Writer Fuel

#Writerfuel? Yes, but we cannot survive on caffeine and cookies alone…

Although the internet (and, let’s be honest, us writers as well) would like you to believe that writery types run wholly on caffeine, sugar, and cat photos (and often alcohol, although I’ll tell you now, it may have worked for Hemingway – but we are not Hemingway), we do actually need to partake of real, non-cake-related sustenance at least once a day. For this particular writer it’s more like six or eight times a day, but we won’t go into that just here. Except to say that I should probably move my desk further from the kitchen, so at least I get some exercise walking to and fro. Writer fuel is important. But the type of writer fuel also matters, because obviously we’re not all little writer duplicates.

Let’s be clear – I love food. I especially love it when people make me food, so I don’t try and burn down the kitchen (although, to be fair, that was just once, and it was only a small, lemongrass-related fire). Food is a way of sharing not just friendship, but traditions and cultures and stories. It can be a way to explore new places, to build new experiences, to discover new things. It can evoke memories, and capture them. Making it can be an act of love, of therapy, of pure enjoyment and experimentation. It’s certainly more than just fuel. It matters.

And all that aside – a well-fuelled writer is a happy writer. As much as there may be this dramatic and oddly romantic image of the starving artist, forgoing food and bringing on dizzying visions with absinthe, or scrawling epics in gin-fuelled frenzy, in real life things don’t work so well that way (unless you’re Hunter S. Thompson. Then all bets are off). It just tends to lead to a sore head and pages full of incomprehensible drivel, with cookie crumbs stuck beneath the keyboard. In my experience, anyway. I write far better with a full tummy and a functioning brain, so little things like eating relatively healthily and choosing caffeine as my drug of choice work out well for me. You may disagree. And that’s okay, too – we all live how we live.

Even as a veggie, there’s plenty of food out there to try – and I’m not one for leaving empty plates.

I say all this, but I’m hardly a perfect example of fuelling well at all times. My routine tends to go somewhat to pot when the SO’s away – working runs late, dinner (I use this term loosely – you could also say, ‘cuppa soup’, ‘toast’, or ‘melange of random vegetables collected from the bottom of the fridge’) later still, and rather than watching TV, if I’m not reading I sometimes end up in the wilds of YouTube, watching something for no reason I can remember. Last week this involved a show in which Irish people ate food from different places in the world. That was it. That was the show. And not weird food, either – no chicken feet or wichity grubs. It was things like ‘American school lunches’, or ‘American cupcakes’ (which was pretty weird, actually – chicken nugget cupcakes? BLT cupcakes? I’m fairly sure these aren’t typical flavours). Which started me wondering about what unusual foods I’ve eaten. I mean, I’ve travelled a fair bit, and although I’ve been veggie for about the last ten years, before that I was never too fussy about trying new foods. I thought maybe I could compile a list of top strange foods I’ve ever eaten, although that seemed a bit boastful – look at me, and all my adventurous food! But a bit of quick research dissuaded me from that – I haven’t actually eaten much weird stuff. And I don’t really want to. I’m not going into one-up-man-ship with someone who eats grasshopper brains. Sorry, no.

And it can be so pretty, too!

But as with so many weird things, it’s subjective. I very clearly remember a kid at primary school, whose mum had given him a raw egg instead of a hard boiled one. He put raisins in it and ate it perfectly happily. Which, you know, it was primary school. I was only there until around about the time I turned seven, so it was before that. At that age you’re not all that far on from eating worms. But I also remember that in high school, there was a boy who brought raw onion and garlic sandwiches to school every day. I’m not at all sure how he had any friends. Not ones that would sit next to him, anyway. So I guess it’s less about what’s weird, and more about what’s not everyone else’s norm.

So, in a very rambling way, I’ve come to the whole point of the blog, which is that if you were to decide to save me from potential kitchen fires, here’s some things that apparently I’m weird for liking/disliking. I know this because my friends have told me, and if you can’t count on your friends to point out your weirdness (in a loving way), who else is there?


New Zealand Marmite. On proper French bread, with salted butter. And pain au raisin for afters. Heaven.

Love:

1. New Zealand Marmite. We need to be specific here. This is not the same as that axle-grease-coloured, treacly goop the English call Marmite. Not at all. It’s beautifully thick and dark, and I bring at least two big jars back every time I go home for a visit. I also rationed one small jar for a year after the Christchurch earthquakes damaged the factory and it had to shut down. My aunt was trying to bribe me to send it back to her.

2. Vinegar. When I was a kid I used to drink it from the bottle when Mum wasn’t looking. Having graduated from that, I now put it on everything I can get away with. I mean, if it’s balsamic, that’s positively civilised, right?

3. Peanut butter and jam on toast – I picked this up from American friends when I was a kid. Definitely use jam instead of jelly, and crunchy peanut butter, though. It’s particularly good on either really dark rye bread, or rye biscuits.

4. Green pears. Crunchy, not that tasty, but yes. Love them. Can only buy them one at a time though, because otherwise they ripen (ugh).

5. Cheese. Cheese cheese cheese. Wallace and Grommit know what they’re talking about. Plus I live in France, and I’m pretty such you’re not allowed to do that unless you love cheese.

It looks so deceptively pretty. But I KNOW – under all that lovely fruit and cream is a horrible, sweet, sticky mess.

Hate:

1. Pavlova. Yes, I know it’s basically New Zealand’s national dessert, and someone will make it for every Christmas or birthday or barbecue, but no. Fruit, yes. Cream, yes. Pasty crunchy/soggy/sticky/weeping egg mountain? No.

2. Veggie meat substitutes. I’m okay, thanks. I don’t want a slice of moulded tofu, coloured to look like luncheon meat on the turn and tasting of something left behind the kitchen bin for a month or so.

3. Sweet potatoes/kumara. Again, a national dish. But – sweet! Potato! What was wrong with regular potato? Why does it have to be sweet? And what’s with that weird claggy texture? Who thought this was a good idea? Really? I’m also deeply suspicious of sultanas in coleslaw and pineapple on pizza. It’s just not right.

4. Ripe pears. Squidgy, tasteless, dribbly pears. When you eat them it feels like someone’s already chewed them for you. Ugh.

5. Spaghetti in a can. This is not comfort foot. This is horror in a tin. Besides, as a kid I was really seasick once not long after eating spaghetti in a can. I won’t inflict the details on you. Just – no. Also why I’ll never touch strawberry milk. The memories. The horror.

Balance, yes?

So now you know what to serve me if I come over for dinner and you want to either make me into a happy writer or scare me away forever. How about you? What can I make you (if I promise not to set fire to anything)? Pet likes and dislikes?

25 thoughts on “Writer Fuel

  1. It causes me no end of frustration that I need to eat virtually every freaking day. Talk about being over something. I mostly eat whatever I can get my hands on when my body tells me it’s time to eat, which half the day at work is dry cereal or nuts and green apples. But I’d be so much happier if I didn’t have to bother with the whole eating rigmarole.

    And Vegemite is better than Marmite.

    1. I agree, it is a design flaw – but without it we’d miss out on cake. And cookies. And chocolate. And avocados. I’m willing to put up with the constant demands of my stomach for those.

      And how has your citizenship not been revoked? Are you sure you’re not Australian?

      1. How about this. We can eat, but we don’t have to eat. Then we can have cookies and cake when we want, but we don’t have to figure out what to have for dinner every single day.

        I’m not even going to answer that.

        1. Hmm. I could get behind that. The figuring out what to have for lunch/dinner is definitely the hard bit. When the SO’s away I tend to eat the exact same salad every day until I can’t stand it any more – it’d be nice not to have to do that. Plus then we could eat as much cake and cookies as we wanted.

          I’ll give you a pass on the Marmite because my Dad’s​ a Vegemite fan too.

          But he’s Scottish. 😉

  2. I’m also a veggie-writer-who-adores-food. High five!

    Did you go to school in a Lewis Carroll novel? Raw egg and raisins?! Raw garlic and onion sandwiches?! What did you take for lunch, a Marmite and vinegar smoothie with batons of green pear to dip in it?

    If you come for dinner I can serve you any of my specialties:
    – Aloo gobi (spiced potato [regular] and cauliflower)
    – Kitchari (rice and dal served with 10x the recommended portion of mixed pickle)
    – Thai green curry with peas, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans
    – Risotto with spinach and chestnut mushrooms
    – Butternut squash and green bean stew (though maybe not, if you don’t like sweet potato)
    – Aubergine and broccoli stroganoff

    We can have poached pears for dessert?

    As for me… I got weird looks at the sandwich shop when I ordered a cucumber roll. A bread roll with just cucumber. Apparently the staff there never get weird cravings. I get confused questions when I order a cheeseless pizza. I also like jalapenos on toast. And sometimes for dinner I have plain spaghetti pasta with butter, salt and pepper. Mmm.

    Dislikes – Olives, which are Satan’s shriveled testicles. Courgette/zucchini (it’s like eating hot, floppy cucumber). Mushrooms that squelch when you bite into them – they have to be small and well cooked for me. Sundried tomatoes, and sauces made primarily with tomatoes – I can eat them if I have to, but I much prefer raw tomatoes to cooked. Marmite, I’m afraid.

    I also have a kind of instinctive rage reaction to ravioli, having been served it five years in a row at every frickin’ company event. I don’t think chefs should be allowed to call themselves chefs unless they can come up with something more interesting than ravioli for the veggie option. And they shouldn’t be allowed to call it an “option” when it’s THE ONLY POSSIBLE CHOICE. But I’m not bitter or anything.

    1. The dreaded veggie option! My pet hate is the ‘option’ of vegetarian lasagna – really, do you have *no* imagination? Also couscous, which is usually laced with pumpkin and sultanas for some obscure reason (you were entirely accurate with your guess regarding my opinion of butternut squash). I do, in fact, like both couscous and veggie lasagna, but it’s quite disheartening when that’s all you can find on the menu when you go out.

      I never thought how Wonderland-ish those lunches sounded! Mine was quite ordinary, from memory – although I don’t like butter in sandwiches, or tomatoes (they make the bread soggy, I like them otherwise), so I do remember for a while there that my lunch consisted of dry bread with lettuce. Maybe cheese, although I don’t remember that.

      And can I come over to be fed immediately? I love the sound of all your meals! (Butternut squash excepted, of course) Yay for veggie writers!

      1. I’m so with you on the tomatoes! I don’t mind them (or cucumber) in sandwiches if they’re freshly made, but once it’s been sitting with the juice seeping into the bread? Ew ew ew, kill it with fire.

        You can come for dinner anytime. I just can’t guarantee that the food will be free of cat hair…

        1. Soggy sandwiches are truly evil, and probably can’t even be killed with fire, seeing as they’re so soggy. Nasty AND indestructible. Gah.

          And what dinner is complete without cat hair? All my meals come with a garnish of cat hair. Most of my cups of tea, too.

  3. Ooh, food! I don’t know how to cook to save my life, and I know even less about baking, but I love to eat. All kinds of things. I’m happy to try out new things that I’ve never had before, even if they’re weird (I won’t be having chicken feet again, but I wouldn’t say no to roasted grasshoppers). I’m very curious about Vegemite and Marmite now (and what’s the difference anyway?). I’ve never had those. It’s something you smear on a piece of bread?

    As for the foods I dislike…the Finnish cuisine as a whole (okay, with the exception of reindeer stew and blueberry pie – I love those. The rest I can live without).

    1. Ah, the great Vegemite and Marmite debate! There are also two versions of Marmite – UK and NZ. The NZ one is the nicest, although I’ll eat the other two if I’m desperate. The taste’s not *that* different, but it’s not the same, either! It’s a yeast spread (which sounds weird), and you usually just have it with butter on bread. It’s quite a love it/hate it thing – when I was a kid Mum and I ate Marmite but Dad ate Vegemite – he swore it was because Marmite comes from between the back toes of kangaroos, while Vegemite is from the front toes. Which makes it much better, obviously.

      Chicken feet! That *is* adventurous. (It also sounds like a polite curse. “Chicken feet, that hurt!”) I’ve had chicken hearts in my pre-veggie days – they were actually pretty nice. And I know absolutely nothing about Finnish cuisine, but do they do pickled fish? I spent a few months in Denmark years ago, and everywhere you went were these wonderful slices of really dark bread, topped with pickled fish. I loved it!

      1. I’m not a fan of pickled fish. Yes, it occurs in Finland, Finns eat all kinds of fish, pickled, grilled, smoked, boiled, fried. Maybe that’s my problem. I only learned to love fish after I discovered sushi. 😀

        I’ve never seen chicken hearts on the menu, but I would try it. Marmite and Vegemite are definitely going on my list of food products to try out! It sounds so bizarre, I can’t even imagine what a brown yeast product tastes like. I must have it!

          1. Not that we’d *deliberately* hint at how yummy it is, or suggest that it’s even better than Nutella to the unsuspecting uninitiated. Of course not.

        1. You should! And tell us which you prefer. They basically taste salty. Don’t spread them on too thickly. I go with toast, butter, and vegemite.

          1. Toast, butter and Marmite. And yep, they both taste salty, but they’re different kinds of salty. Not that we think you should pick sides or anything…

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