Sunday, July 17, 2011

How proofreading is like cooking

Leftovers. That just won’t do tonight. It’s scientifically proven that three-year-olds won’t eat anything presented to them more than twice within any twenty-four-hour period, no matter how many different plates you may attempt to re-serve it on. Besides, after a day cooked broccoli loses all nutritional value, not to mention its aesthetic appeal.

The only thing good about leftovers for dinner is the extra fifty-two minutes I’d save on cooking and washing dishes. Fifty-two glorious extra minutes to dedicate to the freelance proofreading work for which I’m slightly past the deadline. (Just by four or five months, mind you.) Fifty-two luxurious minutes – of sixty productive seconds each – to dedicate to rewriting sentences like this:

In a daze he fell into sleep and then he saw his members come to urge him, saying: "Go back quickly! The thunder will arrive tonight!"

I don’t like to follow recipes. That could be why my cakes don’t always rise. But that’s also why, in my student days, I always had very content (if slightly overweight) roommates: give me a cucumber, some raisins, sardines and day-old polenta and I will invent you a mouth-watering two-course meal. It’s my culinary trademark: I can make something out of nothing!

Feeling tired, the monk fell asleep and dreamed his former gang members were urging him: "Go back quickly to the Buddhist temple! The thunder will arrive tonight and strike you dead for your previous sins!"

But tonight I don’t have the luxury of bare cupboards. The fridge is full. Lamb, chicken breast, beets, portobello mushrooms, whipping cream. The choices are overwhelming. I have no excuse not to go gourmet tonight. And hey, why not? The moon is full and, despite what my apron might suggest, I’m feeling a bit fancy.

In the clutches of a stupor, he drifted off into an oneiric state, whereupon his gang affiliates exhorted him: "Turn back in haste from whence you came! The thunder shall make its appearance this evening!"

But wait a second. I can’t fry absolutely everything in butter. I have to take into consideration the nutritional needs of a growing boy, and those of a husband who’d rather not grow any further. What we need tonight is something wholesome like steamed fish, brown rice and spinach sautéed in extra virgin olive oil. Easy on the salt this time.

He was tired so he took a nap without protests and without even needing a back scratch and he had a deep rejuvenating sleep that lasted at least an hour and a half. Then he had a dream that his lovely little friends from the Italian playgroup came to ask him, “Would you like to come back with us? There’s a thunder and lightning show tonight!”

No, way too obvious. One look at these dishes and he’ll be on to my game. There will be tantrums and demands everything be thrown into the trashcan and replaced with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There’s a reason why cauliflower in French school cafeterias is served hidden in batter. I need to prepare a much more casual-looking meal, with secret health benefits, and present it nonchalantly, like, “Hey, I just threw some hamburgers and homemade french fries together. A little mesculin salad on the side. No big deal, you don’t really have to eat any of it if you don’t feel like it.”

He was sort of tired so he went to sleep and then he had a dream where these guys were like: "It would be really great if you came back, but no biggie. It’s just the thunder’s coming, that’s all. You know, whatever.”

Yes, I’m sure it would be wolfed down within minutes. But homemade yam fries, hamburgers packed with shredded carrot, the chilled attitude – it just all seems like so much effort. And I’m a bit tired tonight. I think I’ll just do what I do most nights. I’ll grab the leftovers, because I hate to throw out something good. Then I’ll take a bit from here and a bit from there. I might check online for some inspiration. As usual, presentation will be flawless. It won’t be too original, but with this audience it’s best not to stray too far from the tried and true. Best of all, it’ll be ready in under twenty minutes.

Feeling drowsy, he dozed off to sleep, whereupon he dreamed his gang members were urging him: "Hurry back! The thunder is coming tonight!"

Next sentence, please.


  1. LOL! The ultimate issue facing a mom: what to make for dinner. Just wait until your son is old enough to bug you all day by asking, "What's for dinner?". Last night I had my 9 year old daughter make dinner...a job she loves, but has only just begun...the result? Meat muffins. Oy, vey! Pilsbury Cresent rolls in a muffin tin, filled with Spam and cheddar cheese. It's an inauspicious way to being her cooking career, but she sure is proud of them! Gourmet it is not...!! I hope your leftovers and your proofreading went well!!

  2. Oh, what a gorgeous cooking story! Your daughter is indeed very inventive: isn't that the beauty of a not having (yet) a bunch of traditions behind you to tell you you CAN'T do something? Well, at least I have getting cooked for to look forward to. Because there's no end in sight to the proofreading...I only wish I could proofread as fast as I cook! Take care, heddi.