Nick White Recommends...

“It took four years to write my first novel, and during that time, I learned to cook. This was not a coincidence. Before, my eating habits involved anything I could remove from the freezer and nuke in the microwave. Hot Pockets, mostly. My culinary skills were lacking, but like writing, cooking is a craft that requires more dedication than inspiration. I found that the activity of cooking—the slicing and the chopping and the peeling and the heating—took all my concentration, allowing the problems of the novel (which were legion while drafting) to sit on the backburner, so to speak, and stew. I’d spend the afternoon writing, then focus my evenings on preparing a meal. To begin my adventure in the kitchen, I picked recipes from an old, tattered edition of The Silver Palate Cookbook. I chose this book for two reasons: a) It was written in the 1980s, complete with all these offhanded references to the gaudy excesses of that misbegotten decade that make for a colorful read (for example, who knew a glass of bubbly was recommended after a brisk jog through Central Park?) and b) The recipes were just complicated enough to capture my full attention and yet not so intricate that they were overwhelming. My go-to writer’s block dish was, of course, the one that made the book famous: Chicken Marbella. The ingredients for it, in abstract, seem like they shouldn’t work when put together: pitted prunes, green olives, capers, brown sugar. And yet—like the disparate ingredients of any good piece of fiction—if blended in the right way, the end result can be magical. Sometimes, after spending a few hours in the kitchen, I was ready to face my manuscript and tackle, once more, all its inadequacies. Sometimes, I was left just as baffled by the problems of my book as before. But at least, I had a good meal to keep me company.”
—Nick White, author of How to Survive a Summer (Blue Rider Press, 2017)