Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Foray Into Non-Fiction

As you all know (or may have guessed from my previous posts), I write fiction.  But over the years, I have had ideas for a couple non-fiction books.  (And in one case, an agent told me my prologue was good and asked if I ever considered writing non-fiction... but that's a story for another day.)

Once upon a time, I even got the idea for a cookbook.  I called it The Kitchen Chemist and it's all still sitting right there on my harddrive in case the urge ever overtakes me to restart that project.

You see, it was a cookbook that showed people how cooking is actually a form of chemistry.  And here's how it would've begun...

Cooking is Chemistry?

For most of us the thought of Chemistry brings forth images of scientists in labs with beakers and test tubes.  But cooking is the most basic form of chemistry.  Instead of scientists, we have cooks; instead of laboratories, we have kitchens; instead of beakers and test tubes and bunson burners; we have cups and tablespoons and ovens.  The principle, however, is the same.  Both scientists and cooks are mixing together different materials to make something new.  (Although in the cook’s case, the result is much more tasty.)
In order to be the best scientist one can be, the important thing needed is knowledge.  A scientist needs to know about chemistry.  He needs to know about the periodic table of the elements, and the properties of each element.  He needs to know about heat and pressure and all of the other things that could change the way those elements react with each other.  The cook is really no different.
In order to be the best cook you can be, you need knowledge about cooking.  You need to know the periodic table of ingredients, so to speak.  You need to know about heat and pressure (albeit more along the lines of pressure’s effect on the cook than pressure’s effect on your food).  You may even need to understand altitude.
It sounds daunting, I know, but it really isn’t.  Most likely a great deal of this information is already in your head.  You know about ingredients for the most part.  For instance, you know sugar is sweet and salt is not, and although they look the same, they are miles apart in flavor.  You know about heat to a certain extent.  For instance, a little heat melts butter and a lot of heat boils it, or a little cold is good for keeping your ingredients fresh and a lot of cold is perfect for preserving leftovers.  You know about trying to cook a meal for a family full of hungry children, which is about as much pressure as any of us can stand.

I never got much beyond that part of the actual 'writing'.  I have scads of recipes in separate folders by chapter.  I had ideas to separate the chapters with headings in various chemistry terms.  I even started to build a Periodic Table of Ingredients.  Then I got discouraged wondering whether anyone would want a cookbook based on chemistry from a gal who isn't trained in either the culinary arts or the scientific ones.  So I set it aside. 

But like the packrat I am, it's still there - along with the beginning of a memoir I never finished and scads of poetry. 

Hey, writers write.  In whatever form - whether they'll eventually publish it or not - what they write helps build experience.  Right? 

What do you write?  Do you ever step outside your chosen genre and try other forms of writing? 

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