Here are a few things I learned during a cooking lesson from Sonoma chef Paul Poumirau. Paul used to own Miel, a fabulous French restaurant in Glen Ellen, California. He’s an amazing chef and excellent teacher, with an innate sense for food. He shared these fundamentals of creating great cuisine. I couldn’t help thinking that we writers and artists can take a page from his book.
1. Mis en place — literally means “everything in its place.” Before beginning your work, make sure the proper tools are set out just as you’ll need them later, when you’re in the middle of three things at once.
2. Use fresh ingredients — directly from the garden is best. For the writer this might mean writing down new ideas as they come, before they’re wilted or forgotten.
3. Make the time — great creations take time and patience. Paul’s 90-minute cooking lesson stretched to 3 hours. Partway in, he asked, “Do you have time?” Because the meal simply required it. We had to slow down and pay attention to everything–every flavor, every texture, every aroma. Every metaphor, every sentence, every page.
4. Practice makes more perfect — with experience, it gets easier to whip those mushrooms around in roux-thickened sauce. (Paul flips the sweating vegetables in the pan one handed. I dodged in case something flew out over the rim. Of course nothing did.) Similarly the muse gets used to showing up at our desk the more often we go there ourselves.
5. Enjoy the fruits of your labor — you might as well cook what you like to eat, because there’s going to be a lot of it as you practice! So too you should write what you like to read. You may be stuck somewhere with only your own book for company. Make it a good one.