iPhoneography

I listened to a podcast interview of Sara Kate from the Kitchn this week on Joy the Baker’s “We’re about to Be Friends” show, and, in it, Sara Kate compares the immediacy of a photograph to the long work of writing. She says, from her perspective as a writer, there’s something so satisfying about taking a photograph and, those times when you get it right, knowing you’ve got it; it’s a very different kind of creative work than, say, writing, for example, in which you sometimes have to wrestle and fight and rewrite and pull out the words to say before you reach that same satisfying feeling.

egg | foodloveswriting.com

I was listening to the interview while I was in the kitchen working some dough together. And a few days later, while I sautéed vegetables, I thought of it again. When you go to the kitchen and combine some ingredients into something new, there’s a satisfaction in the immediacy, kind of like taking the right photograph, especially compared to the slower rewards of writing a long project.

chicken broth | foodloveswriting.com

Think about it. Wake up in the morning, nothing prepared, go to the stove and heat up broth; crack an egg into a bowl; and slide it in the warm pot for a few minutes. Scoop out the poached eggs onto toast, shave some Pecorino on top, sprinkle fresh thyme. That’s it, you’re done, there before you is your work completed. It’s nice. It’s comforting.

Writing an ebook, well, that’s another story. True, it’s not that different from writing a blog post. It’s longer and it’s more planned out, but it starts with the same process of opening up a Word document or a WordPress draft, putting words to paragraphs, writing your thoughts to be read. You may have an initial plan for what you want to say; you may have no idea. You sit there, you and the keyboard, willing the words to come, but knowing that, sometimes, they won’t. You also wonder, after some words are finally sitting there, if what you’re writing is any good.

heirloom eggs

I started the ebook project in early July, just before our trip to see family and visit the Wisconsin town where I used to spend weeks of summer as a kid. The ebook was Tim’s idea, something I never would have done on my own, maybe because of fear of commitment or fear of failure or a form of perfectionism or something else. But early this summer, he did me the great favor of forcing me to consider the ebook, something I could sit down and work on right now, and when push came to shove, I knew he was right. And so it was on that trip, while we were relaxing in the cool and the quiet of an Internet-free cabin, that I wrote the first chapter.

I remember looking at it, reading it to Tim, thinking, so this is how people write things like books? They just, write? And then, wow, there’s more value in blogging than people give it credit for. (I mean, seriously, have you read blogs these days? They’re good.)

pecorino

Of course, I know what you’re thinking, the difference between blogs and books is not as small as I want to make it—Books are edited and revised. Books go through some approval processes. Books are longer and more involved and often require more investment. I wrote an ebook, and it’s sort of a fine line saying if it’s more like a blog or a book at its heart.

All I know is that I had a first draft finished by mid-August, after many long work dates across from Tim at coffee shops and Saturday mornings holed up in the dark office/second bedroom where we rarely spend any time. I sent the draft to a few writers/editors/friends and waited. Tim and I went to Gulf Shores. I turned 30. Feedback came in; I worked at the book again.

poached eggs over toast

Right now, from where I type this post, the ebook is done. It’s edited. It’s formatted. All that’s missing are a few small design touches and it will launch. But right now, from where I type this post, we’re a long way from early July. We’re also hours of work (and yes, tears!) from that first moment when I looked at Tim and said, OK. Let’s do this.

And even though four months is nothing like the two years (or longer) typically involved in printed, published books, contrast it with the steps involved toward making a morning meal like this one. Idea to concept, we’re talking 20 minutes, tops.

In these days leading up to the book publishing, I think you can guess where you’ll find me.





Poached Eggs over Toast
Serves one

The idea for poaching an egg in broth comes from Tamar Adler, and the first time I did it, eating a bowlful while perched on the sofa next to Tim, I couldn’t stop talking about how creamy and comforting and flavorful the end result was.

Ingredients:
Enough chicken broth to be four inches deep in the pot
One egg
One (or one-and-a-half) teaspoon(s) vinegar
Salt
Olive oil
Pecorino and fresh thyme, for topping

Directions:
Toast a piece of your favorite bread and put it in the bottom of a bowl.

Bring broth to a boil over medium heat; then lower it to a simmer and add vinegar. Crack the egg into a bowl, making sure the yolk stays in tact; slide it into the simmering broth. After 90 seconds, you’ll see the egg starts to look like it’s poached; use a slotted spoon to scoop it out of the liquid, using your fingers to help if needed.

Place the egg on top of toast. Salt it and drizzle a little oil over the top. While everything is still hot, shave some Pecorino on top so it gets all melty. Sprinkle fresh thyme over that, if desired.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Abby

    I think any kind of writing can be so, so difficult. Sometimes I wonder if writing’s even worth the pain and struggle, and I have plenty of low moments. But reading other people’s words, and having those few moments of clarity where I know I’ve gotten my own words right, gives me a satisfaction I can’t get anywhere else.

    Congratulations on finishing the eBook! I’m super excited to read it.

  2. Erin

    Such great thoughts on writing here. I think that’s one reason why I started blogging, because in the midst of some longer term writing projects I wanted to write something that has more immediate results.

  3. Kathryne

    I’ve been thinking about writing a lot more lately and reading books on the subject. It’s hard for me because the words don’t always flow and I love—really love—the immediacy of the photograph, as you mentioned, and of being able to publish a blog post and get feedback within minutes. I’m a sucker for immediate gratification. I’m perpetually impressed by your writing abilities and eager to read your ebook when it’s ready! Kudos for taking on such a big project and for making it happen. Thank you for the link, too, I’m beyond flattered that you would use my blog as an example. Beyond.

  4. Kathryn

    Thank you for such a honest description of the writing process (especially as I sit here trying to write an article for work and not progressing very far at all). I love the simplicity of these eggs as well. The perfect contrast.

  5. Micha Boyett

    Shanna, so happy to have discovered your blog this morning. So beautiful. Good grief. I want to decorate my kitchen with your photos! (Or just let you move into my kitchen and take over. Please?)

    Thanks for linking to my blog. What an honor. Congrats on the e-book…

    1. Shannalee

      Micha, Your writing continually encourages and challenges me. I actually read three or four of your posts old loud to Tim last week. Thank you for sharing your perspective with the world! It is a good gift.

  6. Stacy

    You’re absolutely correct about writing, and about how good it feels to make something, start to finish, when in the midst of more complicated, drawn out tasks. And with food, it’s not just “something” — it’s something we need, something that nourishes us and fuels the writing and the rest of it. This is part of what draws me back to the kitchen, over and over again, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life in general. I can always make a cake — or eggs on toast — at the end of even the most frustrating of days.

  7. wesley @ the way home

    a. poached eggs are my favorite breakfast. have you ever had an egg poacher? can’t use the broth with it but it makes them sooo good.

    b. cannot wait to read the ebook. i’m so proud of you! i’ve got like two chapters of a book written, does that count? ;) writing is so, so hard. and i totally felt the same thing when i started writing, “so this is what you do? you just, write?”

    1. Shannalee

      Thanks, girl! and ha! it’s such a strange thing, this writing stuff. Even as I hit those times when I am the most frustrated and empty and unable to create, I still keep coming back for more, partly because I need to and partly for those rare moments when it’s not like that at all. Glad for friends like you who get that! : )

  8. The Food Hound

    YES, I totally agree with you on the writing process. And I always convince myself that people wake up and write great posts on a daily basis, when really, many of them are edited in the writer’s mind for days. My ideas never come to me in front of the computer- always in the shower, or at the gym, or some place I can’t write any of them down, ha! Congrats on the e-book!! And poached eggs are the definition of comfort!

  9. Pingback: Cheesy Scrambled Eggs & [Another] Quick Trip to St. Louis | Food Loves Writing

  10. MJ

    I love Tamar Adler! I’m just finishing up The Everlasting Meal – which was wonderful. Haven’t tried a poached egg in broth yet. It sounds delicious!

    I’m starting to love your blog. The way you view the world – everyday events are stories – really resonates with the way I think and write, too. It’s nice to find a kindred spirit. Keep up the good work!

    MJ
    welleatyouup.wordpress.com

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