Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
Everyone is welcome here.
(Some links or topics may not be completely kid-appropriate.)


Tue, Oct 12 2010

Writers need freezers and then you must (not) boil cans.

I'm doing some writing this week, but also took time to work with my spouse to clean out the big freezer. (The door got left a little ajar awhile back and some of the contents seemed compromised at worse and unappetizing at least.) We weeded out the items that were in sad shape and also found some frozen sunflower seeds that made local birds very happy. Now we have less to eat, but we can find it faster. And every writer needs a fast meal to help out now and then when the work-in-progress is barreling along and the writer has no thought of stopping the whole flow to peel potatoes and invent a meatloaf from a sixth-pound of ground turkey, a few stale crackers and a few packets of condiments.

Since food has been on the mind a lot in one form or another, I'll invite you to check out a recipe for Salted Dulce de Leche Cookies from The Crepes of Wrath. I should warn you that making the filling involves what I've always been told is very dangerous. You boil sweetened condensed milk in cans. If you've ever tasted any of the dark, rich results of this culinary procedure you'll probably do it anyway, so I'll just keep my warnings to myself. And as long as you're not trying this at home and all, you should know that chilling the stuff and then serving slices of it atop pineapple slices and sprinkling with coconut, toasted or not, will evoke noises from make your dinner guests that will make your neighbors think you're all over there enjoying a lot more than dinner. (While you're at The Crepes of Wrath you should look around for other recipes, both savory and sweet.)

posted at: 16:59 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Mon, Aug 16 2010

A simple feast

This blog post is about food. If you came looking for writer support, forgive me. I had to think about food a lot this past weekend and I had to either write a culinary blog post or put more food into my fiction. (That latter option isn't a bad one, of course.)

We had lunch out last weekend at a little place just inland from here. It was full of old world charm and antiques, vintage glass lamps inside and adobe styling outside. The menu was short and simple and the food was simple and satisfying, but not boring. How is it that some cooks can take the most basic ingredients and come up with food that rivals fancier dishes and still make you feel pampered and special?

I also made cookies yesterday, using a recipe we usually utilize at Christmas. We shared them with friends and I was reminded of how silly it is that we tend to cram all the goodies into a few weeks at the end of the calendar year. The cookies were not surrounded by six other varieties and were the star of the occasion, dusted with a little powdered sugar and enjoyed for their own merits, instead of being part of a cookie buffet.

I'm going to put this in the food category of the blog, but the truth is that it still makes me think of writing fiction. Fiction, skillfully presented, gives a certain satisfaction to both writer and reader. It comes out much the way a good sculpture begins with a block of material and elements are taken away until it has just the right form and dimension. It may be part of an intricate thought process, but the experience we get from sharing in its story feels complete, authentic and maybe even inevitable.

posted at: 22:39 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Fri, Oct 16 2009

Chili as transitional food

We made a batch of chili yesterday to accommodate a friend who has lots of trouble eating foods that contain any dairy products. Chili is a great dish to work with. To minimize any other problems we also made the chili vegetarian, so we worked with a ready-made product that mimics the texture of browned ground beef. If you're on the cusp of trying a vegetarian diet, chili is perfect to experiment with because there are so many herbs and spices in it that you won't miss the real ground beef. (I say this realizing that some folks use shredded/chopped ground beef or turkey or other meat products.) Curry dishes also lend themselves well to a vegetarian treatment. If you're feeding a "mixed" crowd, the stronger-flavored dishes are your best bet for making carnivores and vegetarians/vegans all have happy taste buds.

I would be happy to share the recipe for chili, but the truth is that there is no recipe. We have favorite things we put into the pot, but we don't measure. It's probably never the same any two times we make it. The best advice I can give you is to choose a recipe you already like and slowly change it to meet the needs of your vegetarian friends/family. I hear that there is a big issue with cocoa powder, because the regulation of foreign matter is not strict. If that isn't a problem for you, add a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder to your chili. It will give it a great undertone of richness that you probably won't get any other way. The other preference we have is lots of canned, diced tomatoes. Just get out a pot and start playing. Eat the experiments in a bowl or layered in haystacks, the way we did last night. Enjoy.

posted at: 11:54 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Fri, Oct 02 2009

Crockpot living

I overfilled the crockpot this morning and was barely able to make the lid sit on top of it all. I had to set the appliance on High for the first couple of hours in order for all that food to cook in time for tonight's dinner. It's always difficult to judge these things when filling the grocery cart. I see the separate ingredients and know they'll cook down once they have spent time in the crock liner. I always buy too many carrots and I always underestimate the amount of liquid the crockpot contents will produce during the cooking process. The price of the fully-loaded crockpot makes me blink a time or two in the store until I remember that we'll get more than one meal out of that appliance. And we do. By the time we've used up most of the contents we are tired of it all.

This post really was about crockpot cooking. But read it again. It's full of metaphors for a lot of other things in life. I hope your weekend is so full of good things that you can't keep a lid on it.

posted at: 18:35 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Mon, May 11 2009

The great tomato-growing season has begun

We started the vegetable crop this weekend with tomato plants: one San Francisco Fog, two Early Girl and one Sweet One-Hundred. We are close to the coast, and the tendency toward cool nights and morning marine layer plays havoc with almost all tomato growing attempts in this neighborhood. Commercial growers raise brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuce and strawberries in rows you that go on for acres, but if you want a great canteloupe or tomato, this is not the optimum place to be. Still, some of us love a fresh tomato from the garden so much that we keep trying. We place ours in heat-attracting black planters and add a watering system that gives plenty of water without soaking the leaves and making them prone to mildew and wilt. We've tried all sorts of tricks for the inevitably cool nights, with varying results. We're a lot more dependent on the climate cycles than we'd like to be. Raising the plants on a platform or raised bed helps get that morning sun, when there is morning sun, to the plants a bit earlier, so we've added that tactic the last year or two. Hopefully, we'll get at least a few tasty treats for sandwiches or salad. It isn't a cost-effective way to get tomatoes, but the returns in taste always seem worth it when the fruit does well. Next year we may coaxing one of the plants into an espalier, since they have a natural tendency to vine anyway. If we fail with our experiments we can still visit the local produce stands, whose tomatoes probably come from hotter climates with less fog.

posted at: 08:46 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Tue, Apr 07 2009

Potato salad anyway

I had planned to make potato salad this week. Since there are only two of us, I often make a big batch that we can enjoy for a couple of days, even to the point of making it a main dish. With this in mind, I was hoping for potato salad weather. To me, potato salad weather means sun and warmth with a high likelihood of dining al fresco. What we seem to be having instead is rain, accompanied by temperatures in the mid-50s and very little chance that dining on potato salad outdoors will result in anything except potato salad soup in a soggy paper plate. But since the celery and green onions were fresh and ready to chop, I made potato salad anyway. The flavors are blending in the refrigerator for a few hours while we work up an appetite at our respective jobs. I'll be typing now with dishpan hands.

posted at: 12:39 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Fri, Apr 03 2009

Vegetarianism equals binging? It may not be carrots and broccoli at fault

If being a vegetarian at a young age increases the risk of binge eating and using unhealthy weight control measures, we should be careful to examine all sides of the issue. It's entirely possible that the actual foods children eat may not be the main factor. Some parents who feed a child a vegetarian diet may stress the importance of vegetarianism for their own emotional or spiritual needs and may inadvertently put pressure on the child to conform to those parental standards. As a child grows, peer pressure and institutional teachings can add further pressure to conform. I recall being introduced to the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a young adult and finding that there are certain individuals within the denomination who stress vegetarianism to the point of making it a requirement to pass through trials just before the Second Coming of Christ. Say what you will, but that's a lot of pressure, particularly when placed on little children who are still learning to think abstractly. (I'm not picking on Adventists, but am using the denomination as an example because I'm very familiar with the sociology of Adventist congregations. The basic principle would be applied to any school, church or other social that extends family life into a larger circle of influence.)

There are a lot of great reasons to be a vegetarian. But we need to remember that physical food has additional spiritual, emotional and social significance in all our lives. I hope researchers will take these things into account as they study to find out how to help children make wise food choices that will take them into their adult years.

posted at: 09:30 | category: /Food | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
and cattle rustlin'! Lightning may strike
such varmints when they least expect it!