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Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
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Cooking up a Storey

by Donna George Storey

Eternal Inspiration:
The "How's" and "Why's" of Genre and Gingerbread

 

Cooking up a Storey by Donna George StoreyThe theme of this year’s “Cooking Up a Storey” is sharing delicious secrets, and this month I’d like to go straight to the source of inspiration for our writing.  When I first started writing some fifteen years ago, a fountain of ideas for stories came pouring forth, and my only problem seemed finding enough time to write them all down.  I’d heard of writer’s block—and could even see my previous thirteen-year vacation from creative writing as an extended blockage of my creative spirit.  But ever the worrier, I wondered if the new flood of inspiration would exhaust itself, and I’d be left with better-honed writing skills, but nothing to write about.

Predictably, the rush of ideas did slow down, and I have occasionally gone months without writing depending on what’s been going on with the rest of my life.  Yet I no longer worry about profound writer’s block, because I’ve come to realize I’m in touch with a source of eternal inspiration.  Which brings me back to secrets.  And mysteries.  As a reader, writer, and all-around person, I’ve always been very partial to the question “why.”  My English conversation students in Japan complained that I was always asking “why” about Japanese customs which forced them to articulate things they’d simply taken for granted.  I’m only slightly less intrigued by the question “how.”  These questions have been my loyal allies in my writing journey because two simple words can give rise to an infinite variety of stories.  Take the standard plot of erotica and romance, “girl meets boy(s).”  Boring, repetitive and unoriginal to be sure.  But add in the juicy details of “how” and the fascinating motivations born of “why,” and a writer is busy for a lifetime.  Best of all, if you delve into the “why” and “how” with passion and open-mindedness, you’ll happily avoid the most dreaded question a reader can pose:  “So what?”

Often enough I’ve written stories that are based on my own experiences, but pursuing a good mystery that involves something I haven’t yet explored will always get my creative juices flowing.  I don’t necessarily mean the classic detective murder mystery who-done-it.  My prompts are more along the lines of “how might a sensual photo session be sexy and empowering for a woman rather than objectifying?” or “why would a woman seek out the experience of bukkake (allowing a group of men to fondle her and ejaculate on her body)?” or “why might a man get aroused by sharing his lover with another man?”  The voices of my fairly traditional upbringing suggest that such activities are strange and incomprehensible, even while they exert a tug of transgressive appeal.  Yet by suspending that ingrained judgment and opening myself to the possibilities, I’ve written some of my most reprinted stories.

It felt odd at first to admit to myself that I want to write mystery stories.  When I first started writing, I was an innocent believer in the purity of genre.  Literary fiction was about life as it really happens.  Mystery stories were about murders solved by clever detectives.  Romance was about finding your one true love.  Erotica was about desire—usually but not always of a sexual nature.  Soon enough I became aware of the promiscuous possibilities of blending genres with my chosen area—erotic romance, erotic thrillers, erotic horror, literary erotica—but I still believed these labels defined and restricted the writing to certain themes, plots, and sensibilities.

Then I began consciously reading as a writer.  By this I mean paying attention to what twist of plot kept me glued to the book, what conflict piqued my curiosity, what upcoming showdown made my pulse quicken, all with the idea of stealing this magic for myself.  At the risk of oversimplification, what always keeps me turning the pages is “why” and “how.”  This doesn’t just work on the reading side of the equation.  When I’m intrigued by my story and characters, when I am motivated to discover their secrets, the writing flows.

So whenever I’m feeling my well is dry or I’m a bit tired of the cliches of erotica, I fall back on two effective strategies.  First, look for a mysterious secret to explore, and second, plunder liberally from other genres for the tricks that seduce and entertain readers, while making sure to impart your own flavor.  So far, I still have more ideas for stories than time to write them, and I still love asking “why.” Let’s hope it stays that way!

This month’s recipe for German-style honey gingerbread (Lebkuchen) is especially fitting because this recipe is still a bit of a mystery to me even though I’ve been making it for years.  Most of the cookies I bake are butter-based and taste delicious for the first few days, then begin a slow, steady decline in flavor and texture.  However, these Honey Cake Squares require at least a few weeks of aging to reach their potential and are still delicious and moist months later, in spite of the butter in the recipe.  Gingerbread has been a popular treat for centuries, no doubt because it keeps well.  Is this merely due to the magical preservative qualities of the exotic spices?  Does honey give it more staying power than refined sugar?  The fruit-and-nut-rich filling surely contributes to the age-worthiness, but the dry edges also grow soft and mellow with time.  In any case, the best news is that you can bake a batch of these beauties right now, enjoy them at your leisure throughout the autumn, and still have some tasty treats in their prime to serve during the winter holidays.  But don’t wait any longer than late November, or they won’t be ready by year’s end.

honey cake squaresBon Appetit!


HONEY CAKE SQUARES
adapted from Festive Baking by Sarah Kelly Iaia
(makes about 55 bite-size cookies)

Lebkuchen Dough:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                      1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda                              1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder                         1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespooons honey
1 Tablespoon cinnamon                              1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom                   1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves                      1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon powdered anise

FILLING:

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped unblanched almonds
1 cup raisins
1 3/4 cups apricot jam
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 firmly packed diced mixed candied orange and lemon peel

ICING:

3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Cover a rimless 15” x 11” baking sheet with parchment.  Sift the flour into a bowl and the spices into another.  Heat the honey, sugar, and butter together over low heat, stirring all the time until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved, do not let it come to a boil.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the sifted spices.  Gradually beat in the sifted flour, added as much as needed to make the dough, when stirred, pull away from the sides of the pan.  You will need most of the amount given, possibly more depending on the honey.  Remove the dough to a large bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Beat in the egg then knead the dough with your hands in the bowl.  (Actually I’ve found it easier to cool the dough a bit and beat in the egg before I add all the flour, but the original recipes calls for this order).  If the dough is too sticky, knead in a little more flour until it no longer sticks to your hands.

While Lebkuchen dough is still warm, divide the dough in two.  Roll out one piece directly onto the buttered sheet (or onto parchment), making a rectangle approximately 13” x 8 1/2”.  There should be at least a one-inch rim left free to allow for expansion.  Roll out the second piece the same size as the first on a piece of parchment.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix all filling ingredients together in a bowl, adding additional lemon juice if it is too thick to spread.  Distribute filling evenly over the dough on the baking sheet leaving a 1/2” rim around the edges.  Reverse the other half of the dough quickly on top of the filling, peeling off the paper.  Press the edges together well and trim evenly.  While the cake is baking, make the icing by putting the lemon juice in a large mixing bowl.  Gradually beat in the sifted powdered sugar, beating for at least 8 minutes to dissolve the sugar completely.  Add enough extra lemon juice to make a thin icing of pouring consistency.  While the cake is still warm, pour the icing over it, using a pastry brush to cover it evenly.  Allow to sit overnight at room temperature.  The following day, trim the outer edges.  Cut the cake into 1 1/4 to 1” squares.  For the best flavor, store in an airtight tin, layers separated by wax paper, for several weeks before eating—they will still be delicious months after baking.

**Note: the freshness of your spices do make a big difference.  Consider buying new, small jars of spice each year and grating the nutmeg fresh.

Donna George Storey
September 2012


Contact Donna at Donna George Storey or at Sex Food And Writing
Donna is Cooking up a Storey in ERWA 2012 Archive

______
"Cooking up a Storey" © 2012 Donna George Storey. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written

About the Author: Donna George Storey taught English in Japan and Japanese in the United States and has finally found the work of her dreams writing erotica. If you're really nice, she'll bake you a batch of her Venetian cookies, with layers of marzipan, jam and chocolate, that take a ridiculous amount of time to make and are (almost) better than sex. Her work has been published in dozens of journals and anthologies including Clean Sheets, Fishnet, Best American Erotica, Best Women's Erotica and Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica.
Her first novel, Amorous Woman-a semi-autobiographical tale of an American woman's love affair with Japan, Japanese food and lots of sexy men and women along the way-was published by Neon/Orion. It's currently available at Amazon and Amazon UK, and from her web site, DonnaGeorgeStorey.com.
For more of her musings on sensual pleasure and creativity stop by her blog:  Sex, Food and Writing. You can also take a quick trip to Japan with Donna's provocative Amorous Woman book trailer at: www.youtube.com



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