The Write to Cook: Plate it in Words

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

I learned a new verb on Kelsey’s Essentials featured on the Cooking Channel: plate it. I worked for a short time in the food service industry, the only TV shows I watch are cooking shows, and I’ve never heard this terminology. Did a chef discover a new verb before writers?

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Food pairs with writing. They hold hands, and one inspires the other. In a recent blog, I wrote about my inspiration behind cooking. The fact is food preparation, cooking, and the art of baking all inspire the work I produce on a screen. It is a break and third passion behind education and writing.

But, can they go together for writers who don’t cook, or maybe you’re more of a foodie than a cook? I say yes.

Not two hours ago, I’d gotten up before the sun to make him real biscuits. I’d cut Crisco into flour until it felt soft, like powdered velvet. I’d mixed the dough and rolled it and pressed out circles with the top of a juice glass. I’d fried bacon and then cooked two eggs sunny-side up with grease.

Joshilyn Jackson Backseat Saints, Chapter 1, p. 1

Yes, I’m from the south. I know the food identity that goes with it, but I think beyond food obsession. Cooking, meals, and food culture are part of a person’s character.

Doctor Zhivago comments Lara finds new ways to cook potatoes. Leanora Sutter in The Witness cooks for an old, blind man. He likes her cooking while another calls it too plain. The kind of food displays a person’s situation in life. In the eighth grade I read a book about a boy who lived in a hovel within the New York subway. He began eating ketchup on crackers until the manager at the restaurant offered him a job in which he earned meals for payment.

The girl chops the lettuce. End pieces a little brown the customer will not care, so long as he or she is not from Jonesboat County. Add bacon bits, quarter half an onion, and toss it in a red checkered plastic boat. She drenches the salad in blue cheese dressing, and sends it down to the waitress.


Sarah offers to help her sister-in-law in a kitchen. It is strange like a person she’s never met. After one year of knowing what goes where in her own kitchen, she wonders where to locate the lettuce for the salad. Christmas Eve dinner will include: chicken pot pie full of cream, turkey, corn casserole, and two cakes. But, what about something green?

“Where is the lettuce? I’ll make the shrimp salad.’

“Oh, you don’t need lettuce,” her sister-in-law says. “The mayonnaise is right there. Use about a cup.”

Sarah looks around the kitchen again for any possible vegetable life and realizes she lives on another planet.

Both examples feature salads gone wrong. While I make many foods besides actual salad, I’ve always been influenced by healthy eating (before it became popular). Thus I am a strange transplant living in the South.

My Angola-English flat mate said of a protein shake I made, “Americans eat weird food.”

(I happened to be the first American she’d ever met.)

“Actually, most of my friends think I’m weird for what I eat.”

But, what I cook and eat influences writing. I see it in what other authors write.

How does the cooking or food influence your work or stomach?

Please plate your thoughts.


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