February 14, 2018

Feeding the Writer's Muse

Writing is hard work! (No one believes that but other writers.) One of the things that commonly happens to those of us who spend hundreds of hours at our computers is we either 1) forget to eat, or 2) resent having to stop to eat, or worse—cook. Sounds harmless, but feeding the brain is a very important part of writing.
Feeding the Muse 
The brain requires a steady supply of glucose (carbohydrate) in order to function correctly. In fact, the brain uses twice the energy of any other cell in your body and can only utilize carbohydrate to generate that energy. Now, I'm not talking about a steady diet of chocolate or potato chips (although the chocolate sounds like a good plan to me), but a writer must not fall into the habit of not eating because they are on deadline or on a roll. Conversely, too much sugar can cause brain fatigue. Avoid sweet soft drinks, pastries, cookies, and candy among others.

I keep snack foods in a drawer near my desk for those times when I,m hungry, but don't want to stop what I'm doing. Snacks that provide the mental energy without the calorie load include dried fruit (apricots, cranberries, raisins, etc.), nuts (walnuts and almonds), and easy to eat fresh fruit (blueberries, cherries, grapes, etc.).

Another cause of brain fatigue is dehydration. Again, who wants to leave their work to go get a drink of water? I keep a small bottle of water at hand, and try to drink at least 8 cups of water per day. Other beverages that will hydrate but not overload your brain with sugar include caffeine-free tea and fruit juice.

Plot With Your Crockpot! 
As far as I'm concerned, my crockpot is my best friend. With just the tiniest bit of planning, I can sit down to a delicious dinner at the end of the day without having interrupted my work flow. On any given day, I write at least one blog post, one gardening article, text for my websites, begin or finish a feature article or column. I love not having to think about food!

For those who are away from home during the day, set up the crockpot in the morning or the night before, plug it into a timer so it will come on and turn off at the correct hour. You'll have a nice meal waiting for you, and can get on with your writing on a full tummy.

Here's one of my favorite crockpot recipes.

Pork Ragout with Fruit
Serves 8
Ragout is simply a fancy name for stew! You can substitute chicken, but be sure to use dark meat only. Breast meat will dry out during the long cooking time.

4 lbs bone-in pork shoulder or finger ribs
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup chopped onion
1 tsp ground ginger (or 2 tsp fresh grated)
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup red-wine or sherry vinegar (cider works just as well)
1 tsp dried thyme (or 1 Tbs minced fresh)
1 can reduced sodium beef broth (or 1 bouillon cube + 1 cup water)
1 cup whole dried apricots or peaches
1 cup dried cranberries (I use Craisins) or cherries or even prunes
1 cup dry sherry (or orange juice)
2 Tbs water
2 tsp cornstarch

Arrange onion in bottom of crockpot. Add meat, then season with salt, pepper, ginger, brown sugar, and thyme. Add vinegar, broth, sherry or juice, and fruit.
Cover and set to low. Cook 4 to 6 hours, depending on your experience with your own crockpot. Before serving, thicken liquid with cornstarch/water.

This dish is perfect served in a bowl or, if you feel like serving it over rice, it's fabulous that way too!

Other super-easy and delicious crockpot meals include Mac & Cheese and Simple Chicken. Google recipes that are one step meals–who has time to brown meat and fry onions and pre-cook stuff to go into the crockpot!

2018 Toni Leland

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