I finished writing my novel. This is big and very scary. It is actually my second one. The first I wrote years ago but was too scared to do anything with it so I put it in a filing cabinet. I found it again a year ago, read it, decided it was good and tried to get it published. This is when I discovered that trying to get a first book published when you are a normal, non-famous person, is rather hard. It is, I assume, like trying to be an actress or singer. The ability seems to be a minor factor, who you know (nobody in my case) and your ability to ‘sell’ seems much more important.
No publishers in the UK will take manuscripts from new writers, so first you have to find an agent. The initial approach is a covering letter. This involves a lot of sweat, tears, many rewrites while you try to adopt a casually witty style. I clearly never got it right because my first book remains in the filing cabinet. I was something of a literary snob. I felt that if my work was good enough, someone would pay me to publish it, there was no way I would self-publish. I am less of a snob now, I just want my book to be read. If no one likes my covering letter (and it does seem to be this rather than the actual book that is important) then I shall publish it myself. I will let you know how I get on.
On a completely unrelated topic, have you ever cooked with quinoa? I keep seeing it on tele but have never actually tried it. Am thinking of having a try. This fills my family with dread. I do tend to have passions for things in the kitchen. There was the time my mother-in-law gave me a rather nifty garlic press, the sort where you don’t do any peeling or chopping, you just squeeze the bulb through the grill. Immensely satisfying. We had garlic, a lot of it, with everything for a while. That phase did not get too many complaints. The next one did.
I discovered couscous. It was when I was teaching, had three children at different schools, was stressed and exhausted. The thought of a carbohydrate that required no peeling of potatoes or straining of rice was wonderful. There is after all a limit to how many frozen chips you can serve in a week. So I started adding couscous to most meals. The family complained, but they tend to complain a lot, so I ignored them. Looking back, I did perhaps over do it a bit.
The real low point was when it overlapped with my chilli phase. I grew little red chillies from seeds on my kitchen window sill. They were very pretty and I felt rather trendy adding them to dishes. Again, I did perhaps overdo it. Anyway, the meal which has gone down in family history was a chicken casserole, cooked on a day that had gone particularly badly. Teaching had been stressful, collecting the family from their respective schools had been a hassle, I was tired, had reports to write, just wanted dinner to be cooked, eaten and forgotten. It has never been forgotten.
I added too much chilli to the casserole, it was completely inedible. Never mind, I thought, I will add some couscous, that might dilute it a bit. It did not, it was now just burning hot and thick. My next brainwave, one that I really ought to copyright, was to add milk. Please don’t ask me why, but I had this idea that adding milk would neutralise the chilli. I think I was getting in a muddle with adding it to tomato sauce to neutralise the acid (which DOES work.) Anyway, I served the family a sort of hot chilli porridge. They say they can still remember the moment, my angry eyes flashing, them all trying to not say or do anything wrong and being faced with a plate of hot (in the spicy sense) porridge. As I said, a real low point in my culinary experience.
Of course, when I sat down and tried it I realised it was ghastly, impossible to eat and announced we were throwing it all away. Much to the relief of my children. I cannot remember now what we did eat that night but I don’t think any of them will ever forget that dish. I bet Mary Berry has never tried it. Maybe I will write a recipe book next.