As a freelance food writer, I often lose myself in the required ventriloquism of simultaneously working for multiple publications.
I had given up accessing my hip twenty-something voice when I became a hip thirty-something, and now at (a hip) forty-something, naturally settled into a more mature and comfortable toggle between culinary professional, activist, and humorist.
The transition from one voice to the next can sometimes take days if I’ve been writing in one particular voice for too long. This transition is my writer’s block – a period of hellacious identity disorder: I write. I make a lap around the kitchen. I write. I step onto the porch. I write. I delete. I think about how much I hate the moment in which I find myself and make another lap around the kitchen, diverting attention to the piece of celery that tumbled onto the floor the night before and found its resting place under the refrigerator. I write. The celery stays put.
The majority of my daily writing revolves around strict and stodgy culinary-related curricula that, although provides an authoritative voice on a resume, offers little creativity. But it pays the bills. When in activist mode (my favorite), my writing is angry for weeks – don’t even think about telling me saturated fat and bacon causes heart disease, I’ll verbally kick your ass. When in mom-mode, I am my true self, poking fun at everyday normality, because really, when you think about how you spend your day as a mom, you wonder who the hell invented all of these expectations; it makes me laugh.
A recipe and head note request for (more) creative ways to use the influx of summer zucchini hit my mailbox Tuesday morning. Unable to access the repressed witty and clever voice in my head needed to form cohesive paragraphs that somehow combine mom-centric humor with easy-to-fix meals that kiddos and husbands alike would celebrate, I hesitated to accept the project, knowing it couldn’t be touched until Friday – it would take that long to transition my writing voice from uptight curricula girl to mom-tart with a no-nonsense approach to dinner, kids, and family.
During transition days, British documentaries put the lost intellect back into my words, which frequently go missing after multiple semesters of working with overconfident culinary students whose kitchen vernacular revolves around variations of the word “fuck” as a result of watching marathons of No Reservations and Hell’s Kitchen. Alternating between episodes of Joel McHale’s Community and BBC comedies put me in a brilliant state of mind, reminding me how to weave humorous recitations into everyday conversation, while curiously contemplating the consequences of an American interjecting Blighty words like bloke, bloody, dandy, and wanker. To an American, everything sounds better with a British accent, even “wanker.” I don’t think it works the other way around though.
Friday arrived. As predicted, I saw a glint of inner tart appearing on the page, but it took something as brazen as Giles Coren’s essay on spanking to pull me out of this hell known as writer’s block – something from which he apparently never suffers, the bastard. While hovering over the food journalist’s fumbling world of unchartered foreplay, I found myself smiling, laughing, wondering who the hell invented all of these expectations. And in a snap, it happened. Zucchini was suddenly sexy again, words were flowing, humor was at my disposal, and the ever-critical, always handsome Coren, my muse.
Keep spanking me, Giles. I have a lot of writing to do.