I discovered, in my recent NaNoWriMo adventure, that even writing to a crazy deadline, I require some verisimilitude of detail. Consequently, when I began writing a scene about Kate and her housemates baking a pan of gingerbread together, I felt I needed to look at some recipes of the time in order that my details weren’t completely wrong. Even though I knew I could go back to correct, I wanted to feel it was close to the reality. Heading to the bookcase, I pulled from it a stained, slightly warped copy of The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, with its brown-trimmed yellow cover. My mother gave me a second-hand store copy in college, which I passed on to my sister when this one recently came to me from my husband’s side of the family.
Turning to the section on gingerbread, I counted there eleven (11!) different recipes. Scanning through the ingredients lists and instructions, I patted myself on the back, agreeing with my writer self that the women could contribute different opinions and tastes to the activity and still reasonably create a delicious pan of the confection.
Looking at gingerbread made me hungry for it, and in a moment of weakness a few days later, I told myself that it was time for more needed research and I pulled out the venerable cookbook again. This time, I lingered on the contents tucked inside which made it lumpy.
Several items rested there, and as I looked, I marveled! This is Kate’s own cookbook; many of the slips of paper are filled with her handwriting, now so familiar to me from my archaeological travels through diaries and memorabilia. Turning to the flyleaf, there it was, in fine, faded hand:
I was stopped in my writer tracks, halted mid-thought, transported back in time to a place I recognized. For a heady moment I was there, in that kitchen I had created; this cookbook in my hands could have been lying there in that place I imagined, open to page 482, though in the story the three women baking had the semblance of recipe and proportions memorized.
Then, of course, it came to me, a thought which has taken shape in action. Predictable? Likely. Delightful? Definitely, for me and those near to me. Hence, The Gingerbread Adventure, a la “Julie and Julia,” though on a much less grand scale. Yes, I’m baking them all. I’m putting myself in Kate’s cookbook, and her shoes, though keeping my own kitchen appliances intact. No recreations with coal-fired stove. You’ll be party to the observations and conclusions. And the recipes, of course.
When I’m done, I can imagine that revising the gingerbread scene will have gained some verisimilitude.