Here are the ways the universe tells me to write:
1. Every day.
2. Before the sun rises.
3. In an uncluttered space.
4. With a view of the mountains/ocean/garden/hilltop.
5. With a cup of coffee.
6. Whether I want to or not.
7. With classical music.
8. With a daily word count.
9. With no internet access.
10. Without reading what I've written.
Here's how I write:
1. Every day, mostly, but sometimes I cook instead.
2. After the sun rises, but before it sets. I'm neither a Knight Rider, nor a night writer.
3. On a catastrophically cluttered desk. Seriously, my desk is so messy small animals probably lie dead under all the papers, magazines, moleskins, and folders.
4. With a view of a wall. Classy.
5. With a cup of tea, or a bowl of cereal, or a dish of almonds, or a crumbly piece of toast that's dried out by the time I eat it.
6. When I feel driven, and motivated, and inspired. I get a tightness in my chest; so far it hasn't been a heart attack.
7. In complete silence.
8. With no daily word count.
9. With internet access dangling her seductive tresses in my face at every possible turn.
10. With constant self-editing.
But cooking, that's different. Here's how I cook:
1. Every day, several times a day, except on vacation, when I'm a lazy bum.
2. After the sun rises, and after I've drunk a cup of tea so strong it jangles my eyeballs.
3. In a kitchen that starts out clean, then looks like it was hit by a Mac truck trailing a meteor hitched to a cyclone.
4. With a view of my table and its syrup spills, and the scratchy spot where I scraped off the menorah wax with a knife. (Don't do this.)
5. With lots of nibble breaks, and more tea, and then tea, and then nibbles.
6. Whether or not I feel like cooking, though honestly, I usually do, because it's a great change from writing and being seduced by the internet's hair.
7. With noise. NPR, or loud radio. If a mattress commercial comes on, I yell at people who aren't there.
8. Three meals a day, plus work recipes, plus snacky things for the boys who call my house home.
9. With internet access, so I can beam pictures of my snacky things into space. I need help.
10. With constant editing. More salt, squeeze of lemon, kick of pepper, grate of cheese, zest of lime.
So the next time someone passes around a link to a profile of some writer who works in spartan, idealized circumstances, or some cook in a beautiful, pristine kitchen, you can just click over here and feel better about yourself. Because I'm a writer, and a cook, and I pretty much do everything wrong.
Recipe for Honey-Glazed Almonds with candied fennel
If you like sweet/crunchy snacky things with a mysterious edge, these are for you. Bonus: fennel seeds help freshen breath, so find someone to breathe on when you're done snacking.
Makes 2-1/4 cups
2 cups raw whole almonds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons candied fennel (available at Indian markets)
Set almonds on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in a preheated 350 oven, 5 to 8 minutes, until one shade darker. Cool.
Meanwhile, in a small, dry saucepan (large enough to eventually hold the almonds), toast the fennel seeds over medium heat until fragrant and beginning to darken slightly, shaking the pan constantly, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add honey, sea salt, and pepper. Stir vigorously with a heatproof spatula until honey foams and liquefies, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Add almonds, and stir quickly to coat. Scrape onto a silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet, nudging the nuts into a single layer. Cool completely.
Break the glazed almonds into small clusters or individual pieces, toss with the candied fennel, and serve. Store leftovers airtight.