Ever since I was a child, I thought I’d write a book. I didn’t imagine it would be a book about cooking. A story based on teaching my old, estranged adopted father how to manage a knife, a pan and a pound of mince. And even stranger still is the relationship I have with the book, now it is written. I can only say (never having had one) that it feels much like having a child.
So I’ve been through the conception that took the idea from my mind and started committing it to paper. Then came the gestation, a long and sometime indigestible experience, where the content took twists and turns and many rewrites to sustain the direction and meaning. The pace slowed and accelerated, reversed and halted, while doubts, enthusiasms and renewed energies took their place. Ultimately the momentum was maintained to complete it. Almost. Needless to say the last chapter took the longest. Like not wanting to give it up. Indeed, it is undeniably true that for me writing the book was the pleasurable bit, not finishing it.
Now it’s born, all I have wanted is to see it flourish in the world. So the search began for a publisher, someone to bless the birth. Someone who delights in the charm of the child and realises that with the right upbringing everyone else will too.
But of course this is hard because this child of mine is illegitimate (neither asked for nor born into a good family) and most want me to change it, for it to be the same as the others (‘what no recipes?’) or tell me that if only it was such and such or more of that or this. And of course, there is the name. What do I call this bastard child? There have been many versions and monikers. But I don’t want to burden it with a name that will be laughed at in the playground or make people think my child is something other than it is.
This is a book that simply tells of cooking as it is. Not a secret art that only the initiated can understand. But that instinctive creative process that so many of our mothers and grandmothers exercised without even thinking (how typical that since cooking has become the man’s art that we’ve turned it into an almost unattainable skill). It’s not that I don’t believe in recipes but they teach us to cook by numbers. In a nation where most of the population is dying from its diet, we can’t afford for cooking or healthy ingredients to be something only the middle class foodie or bookish types can aspire to.
I am getting some interest and enthusiasm for this child of mine. I know it will never bring me riches, but I may have the confidence to bring another into the world. And when I don’t feel inspired, I have a fish supper or beans on toast.
Postscript: Within 2 days of writing this post, I was offered contract with a lovely independent called Spring Hill Books. Happy Days!
(thanks to Robert Littleford for his wonderful, inspired illustrations)