My friend Jane doesn’t cook. Never has. Thanks to her mother, a woman for whom the culinary arts were as incomprehensible as Euclid, Jane grew up with a lot of misgivings about food. I mean, she eats; naturally, but mostly what other people make.
A few weeks ago, due to a variety of circumstances, she found herself needing to cook. She had a few pots and pans, a moderately stocked larder, and a healthy motivation to learn how to cook something.
Did I mention the needing to eat part?
She’d never really had to cook before. There was always someone around who would do that for her. Usually with an, “Oh, Jane!” as they snatch the wretched pot of goo (JANE: That’s burnt goo!) out of her hand.
She started by making stuff she’s been eating for the past couple of decades. Chilli. Spag Bolognese. Baked potatoes. She knew how these things were supposed to taste, so it seemed to make sense. The only trouble was she had been told for most of her life that she was doing everything wrong, so you can understand her apprehension.
I started talking to her in the evening on Skype and guiding her through some of the basics. Jane’s initial results were… edible. Well, some of the time. Gradually, though, she started to improve.
Last week I sent her a link to a video of Nigella Lawson cooking something delish–Nigella wouldn’t know what to do with anything that wasn’t delish!–and voila! A star was born.
Jane followed the video step by step and produced what she tells me was a cracking meal. Now, in the space of a few days, she’s begun to experiment. She made the original dish with mackerel; would sardines work as well? Yes! How about tuna? Not so much.
This is not, as you’ve probably noticed, a cookery blog. I mean, I like to cook, but I’m usually planning a story while I’m stirring the soup, and it’s not like I can’t live without truffle oil or wild garlic. Nope, usually I write about, well, writing. You surely didn’t think this time would be any different.
My point is if you want or need to do something badly enough you will learn how. Sometimes you’ll start by copying what you know. If you read romances, you’ll probably write in the same vein. Achievement depends on desire. Do you want it badly enough? If you quite like the idea of being a published author (or cook) but don’t make it a priority well, guess what, you probably won’t ever succeed. At the risk of sounding like your grandmother, you get out of things what you put in.
But if, like Jane, you suddenly discover your motivation, you may well find you’re capable of all sorts of things. You might even cook up a bestseller!