for that matter, boring - so many bloggers are writing books).
The end that is a beginning does seem to be in sight - my proposal is nearly finished. I sent a partial first draft to Juliet today.
I've thrown out huge chunks of work, reinvented and edited on repeat. I'm on my third chapter of sample recipes, having binned the others for various reasons. There have been three, four, five, six batches of testing a day in the past weeks. Mum had her holiday time in California filled with testing and writing.
As you might have noticed, there is one teeny little problem - I'm signed up to do a masters at Oxford this autumn. If this does all happen, I'm hoping to defer or re-apply for next year. I've spent a lot of time agonizing over what to do. It will only be worth it if I can create something I'm really proud of.
I know this post isn't the most cheerful, it's-all-sunshine-and-happiness way to tell you, but it is the truth. I've tried to write this post differently but at the moment my excitement is too entangled with fear to unravel the two and only write about one. Besides, I want to preserve this moment - whatever comes next.
So yes. That is what I am up to. Are you excited? Would you like me to write a book? I hope so!
We had a dinner party a few weeks ago in California. About an hour before the guests turned up (when the main course was in the oven), I realised the pudding I'd planned wasn't nice enough to serve (this may or may not have been perfectionism on my part). This fruit salad was born.
I had to make it again the next day. The quality of the fruit in California is insane - everything is bursting with flavour. I've put a recipe below for the version we fell in love with but it's just a guideline. The figs perfume the whole bowl and the minty-lemon syrup heightens the taste of every fruit.
My pointers for fruit salads = buy the best fruit you can and use it at the peak of ripeness (it's not a place to hide furry apples and overripe bananas); have lots of colours for visual appeal; let it sit for a bit and finally use a nice sharp-sweet syrup to dress it (I like to use the syrup while it's still warm, it seems to help everything to mingle).
Amazing Fruit Salad
2 small lemons (or 1 big)
25g caster sugar
a sprig or two of fresh mint
1/4 big cantaloupe melon
1 small mango
1-2 white peaches or nectarines
big handful of blueberries
big handful of cherries
small punnet of strawberries
Cut the lemons into halves and juice three of them into a small saucepan. Add the sugar, about 50ml of water and two or three mint leaves. Place over a medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a bowl or glass to cool a little.
Chop the fruit up into fairly big chunks. Peaches need skinning, strawberries need hulling, cherries need pitting, blueberries are fine as they are and so on. Place all the fruit minus the figs (which I cut into small pieces) into the bowl as you go and toss together. Squeeze the other half of the lemon over as you add more. Finally put the figs on top.
Remove the mint leaves from the syrup and pour it over the fruit. Toss everything together, making sure the syrup comes into contact with all of the fruit. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 1-4 hours. Toss again. Finely chop 1-2 leaves of mint and sprinkle over the top, then serve.