July 6, 2012

Writer or Liver?


When my wonderful mother-in-law was visiting, we stopped by the kitchen store, The Cupboard, in Fort Collins, and I picked up a couple of great vegetable cookbooks.  We belong to a CSA and so it’s necessary to have a good variety of solid veggie recipes on hand.

One is The Monastery Garden Cookbook by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette.  I just love the medieval illustrations and love the recipes I’ve tried.  Simple and delicious.  The other is Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman.  The recipes are a little more elaborate but I’m loving them too.

I read Chesman’s great introduction to Serving Up the Harvest the other day, and there was this. 

There are two types of gardeners, I think.  There are gardeners who cook, and there are cooks who garden.  You can recognize my type by my less-than-photogenic garden, my casual attitude toward weeds, my hatred of thinning (throwing away good food!).  I spend winter evenings with cookbooks, not with treatises on soil building.  I am unlikely to plant vegetables that are reluctant to grow in my northern garden [Vermont] just to prove that I can.  I have never grown a prizewinning anything.  I have never even set aside space in my garden for carving pumpkins.
Don’t get me wrong.  I have tremendous respect for those who put gardening first.  Their gardens are gorgeous!  These gardeners are often so adept in the outside world that they are capable of building beautiful trellises and amazing bean tepees.  They never fail to properly put the garden to bed in the fall, and their peas are inevitably two weeks earlier than mine.  They often lead the way with planting new varieties or experimenting with old heirloom varieties.  They save seeds, and they have opinions on compost.
But here’s the difference.  Cooks who garden are thrilled by the harvest.  We believe every overflowing basket of vegetables is an opportunity for a crispy fresh salad, a fragrant harvest stew, a terrific new pasta sauce.  On the other hand, gardeners who cook will spend hours in the garden, making everything look perfect, and then find themselves stricken with guilt. Oh no, they suddenly realize, someone has to cook all those vegetables.

I couldn’t agree more ~ I’m in the cook-who-gardens camp, perhaps due to my very practical upbringing.

But that got me thinking:  there are writers who live and livers who write.  I’m the former, of course. (It all comes back to writing for me, doesn’t it?)  It’s not that I don’t live, but writing is my passion, what I obsess about.  If you see me staring off into space, I’m probably thinking about writing.  I’m not so far out on the spectrum that I lose touch, however. (Some might dispute that, hehe.)

If I may generalize, if you’re a writer who lives, as you live you’re thinking about how that would come across on the page.  You’re constantly mentally taking notes about ideas for stories or visual descriptions or character names.  You’re constantly feeling guilty about how little writing you get done and all the unborn ideas that are lost in the river of time.

If you’re a liver who writes, it’s the living that’s the most important.  You may be like Mark Jenkins, a Laramie outdoors writer who does these amazing things and then writes about them for Outdoors or National Geographic.  You sometimes put your life in service of your writing, such as having new experiences so that you can write about them.  Nothing thrills you more than the thought of your next adventure.

I was just thinking about Hemingway, trying to decide if he was a writer or a liver.  Maybe he was both.  Maybe he was someone who was just so driven he tried to do both~ driven to live up to the myth of Hemingway and also driven to be a great writer.

Which are you?  Are you a gardener who cooks or a cook who gardens?  Are you a writer who lives or a liver who writes?  Are you a scientist who dads or a dad who sciences?  Are you a runner who philosophizes or a philosopher who runs? Are you an African American in politics or a politician who is African American?


Melissa Crytzer Fry said...

Oh.. I Loved this post. What a thought-provoking question. I wonder if there is a hybrid in there, because I think I'm both... As of late, I'd have to say I'm of the "liver who writes" variety because I get so much inspiration from my outdoor "living" experiences, which totally drive my creativity and writing. Without them, sometimes I'm lost.

Tamara said...

Oh, thank you, Melissa!! It's funny - how do we think of ourselves? It's all wrapped up in identity. I know my husband writes well but hates it and doesn't think of himself as a writer, but he very much thinks of himself as a doer, a liver.

"as of late" - did you used to go the other way? Interesting, the changes.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Hope you're getting some great living done!

~ Tamara