A friend of mine had the brilliant idea we should have a freezer exchange group.What is a freezer exchange group? Basically, gather a group of friends, prepare an easily freezable dish for each family, and then exchange them.
My group meets once a month, each creating two meals. There are only three of us, so as an example, I would make three lasagnas and three casseroles. One of each dish would stay in my freezer and the other two are to exchange. When I come home from the exchange, not only do I have the two meals I made tucked away for busy weeknights, but I also have four other meals I didn’t have to prepare. How’s that for a time saver?
Now, I am a procrastinator by nature—though I prefer to call it prioritizing the immediate-must-dos over the can-be-done-laters. I helped organize and present a conference for my local writing association last weekend, and for any event of that nature there is a long prep period. Accordingly, I was not able to test my recipes for this month’s exchange in advance. I’m using my group as guinea pigs this time around. This is not a great idea, but it happens a lot for me because I balance a full time job, a writing career, a small child, and I belong to two separate writing organizations—and for one of those I’m on the Board of Directors. (Oh, and poor Mr. Alexander deserves some time, too!) So I figure, whenever my group eats one of my freezer meals, they probably have the local pizza delivery place on speed dial. Just in case.
Unfortunately, this month, not only did I not have a chance to test my recipes by freezing and reheating them, I assembled them at the last minute (see conference above). Last Friday night around 8:00 pm, I lined up all my ingredients for individual white chicken pizzas. I baked and shredded the chicken in advance, but I still needed to build and partially bake the pizzas before sending them to the freezer.
I ran out of olive oil, burned the herbs in the infused oil, dropped the burnt (and oily) herbs on my kitchen floor, dumped some of the oil on my counter, the pizza dough dried out and stuck to the waxed paper I used to separate it, I ran out of thyme (not time, though there was that, too), forgot to add a ricotta cheese mixture to two of the pizzas, overcooked two more, used every dish I owned, and split my pizza stone when I dropped a cold pizza onto the 450 degree stone. (P.S. I know the picture is blurry, but it was best I could do that late at night!)
What does this have to do with writing? Not a lot, I suppose. Except I had a very strange thought at the end of Friday night.
Mr. Alexander had been working outside in the garage and driveway for awhile—doing whatever Mr. Alexanders do in the garage in the bleepity-bleep cold. I think it was snow related—and he stepped back into the house. I had just finished wrapping all the individual pizzas in foil, stuck them in the freezer, and was lying on the couch with my throbbing feet propped in the air.
“It smells amazing in here, by the way.”
Those were all the words he said. Then he went back outside. So, intrigued by his comment, I dragged myself up from the couch and into the still-messy kitchen. I had an extra pizza cooling on a rack and I decided to take a bite—might as well determine if it tasted as amazing as it apparently smelled. It was the only test I would be able to do before the exchange, because I didn’t have time to find a new recipe and buy new ingredients.
It was delicious. Delicious and herby and chickeny and cheesey. All that work, all that prep, all those mistakes I had to correct, and the final product was amazing. AH-mazing.
Sometimes, that’s how I write. That’s my process. It’s messy. I use every dish and notecard and post-it and too much tin foil. In the end, the book the reader enjoys is not the messy pizza I goofed up a half-dozen times before I cooked it.
Just like those pizzas being an altogether mess during cooking and turning out delicious, books can be that way too. My first book, THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK? Yeah, I cut out 100 pages and rewrote them. My second book, IN BED WITH A SPY? Yeah, I cut out 100 pages of that one, too. Six weeks before contract deadline. But the books are better for it. All the work and heartache and problems, all the corners I wrote myself into, they don’t appear on the page when it reaches the reader. (Or, at least, I hope not!)
What you get is a delicious book that I hope you’ll love!