Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I'm working on a new novel that includes several constructs that I've only previously used in limited quantities, if at all. Tie-in flashbacks. An epilogue. A plot thread that will slide over itself while still moving forward, like some sort of literary snake. Hell, there's an actual mystery in this puppy.

I'm feeling my way through the process, relying in part on an outline for plot construction, but mostly on very good books that have used similar devices. Though there's a trap in that, since I usually fall headlong into these books even when trying to regard them as resources.

While some would consider moving into new and more complicated ground as grown for a writer, I just sit here clattering away at the keyboard thinking over and over "look at me, being all fancy." But the truth is that, by the time I started writing, I'd thought about these devices enough that I had a handle on them. And, honestly, they weren't that foreign.

I feel much the same way when I first look at a new recipe, or anything that requires steps other than chopping, stirring, ladling, repeat. Food that looks different than what I've assembled before is intimidating. It looks difficult not because it is, but because I've never before held it in my hands and gone through the motions of assembling it. But it doesn't have to be difficult. Take cabbage rolls for instance. It's familiar ingredients:

1 large head green cabbage
1.5 pounds ground turkey
1/4 C. bread crumbs
1/2 red onion, diced
3 eggs
1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped (discard stems)
5 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 t. salt
2 t. black pepper
2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce (if thick, add 2 T water)
1/2 C. dry white wine

Nothing too exotic there, right? Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 T. salt. So doable!

Remove 12 whole leaves from the cabbage. Drop them into the boiling water (you may have to encourage them to stay down) and boil until soft enough to fold, about 4-5 minutes. Work in batches if the pot is too small. Drain and rinse with cool water and lay on clean towel to cool.

Meanwhile, in mixing bowl, place the turkey, bread crumbs, onion, eggs, parsley, sage, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Place 1/2 cup of mixture in each cabbage leaf, at the bottom. Fold sides in, then roll up until it forms a closed pocket. (Use less filling if leaves are small)

Pour half the tomato sauce and the wine in the bottom of a casserole dish. Mix together. Lay cabbage rolls on top. Spoon remaining sauce over top and bake for 1 hour. Serve hot. How simple is that?

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