Books, Baking & Bingeing by Andi Watson
Food and books: two of the most important things in my life (apart from my family, in case they’re reading this). In a Venn diagram of food, or more importantly, desserts in one circle and books in the other, I stand hungrily in the union, Cold Comfort Farm in one hand, a slice of warm lemon meringue pie in the other. Hmmmm, lemon meringue pie. Sorry, I’m getting distracted.
Baking and reading are my joy, refuge and delight in a real world where salad is for lunch and crimes aren’t always solved by canny consulting detectives. What we eat and what we read also share a language. Readers are said to ‘devour’ a book. Head down, indifferent to the world around them, curled up in their favourite reading nook enjoying the thrill of a finely wrought plot or enraptured by dazzling prose.
Then there’s ‘comfort’ eating and the written equivalent that book lovers turn to when they’re feeling unwell or stressed. When I’m confined to bed with the man-flu I’ll likely be munching toast and reading Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. If I’m feeling lousy I want to be in the company of characters who are like old friends I haven’t seen for a year (or since the last head cold) and can continue our acquaintance without skipping a beat. What better companion in snot and sneezes than Lizzie Bennett? My broken-spined paperback has crumbs crunching between the pages and transparent spots left by buttery fingers. It’s also likely the carrier of all kinds of germs by now, a Penguin Classic patient zero.
And let’s not forget ‘bingeing’. The feeling we have after devouring the first book in a series and knowing there’s many more to follow. After stumbling upon a lost classic quite by accident, like J.P. Martin’s Uncle, or finishing A Study in Scarlet in a fat volume of the complete Sherlock Holmes and knowing there’s so much more to enjoy. Why, thank you, Mrs Hudson, I ‘d love another cookie. As a teenager I read fantasy trilogies by the tonne. Even better if it was the Belgariad and there were five books. I wanted to live in those worlds and the longer I spent there the better. Eventually I’d finish the concluding volume, the last goblin or dark lord smited, and suffer a fleeting sense of grief on returning to the real world of romantic disappointment and dull suburbia. It was fleeting though, because that Piers Anthony guy had likely finished another Xanth book while I wasn’t looking.
We can binge watch TV series on Netflix, episodes one to twelve available immediately to stream. The same goes for the DVD box set, and bingeing isn’t limited to drinking or eating or watching nowadays; we can binge listen to the Serial podcast, putty in the hands of storyteller Sarah Koenig. Of course, there is a downside to this instant gratification, the feelings of regret or even guilt following a blow-out meal or marathon session in front of the TV. After gorging myself on the first four series of Breaking Bad last Christmas, I haven’t recovered enough to watch the fifth and final season. It’s easy to give in to temptation and over indulge in this age of plenty.
The shared delights of food and books aren’t limited to consumption, they are also opportunities for creation. I began baking as an activity I could share with my daughter when she was little. Baking is making and playing and I’d watch her delight as she squeezed the butter and flour between her pudgy little fingers to form breadcrumbs. Not only did she get to make a mess but there was a yummy rock cake as the end result.
I try and keep the gratification my daughter found in baking in mind while I’m slaving away on my own creations. It may have taken months to write and draw PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA AND COUNT SPATULA, but after the careful measuring and mixing, redrawing a page here, rewriting a scene there, I hope the result is the same: a delicious experience for the reader. At the risk of beating the metaphor into fluffy peaks, what goes for creating a book also goes for baking a cake. It takes an awful lot longer to make than it does to consume.
Like that chocolate orange confection I made earlier. What greater compliment is there than the phrase, “Can I have another slice?” Why not – let’s make it a trilogy.
Andi Watson is the author of PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA AND COUNT SPATULA and has been creating comics and graphic novels for over two (gulp) decades. He has made books for grown ups and children and those somewhere in between. Occasionally he’s been nominated for awards (three Eisners, a Harvey, and a British Comics Awards). He’s also a writer and illustrator. When he’s not writing or drawing he likes to eat lemon meringue pie, jog, bake, read and watch the birds in his back garden. Just not all at the same time. He lives in Worcester with his wife and daughter.