Aug. 7, 2022

Writer's Block Looks like a Casserole

Writers are easily distracted by food. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin wrote, "It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into." Of course, Franklin failed miserably, because high on that list was the moral fault of gluttony, and Franklin, a lifetime sufferer of gout, never met an hors d'oeuvres that he did not like.

Like Ben Franklin, I write, wear wire-framed glasses, have a wood stove in my home, and am easily distracted by food, which is why my friends Bob and Cindy had no difficulty at all convincing My Lovely Wife Marsha and me (Note: 'Me' is correct here; take 'My Lovely Wife Marsha and' out of the sentence to verify) to attend their annual barn picnic and potluck. We were not disappointed. There were dozens of sumptuous dishes and tempting sweets. Not only that, we enjoyed conversing with friends we had not seen for months or longer.

One of these was my friend Michael, who I have known since freshman year of high school. Michael was instantly popular since, on the basis of being a few months older than the rest of us, he quickly obtained his driver's license. I should note that Michael is also a really nice guy, so driver's license or not, his popularity was assured. I still see Michael frequently, and there at Bob's potluck party, in the shadow of the varied hot dishes, I was reminded of a recipe from long ago.

When Michael was in college, he shared a house with several other gregarious characters, all of whom took turns doing household chores. One evening, a roommate wandered into the kitchen where Michael was preparing supper for them all at the stove. On the burner was a large skillet or pan in which a ground beef, Hamburger Helper-style casserole was bubbling away. Beside the stove, on the counter, was a large bag of M&Ms, out of which Michael was occasionally taking sustenance. For reasons that can only be attributed to the continuing cultural folly of allowing people to live together whose cerebral cortexes are not fully developed, the roommate dared Michael to add the bag of M&Ms to the bubbling dish, which Michael did. M&M Casserole was born...and served to everyone in the house.

I always found this story bizarre and hilarious until many years later when I was researching chili recipes and discovered that many of them recommended adding cocoa to sharpen the flavor.

Who knew? Thus did I see my longtime friend in a new light. Not an eccentric after all, but rather, a visionary!

What does this have to do with writing? Well, instead of working on my new book right now, just like Benjamin Franklin, I'm thinking about making something to eat. Possibly chili.

I wonder if we have any M&Ms?