Deb Tawna swaps kitchen coaching with her critique partner

Like most writers, I have critique partners. One is Cynthia Reese, a multi-published romance author in rural South Georgia.

Since I’m in Oregon, we’re separated not only by a bunch of miles, but by vast differences in culture and lifestyle. It’s what I value most in the critiquing process, and it’s also produced some comedic moments in the culinary realm.

The first Southern meal I prepared with coaching from Cynthia. It included fried chicken, grits, biscuits, and greens!

We both love cooking, so it seemed natural to swap recipes. I wanted to make something distinctly Southern, so I requested a list of ingredients and then called Cynthia to walk me through making greens.

“OK,” she said once I was standing in my kitchen. “First you take a little bit of bacon grease and—”

“Wait, bacon grease?”

“Yes, just a little bit.”

I frowned into the phone. “You didn’t tell me I needed bacon grease. Where am I supposed to get that?”

There was a long pause during which Cynthia was probably pondering just how dense I am.

“Well,” she said slowly, “bacon grease comes from bacon, and bacon comes from—”

“I know that,” I said, though truthfully, I’d kinda forgotten.

“Don’t you just have a can of bacon grease handy?” she asked.

“No. Do you mean I have to go buy bacon to get grease?”

Tawna (left) and Cynthia. I'm pretty short myself, just shy of 5'4", so you can guess Cynthia is a wee one!

The idea that I had neither bacon nor bacon grease in my home was almost too much for Cynthia to process, but we eventually sorted through it and the greens turned out fine.

Our next culinary disconnect occurred when I offered to coach her through a Pacific Northwest specialty, my famous poached salmon steaks with green onions and horseradish cream. I emailed the recipe, then checked to see if she had questions.

“How many cans of salmon does it call for?” she asked.

Fortunately, we’ve gotten better at this over the years. Though we swap manuscripts via email, we now use snail mail to send each other cookbooks and ingredients that simply can’t be found on the other side of the country.

I’m a big believer in working with someone from a different background, whether you’re writing or cooking or learning clog dancing. There are so many benefits to buddying up with someone who brings new perspectives and life experiences to the table.

Hey, that was an accidental culinary pun. Nice!

Oh, and want to know the best part? After 6+ years of exchanging manuscripts and cooking tips, Cynthia and I finally, finally got to meet in person last week when I traveled to Savannah for a visit. How cool is that?

14 Replies to “Deb Tawna swaps kitchen coaching with her critique partner”

  1. I think having friends who live elsewhere is so important and can lead to really interesting discoveries about cultures and ourselves. Now, if only I could just ring a stranger up and we clicked first time, I’d have lots of these type of friends, unfortunately I haven’t found a way to meet those I live near. Obviously the internet is great, but I can’t seem to find anyone who I click with (or, more to the point, who clicks with me). Any ideas of sites to connect to others would be a huge help.

    1. Bethany, if you’re talking about finding critique partners, I’ve actually tackled this subject quite a bit of my blog. Here are a few posts you might find useful…

      In this post, I provided a bunch of links and ideas for finding critique partners as well as tips on working with them:

      In this post, I dispelled three common myths about critique partners & beta readers:

      In this post, I went into specific detail about each of my five critique partners/beta readers, including how I met them and what each person brings to the relationship:

      Hope that helps!


  2. Ha ha! Love the cooking comparisons. I feel that way when I see someone with a jar of Ragu in their shopping cart. I have saved bacon grease and I love organic salmon. And I’m not above buying a jar of Rao’s famous NY spaghetti sauce in a pinch!

    1. Kim, I actually started buying bacon on occasion after that conversation, and though I don’t store it anywhere, I’ve learned to use it to fry onions for a really great salmon chowder I make. The best of both worlds!

  3. Okay, not only do we have the same sofa, but our dishes are the same color. This is starting to get weird. 😉

    Cynthia sounds like same kind of good southern cook my husband’s grandmother was. I still drool when I think about the meals Gann (short for Grandma Ann) made us. Yum!

    Your poached salmon sounds like something I’d love, too. Mmmm. This post is making me hungry.

  4. How much did you love Savannah?

    This is hilarious – bacon grease and canned salmon as metaphors for cultural difference. I’m SO glad you got to finally meet!

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