Because I am a rather spacey person in some respects — and because, left to my own devices, I will stay in my corner of the couch in the TV/knitting room and, well, watch TV or DVDs and knit, or else read, and do not much of anything else — I’m really having to crack down and make some lists. To-do and shopping lists are the only way I manage in daily life, but I need some longer-term lists as well.
I’ve decided to make a list of dishes I want to really master — not just have made once or twice, but be able to put together, for company even, without undue stress. I am thinking of 10 main dishes, 10 side dishes, 10 desserts. It’s not that I’d never cook anything else, but I want to have these down cold.
Thus far I have only a few things:
- Quinoa-stuffed chicken breasts (have made them, liked them, want them to be second nature)
- Quiche (but not with Swiss cheese)
- Roast chicken
- Vegetarian lasagne (I don’t eat beef and find ground turkey kind of icky somehow)
- Stuffing (although not actually stuffed but in a dish)
- Chocolate cake (or any cake, really; mine turn out edible but never pretty)
- Berry pie (with a proper crust)
- Tarte tatin (I’ve made it once or twice successfully and once or twice… not so; I do have a Le Creuset tarte tatin pan though!)
Of course, just that list could keep me busy for the rest of the year!
While I cogitate on the rest of my lists, I need to finish the baby blanket I’m knitting (about halfway through the last of three skeins; yay!), finish reading RER Mon Amour — which I can actually read, even if I don’t understand every single word (and it’s a really fun book, even for the cats), so I can go back and read it again avec le dictionnaire, to expand my vocabulary; and get crackin’ on the damned novel outline.
Wait, what novel outline?
I’ve had this one idea in my head since…hmm…2008 or 2009? I actually once ran it down for a career counselor/life coach person, who himself has published fiction, and he (said he) liked it. It’s set in Lille, which is why I went there and why I’m sad that due to the rail union kerfuffle I only stayed overnight there instead of overnight and all the next day. But I did take a walk around the large square and streets near where I was staying and soaked up a bit of ambience at least. Also, it’s only an hour by TGV between Paris and Lille so visiting again would not be out of question. Anyway… my aforementioned spaciness, plus depression, general discouragement, and the fatigue that comes from working for a living when you’re a hermit by nature, has made me put it on the back burner.
Also working to stymie me: these characters are French. I’m not French. I’m not even of French descent. They live in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. I didn’t, although at least my parents did so this time period doesn’t seem as far away to me as it does to some people. Still, neither me nor any of my relatives whom I’ve known have ever lived in an occupied country or lived through war in quite the way the French and other Europeans did. Who the hell am I to write this story?
My shuffle-footed answer to that is that I live in the United States, and for that reason don’t find it all that interesting as a fictional subject; maybe this is akin to why some people prefer science fiction/fantasy. I concentrated on British literature for my degree and I must say I almost never read American fiction, or at least I rarely read anything set here. I loved The Invisible Bridge — I thought it was insanely well-written and it’s a huge long interesting book — but although the author is American the story takes place in Europe during WWII. She has the excuse of the story being based upon her family history, though.
I have no excuse, but that’s what interests me to read and what interests me to research and to try to write. I think it would be easier to write a story set in a non-English-speaking country because a work in English but from the POV of a non-English speaker would not be subject to the same linguistic scrutiny. If I were writing about an English person, I’d need to, for instance, make sure I said things like “lift” and “lorry” instead of “elevator” and “truck,” whereas as an English-speaker writing about a French person, I can use those two latter words because the French person would actually use “ascensuer” and “camion.” And it’s not even those obvious words that will trip you up; it’s small turns of phrase that are different. I am in awe of Elizabeth George because she’s an American who can write British murder mysteries and actually sound, down to the small linguistic details, like a Brit.
Holy long-winded digression, Batman!
Point being, I am finally really working on it. It’s hard, because of the distance in time (although WWII is so well documented) and in country, and also because I’m a goofball. But I’ve got some things compiled and am really working on the outline now, which I need or I will do to my story what I just did above to the question of an American writing a French novel.
For someone with not a lot to do, I have a lot to do.