I’ve been reading Peter Stockwell’s Cognitive Poetics, and one of the suggested exercises was to write your life story as a cookery recipe, which sounded like fun, so I’ve given it a go. One thing I noticed straight away as soon as I started to write was just how many very violent verbs there are in cookery books: batter, smash, grind, pound, and so on. It occurs to me that it would be possible to write an excellent murder scene in the form of a recipe. I might try that next, using the scene in Spark’s The Ballad of Peckham Rye when Mr Druce murders poor Miss Coverdale of the long neck.
Here’s the life-story recipe. I’ve not included everything, because that would be tedious.
Marinated and battered administrator with chips and mushy peas
- Teenage angst
- Various qualifications of different sizes
- Work experience in varying degrees of awfulness
- Several useless boyfriends
- Two husbands
- Counselling in measured amounts
- A fistful of lovely friends
- Mushy peas
Take a pear-shaped casserole dish and line with plenty of teenage angst. Turn the heat right up until the dish is red-hot, then add some of the smaller qualifications and mix well. Transfer to a university and soak in cider for three years. Spoon in another, larger qualification, turn the heat down and simmer in a solution of tepid retail experience until tender but not quite on the point of collapse. Toss into a large library then dunk in a publishing house. Sprinkle in a useless boyfriend along with another of the smaller qualifications and let the mixture bubble and froth until boiling point is reached. Pour into a marmite and remove to France. Let the mixture stand for a year, by the end of which time it will be coated in fat. At this point, return the mixture to the UK.
Batter with another useless boyfriend and then leave to stew in teaching for eight years, or until thoroughly browned off. During this stage of preparation, add the first husband. Stir until dissolved then remove the empty shell.
The mixture will now be very pale and flat, so keep adding sedatives and measured amounts of counselling until it begins to rise. Sweeten with lovely friends and allow to settle. After a month or two, warm the mixture in university administration. Drain and drop in the second husband. After three years, scrape away the remains of the husband’s parrot.
Season to taste. Serve with chips, mushy peas and as much wine as you can get down your neck without being hospitalised.