Recently, I’ve decided to engage in the process of writing through a “writer’s notebook.” My goal, purely, is to understand the process of being a writer by living as a writer so that I can teach students to be writers. I can’t tell students to do something that I’ve never done before, myself…I can’t ask students to know a process instinctively that I have not, myself, lived, analyzed and “scaffolded” for them in the learning process.
And in exposing myself to the process, I’m digging up memories. One that rose to mind, today, in a conversation with my colleague and “coach,” who’s guiding me through this process, was my little dinner soiree in Stuttgart, Germany, last summer. My husband and I had rented a condo for 10 days as part of a month-long trip, along with which we also would be traveling out of Stuttgart & staying with hosts in Stuttgart. Our solitude and opportunity to entertain on our own had to be captured in this one place. But if anyone of you has ever really stayed in residences in Europe, you know that they’re very, VERY different from American expectations. Add to that the meager cooking implements in a rented unit, and there’s not much to go on.
The best part was figuring out how to “make-do.” I knew that Mexican food wasn’t something to which my friends had been much exposed, but I realized pulling off anything involving tortillas would be a disaster…since I couldn’t find them! Even at the REWE, which is an amazing store, by the way, there were no soft, flour tortillas in sight! Then, the rice. If you’re having six people to dinner, you really MUST have a pot big-enough to cook a fair amount of rice. But remember, this is a rental.
I settled on shrimp, purchased from the Turkish store with amazing produce on the way to my husband’s exchange school, Morike Gymnasium. Cilantro there, too. What I didn’t realize….though my husband pointed out later was RIGHT on the front of the box…was that they were complete shrimp. Not just legs, but brains & eyeballs! While it was a trick, I was able to pull off a cumin & chile cream sauce to accompany the dish. Alongside I served Emeril’s Corn Relish, tortilla chips, and tomato & avocado that I found at the Markethalle in the city center.
The outdoor, exotic dining experience is so amazing….one of our friends brought a gorgeous linen tablecloth; we overturned a VERY weathered, but workable, wood table, brought out chairs, rearranged deteriorated plants, set out candles and wine, and, Voila! A lovely feast.
It shows me how creative we can be in a pinch, especially when there are friends and wine involved. And to think, this entire memory is brought to you courtesy of the letters W & N, which stand for “writer’s notebook!”