People who don’t write fiction sometimes find it hard to believe that novels aren’t thinly veiled memoir. But they aren’t.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about something that had happened to me. “Wow,” he said. “You could write a book about that.” I explained to him that I was never tempted to write about real life. It isn’t that fiction is a purely escapist act–writing or reading it–but I have no interest in rehashing events of my life, other than in a journal.
What I do take from life events and use in writing fiction, however, is the emotional experience. People who have read Ithaca (and my previous book, Seeker of Stars) have commented on their surprise that I can write something that seems authentic about an older woman’s grief or a young man’s yearning–but my secret is that at some level, we’ve all experienced grief and yearning, and my job as a novelist is to take that emotional experience and translate it to a context I’ve never lived through.
If there’s any doubt whether Daisy, Ithaca‘s protagonist, is me, this week’s soup ought to settle matters. For I loathe mushrooms. Loathe them with a passion. And this week’s soup–Oyster Mushroom Soup–is the soup that Daisy teaches her friend Carmel to make. It’s the only soup recipe that’s in the book. It’s also the only soup recipe that I did not taste test as I developed it. I’m going to presume that the people I shared it with had good taste, but I honestly never had so much as a sip of the soup. So, do let me know what you think, if you try this soup. I’m happy to hear your adaptations.
Oyster Mushroom Soup
Wipe down 3 cups oyster mushrooms with a damp cloth. Trim the ends and chop coarsely.
In a saucepan, melt 3 Tbsp butter and sauté 1 onion, chopped, until softened. Add mushrooms, 4 cups vegetable stock, splash of white wine, splash of soy sauce, pepper, salt and thyme. Heat through.
As Carmel says, “I thought it would be way more complicated.”
Daisy replies: “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“No. I’m not disappointed. It’s just. It’s not much more complicated than opening a can and I’m guessing from the smell that it’s a thousand times better.”
And because it is indeed fiction, you’ll have to trust the character and not the writer on this soup.