Bruce Robert Coffin here, introducing a debut guest blogger to Maine Crime Writers. Peter Murray is a friend, fellow retired cop, and fellow writer (although he cringes each time I call him that). Pete is also a tremendously talented chef. As he will tell you, the art of cuisine shares much with the art of writing. Pete sent me the following blog which I will now share with you. It made me smile and made me hungry. Bon appetite!
Written with Permission
I wanted to start my writing day by making a couple of observations. Well, I have already made them, but I am about to write them down so that I can remember them in time of need. The first significant thing that happened this weekend is that my wife went away. That cuts both ways. I miss her, and the house seems empty despite my mother-in-law, two dogs, and three cats, all of whom demand that I feed them. But feeding them, particularly mother-in-law, who I call “Visa” because she seems to be everywhere I want to be, has lead to revelations.
The result of my wife’s absence, aside from no distractions of vacuum cleaning, litter box sanitation in my writing space, and interruptions for other domestic intercourse (Not what you’re thinking. I would gladly stop for that) is that I have of necessity moved my writing to the dining room table. This facilitates a watchful eye on Visa and allows me to cook with minimal interruption to my writing.
Inasmuch as I enjoy cooking, and do it professionally, I have often noted that routine of preparation allows a great deal of time being given over to the muse. In a professional setting, which is most often the case, I have neither the time or the indulgence of my employer to stop amid a Hollandaise sauce to jot notes, rewrite sentences, or play around with a herring, be it red or smoked.
When cooking, and thinking about writing, limitations are imposed upon the written word. When writing and cooking those limitations are put in juxtaposition. Momentary synapse collapse is overcome by letting things stew, stirring gently until thickened.
Observation number two: Although that I am, and on various levels at various times always have been, I choke on the phrase, “a writer.” If I do manage to spit it out, I have to overcome the temptation to leap forward mouth wide open and snatch it back like a hungry trout devouring a caddis fly. If I saw at lumber, am I a carpenter?
Save for newspaper articles, several under a pseudonym, reposing in the stack of the historical society, I have produced nothing. The word nothing does not fully describe my state of being. Nothing is nothing, nada, zilch, an empty space. My nothing comes with insecurity, self-doubt and the unshakable feeling that I should get my lazy ass out the door and earn a living. At the very least, I should make something.
Yesterday, writing as described above, I finished a short story. “Damn, I like it,” I said to no one. “No one else will,” someone answered. I put it away to let it percolate, to steep, to let its flavor maturate. It was then that banter (via Facebook of course) turned to gumbo.
The gumbo Kate Flora was cooking of a literary nature. It engender a literal rendition in my kitchen. Amid the chopping of the trinity, the slicing of the andouille and the cooking of the roux, I recalled an article, published only on my blog, that I had written some time back.
Kate to my mind is the queen of Maine Crime Writers, a Katherine the Great in the fiefdom of mystery and suspense. I dared not approach the throne with my treatise on gumbo. Instead, I sent it to Bruce, a friend, fellow law enforcement comrade, and at that moment acting as jester in our Facebook audience with royalty.
It was not my intent for him to publish. I had only sent him the article so that he might glean just how serious the discussion of gumbo can get. There are opinions, dissents, concurrences and joins. The holding and the dicta, require reams. But publish it he did.
Of course, being a man of letters, he could not simply cut and paste. In way of introduction he wrote, “My friend, fellow law dog, and writer.” Our friendship, our brotherhood as former police officers, go beyond a click, a like, and a share. His acknowledging me as a writer has granted me a permission I could not give myself.
Her majesty commands you to produce the recipe at once.
And now I understand who (whom?) I should have consulted about making my fictional gumbo. Perhaps a cooking lesson is in order?
And by the way, in my guise as “Dr. Flora” or Doc, as Bruce calls me, I will give you another bit of wisdom to write on a post-it and stick on a wall somewhere: You are not anointed “writer” by people on the outside. Only you get to decide whether you are a writer. That decision, however, comes with a heavy burden. Now you have to write.
Great post. Makes me want to go into the kitchen and cook up something, but I think I’d better stay at my desk and stick to murder.
This is simply wonderful, and I feel the need to say that all the blogs I read, this is quite the magical territory. I suspect that folks from Maine have a different ideology and vision than the rest of the country; I am in NJ and feel the lure to come to Maine.
Thank you for this wonderful post and amazing recipe.
I’m so happy to see you here on MWC, Peter! Your post was great and I, too, now have a taste for (a) gumbo and (b) more of your writing!
Peter, thanks for sharing your wonderful writing.
And, Bruce, thanks for sharing Peter with us!