I'm currently taking a class at UCLA Extension on Food Writing. It's been interesting, disheartening and frustrating all at the same time. We've had visits from some accomplished and well-known food writers and editors and the question always arises, "So, does your (insert publication name here) accept freelance?" and the invariable answer is a solid NO. Or, in some cases, NO - unless you're really well-known.
See what I mean about disheartening? Frustrating? But its not every day that you get to listen to Russ Parsons of the LA Times talk about how he develops recipes and conducts interviews, so it is interesting. And if it forces me to post more often, then it can't be all bad. Here it is - my first homework assignment: Describe a food memory in 250 words.
I’ve always loved to eat, though not necessarily to cook. There were times during my childhood in which I considered changing my last name to Stouffer’s, if only to make me closer to my then-favorite frozen lasagna. As a child, I didn’t realize there was cooking involved because I was more concerned with the end product. There wasn’t a meatloaf I didn’t like or a dinner I wouldn’t eat except for one: Tuna Casserole.
I curse the individual who first ruined a perfectly good noodle with the addition of canned fish, cheese and condensed cream of mushroom soup. How my mother found the inspiration to combine this foul concoction from the contents of our well-stocked, walk-in pantry eludes me, and how any of us survived the fishy stench emanating from the oven boggles the mind. It looked like a baking dish of gray baby spittle, the texture and color of freshly-mixed wet cement. Spooned out onto my plate, it lost its shape and oozed into my iceberg wedge and dared to mix with the Ranch dressing. The first bite -my only bite- revealed a dozen slimy mushroom pellets that slipped between my teeth when I tried to bite down. The potato chip topping sliced the roof of my delicate 7 year old mouth and as I swallowed, I remembered where I had tasted this once before. Tuna casserole tastes like Kindergarten paste. There would be no second bite. Not today, not ever - because I would learn to cook.