Friday, November 25, 2005

Paean to Pecan Pie

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a Happy Thanksgiving. I had an excellent, semi-lazy day myself, thank you. And during the preparations and the celebration thereof, I came to the realization that I have definite purist tendencies when it comes to food.

I am a Southerner, which means food has meaning beyond mere nourishment. And that there are certain things that food Should be. Mashed potatoes, for instance, should involve actual potatoes, the kind you have to peel, cut up, boil and then mash. Sweet potatoes are vegetables. And they are perfectly delicious just as they are--maybe with some butter once they're baked. They're better with a little texture and substance, not obliterated into some baby food puree. If you want to gussy them up some, a nice glaze over thick slices is good--honey and lime juice makes a great glaze. They don't need to be turned into candy with brown sugar and marshmallows. Yeah, we had sweet potatoes with that glaze for Thanksgiving.

The food that tends to bring out my purist tendencies the most, however, is pecan pie. (The correct pronunciation of which is pe-CAN. The other way refers to cans of peas, not the perfect nut.)

Pecan pie is the quintessential Southern dessert, as far as I am concerned. Yes, banana pudding and coconut cake with lemon filling and buttermilk pie (which I am inordinately fond of as well) are all genuine Southern desserts, but there's just something about a pecan pie...

And people just keep messing with it, when the original is already perfection. A pecan pie needs a plain, short pastry crust, and a filling with corn syrup, butter, sugar (brown or white, either one), eggs and pecans. Nothing else. Well, okay, a little rum or bourbon for flavor is acceptable. But no chocolate. No pumpkin. No coconut or cream cheese or other adulterants.

Pecan pie should be gooey, not gummy-sticky (like those disgusting things they sell at convenience stores, with their ground pecans and doughey crust). The filling below the pecans should be translucent, almost transparent, and the pecans should preferably be halves. I know sometimes it's hard to get those big pieces out of the shells whole, but the pieces should as big as possible. The crust should be brown and flaky. Storebought pie crusts that you unroll and lay in the pan are perfectly acceptable. Lord knows, the Pillsbury Doughboy makes better pie crust than I do.

This year's pie turned out absolutely perfect. Which is why I only make one per year. Because by this time next week, I will doubtless have eaten the whole thing by myself, alas. It's all I can do to limit myself to one piece per day.

Hmm. Maybe I should wax this poetic about my writing, ya think?

What brings out your purist tendencies?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Writing Moods

C.E. Murphy, of Urban Shaman fame, noted that when she looked at her TBR shelf (you only have ONE, Catie?), she usually just shrugs and toddles off to write on her own story which is what she was in the mood for really. And sometimes I can do that. But sometimes, that doesn't work either.

When I'm sitting at my work table (I'm one of those throwback freaks who works in longhand, remember), looking out the window hoping for squirrels or Mrs. Chamberlain's dog to wander by so I have something to look at other than the Bermuda grass growing in my flower bed, thinking I'm not really in the mood to write, it helps to figure out why I don't want to put pen to paper and write something down.

The why dictates what I do. Sometimes I'm just being a whiny baby who would rather goof off than write. And sometimes I'm having an actual mini-writer's block because I'm not sure which direction the story needs to go. For the whiny-baby thing, I make myself Do It Anyway. Write Anyway.

Sometimes, I get into it, the story starts to flow and the whiny-baby mood goes away. Other times, I get a page or two written and everything just sort of poops out, or I start falling asleep over my papers or I keep thinking about the silly characters in the TV series on DVD I just got instead of my Own characters and the stupid brain won't settle down. In those instances, I'm usually better off to give myself a break.

Two pages is better than none, I say. It's okay to stop now. I go take a nap if I'm falling asleep. Or I go watch the rest of the episodes (I really hate that I didn't discover Firefly until after it was canceled.) to get them out of my system and locked into the brain. Or I take the stuff that is happening in the story and I get out my current "blank book" and free-write about it till I figure out what went wrong, if anything, and what needs to happen next. Naps followed by the freewriting help a lot.

Last week, I didn't write as much as I wanted to. 23 pages, as opposed to the 30 I had for my goal. Of course 23 is much better than the Zero pages I wrote the week before, so it's all relative. Anyway, I wasn't sure I could get untracked today, so before I started writing (after I started the dishwasher and put on a load of laundry), I hauled out my big pink-and-green blank book with the Carmen Miranda lady on the front and wrote a bunch of stuff. And when I got to the work table, it clicked. I didn't even get to the part I worked out in the journal. So I still have that waiting for tomorrow. Whoopee.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


This has been a rather bizarre week for me. While I read less when I'm working really hard on the story, I still read a lot. Last week, I read a total of two books. (Star Doc by S.L. Viehl and Marriage, Interrupted (Silhouette Special Edition) by Karen Templeton--both very good.) I bought nine or ten books (good thing the spouse doesn't read this blog--not sure the spouse even knows I have a blog) this past week (among them the two I read), and most of them still sit on the TBR pile.

And isn't that thought depressing? I have a TBR PILE. I have a whole bookcase--I'm talking three shelves on an entire piece of furniture--that is for my as-yet-unread books, and the books have metastasized to the floor and even the giant large bookcase that is supposed to be only for keepers and reference books. And every time (after I read the two books I read) I went to pick up a book to read, I'd look at it--even though I might have read the opening pages in the bookstore, which influenced me to buy the dang thing--and I'd put it down again. I just wasn't in the mood to read it. I wasn't in the mood, apparently, to read anything. Because I haven't. Not since Wednesday. And for me that's a really long time.

I have a wide variety of stuff on my TBR shelves (and pile), from historical mysteries to romantic suspense to series romance to romantic fantasy to "pure" fantasy to alternate histories to... well, to a history of the Black Death in the Middle Ages. And Nothing struck my moody self as desirable to read.

Moods can be problematic in writing as well. Sometimes you're just not in the mood to write. Or to write fantasy, or to write that stupid love scene, or... And when there is a deadline looming over you, too bad, so sad, sit your butt down in that chair and write it anyway. Get yourself in the mood.

How do you do that? Get past that--"I want to read, but I don't know what/I need to write but I'm not in the mood"--kind of feeling?

I'll do my best to be back here before the week is out and post a follow-up to this about what I do. (Reading...nothing. It'll pass, and till it does, well, there are always crossword puzzles to be worked...) Hopefully, I'll remember to show up soon. Maybe even tomorrow.

Then again, maybe not. (Yeah, I know. Sloppy blogger. I admit it.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Yep, it's been a while

I've been away. Some of the time I was away, I was actually here--well, not here here, you understand, since I'm not pixilated, but at home. However, I was taking care of two of my grandboys--aged 4 years old and 18 months. Do I need to mention how wiped out that left me? Especially since they brought me presents in the form of germs.

We had a great time. We went to the park two days in a row--the local park doesn't compare with big city parks, but there is a slide and swings, and a stone bridge over a dry creek (if it hasn't rained lately, and it's been a while) and these are little kids. Doesn't take much to impress them. We also had a large appliance box and room for it in the living room. It was a popular attraction. Of course, the little one still needs a nap, while big brother doesn't. And big brother crashes about 9 p.m. while baby brother has to be coerced into sleeping by 11, which didn't leave me much time for sleeping, but hey...who needs sleep? Needless to say, there was no time for writing, and not much time on the computer, which had to be turned completely off when I left it for fear of things happening to it.

They've all gone home now, and I miss them, but I'm glad I got to give them back. Then I took a week to get over all the stuff they gave me. And now I'm hard back at work. Relatively speaking. Only got four pages written today. I like to get six done in a day's work, minimum. But I give myself allowances for when I'm just getting started back. That said, I want to tell you that I have an interview up on a friend's blog. Nalini Singh is a fabulous author. She asked a lot of ... interesting questions. Go by and take a look. The story of the origins of The One Rose trilogy is there.