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.
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?”
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?