Cooking (and Writing) For One

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My Ma used to say: You. Don’t Cook. Just. For. One. Person.

But here, in the country, alone in a cabin for the better part of the month, how I do cook.

It’s a form of creativity. It’s a relief from, or an adjunct to, the writing. It’s something to do in the evenings, after the General Store closes at 7 and the forest closes in around the cabin, a blanket of darkening green.

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I did most of the cooking when The Anti Poverty Organizer was visiting. She didn’t mind (though she would have been happy with leftovers, too). The well-equipped kitchen in this cabin is a joy to work in, with its stainless steel counters, its row of beloved Le Creuset pots, its eclectic range of spices. Whoever designed this kitchen loves cooking – or loved someone who loves cooking.

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My first night on my own I friend up local spot prawns that I’d bought from the genteel, dignified fish guy in Gibson’s (Beddis Fish Co. on the docks). Large, tender, and sweet, those prawns demanded very little: some minced garlic, butter, a squeeze of lemon, a handful of orange cherry tomatoes from Trout Lake Farmer’s Market in Vancouver. I ate them with rice and tossed greens from The Painter’s garden. I moaned as I ate.

Cooking for one is different. It’s a conscious gift to yourself. It’s a slow food kind of thing. You have no deadline, so you do cook more slowly, appreciating the changes in smell and texture. You listen to the radio as you chop vegetables, sometimes arguing with it (it seems CBC’s pro-war-in-Afghanistan stance is more emphatic than ever).

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Yesterday I made blackberry pie, from the frozen wild berries picked last summer, that The Painter gave me. The day before, a chowder featuring wild local Sockeye.

And writing? Yes, that too.

The first few days here, I wrote in spurts, and napped in between.

I am writing memoir, again. You have to dig deep with this genre, and sleep is a refuge from the stirring and rearranging of memories. But now, in my second week here, I’m able to write most of the day, creative muscles more toned than before. The writing is soothing, disturbing, enlightening, tedious, exciting, exhausting, stimulating.

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In some ways, I’m writing the same way that I’m cooking – for an audience of one. Memoir is a highly charged genre, and involves ethical questions of truth and accountability. As Irish memoirist Nuala O’Faolian put it, it’s a genre that comes alive most fully after it’s published, because people – especially those you’ve written about – will question and argue with details large and small. In that sense, it’s a very interactive genre too.

But for now I’ve put all that aside. I want everything in the open: broad strokes, a large canvas. The editing comes later.

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Writing for one is different. It is restorative. It’s a tug-of-war with the self.

I feel like I’m pulling in nets, yanking on heavy ropes, hand over hand. The nets are empty, or they’re full, but it’s time to pull in.

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