The uncanny similarities between writing and sweet potatoes

Most nights when we get home from work, I really don’t feel inspired to make dinner. I am hungry, yes, and I want to eat well, obviously, but I am tired. I know I am not alone in these sentiments.

I don’t enjoy feeling that making dinner is a burden, though. Because I love to cook. I love to cook when the stars are aligned and ingredients are practically calling out to me to be paired up with their complementary counterparts and chicken and parsley and freshly cracked pepper and chicken broth and cream and whatever else, decide to live in harmony with one another for one perfect meal. Which doesn’t always happen. But I have learned that with cooking, as with writing and many other things in life, it’s starting that is the hardest part.


Tonight  when Eric and I walked through the front door, I was teetering on the edge between dinner prep and a power nap (he went for the nap). I don’t know how dinner preparations won–I don’t remember any persuasive arguments–but I found myself picking up three sweet potatoes that were nearing their time of question-ability and I decided to peel them. Peel them. Not cook them. Eating them was so far in the future, I could’t even think about it. Bridges should be crossed when they are reached, and the bridge where you lay out a blanket and eat your sweet potatoes while dangling your legs over a bubbling brook wasn’t even on my radar.

In that instance of hunger and exhaustion, peeling the potatoes was almost too much, so I decided I would only pick up a sweet potato, and walk it to the trash can with the peeler in my right hand. That’s all I committed to. That’s all my exhaustion would allow me to commit to.

Once I got to the trash can, I decided since I had come this far, I might as well peel the potato. And after it was peeled, I decided I might as well pick up the second potato while I was at it. While I was peeling it, I noticed that peeling potatoes isn’t really as bad as I had made it out to be. Why does vegetable prep get such a bad rap anyway? No one has time for it. That is the mentality behind those bags of faded pre-cut vegetables you can buy at the grocery store for twice as much as the non-faded, unchopped stuff. I get that mentality. I get it because of the mental gymnastics I was currently putting myself through to get to the point where I would have cooked potatoes ready for eating.

But really, peeling potatoes is actually more than a stepping stone to the end product. If you can imagine away the braces and acne, there really is potential in the transitory state.

So what happens to the potatoes next in this page-turning episode? They got chopped into somewhat even pieces, that’s what. And a few minutes later, after sitting in a pan of butter and bacon fat, they become…edible. And that is how you turn raw root vegetables into cooked food, my friends. I hope the surprise ending wasn’t too much of a shock.

I am continually learning that starting is hard, but any effort at all can still produce results. It can also provide motivation to work harder, when you had already resigned yourself to the fact that you would never be able to work hard, ever again. Once, I was surprised that I came to the end of a book I had been reading in ten minute increments on the Metro ride into work. I was surprised because I thought that if you read books only in ten-minute increments, you would be destined to read them ad infinitum.

Sweet potatoes are full of life lessons.

And now I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes about writing:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow


So guess who is eating a bowl of sweet potatoes and writing a blog post right now. That is correct. What else is actually for dinner? Heck if I know. But you want to know the twist to this story? I really didn’t want to write a blog post today. I was tired and didn’t know where to begin. However, while the sweet potatoes were cooking, I opened my laptop.

I mean, come on, it’s like I might as well peel and dice up my lap top and fry it in a pan of butter for all the similarities it shares with my sweet potatoes.


Comments are closed.