My house (and mind) cleaning project continues, although at a slower pace. The main impetus was to open up some space in our house—so I could finally put away last December’s Christmas gifts, finally shelve the stacks of books that were lying on the floor, finally retire my Amorous Woman promo materials. And there is indeed more space in my life, although not as much as you might think given the bags of stuff tossed, donated and sold to second-hand stores ($80 for our LP’s and VHS tapes—who’d have thunk it?) That new, beautiful space is more than easier on the eye. I can breathe easier, a subtle—or not so subtle--weight is lifted.
Sifting through my stuff has brought some other benefits, too. For example, as I sorted through my cookbook collection, deciding which books to keep, I came across some recipes that leapt out grabbed me by the palate. One such recipe for Banana-Rum Ice Cream (from Bon Appetit’s Special Collector’s edition of May 1998 which also provided me with my well-loved carrot soup recipe) was waiting for ten long years for its rediscovery, which just happened to coincide with my putting away the “new” ice cream maker I’d bought six months ago and never got around to taking out of the box. Picture me standing in my slightly-less-messy kitchen, reading the simple recipe I’d marked with a post-it, glancing over at the big bunch of dark, spotted bananas on the counter, and remembering that I had my Cuisinart ice cream maker all frozen and ready to go.
What the hell, why not make Banana-Rum Ice Cream RIGHT NOW!
It’s wild, it’s impulsive, it’s not in the plan, but what the fuck?
So I dashed over to the grocery store for a small carton of organic Clover brand cream and got to work. Here’s the recipe:
Banana-Rum Ice Cream (makes 8 servings)
1 cup chilled whipping cream (would light cream work?)
3/4 cup sugar (try 2/3 cup next time)
3 Tablespoons dark rum
1 1/4 pounds small ripe bananas (about 5), peeled and chopped
(Consider adding walnuts and chocolate chips during last five minutes of freezing process or as a garnish)
Place cream, sugar and rum in blender or food processor. Add bananas and puree until smooth. Chill for a few hours. Transfer to ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Cover and freeze. Can be made 3 days ahead.
This is all exactly what I did.
Did I make a mistake following my impulse? Did the simplicity mean insipidness? Not at all. This ice cream was really delicious. It had none of that bite of imitation flavor some commercial banana ice creams rely on—nothing but pure, creamy, banana flavor. And with just one cup of cream, it’s not super-fatted either, although next time I might try light cream and a bit less sugar as I think it would still be good and even healthy. But Herr Doktor and I decided that a sprinkling of walnuts and chocolate chips (both very healthy) might liven up the dessert even more and sure enough that creative urge proved delightful as well.
I never thought cleaning my house would lead to this. Very cool indeed.
I also wanted to mention just quickly now (I plan to follow up with a longer post or a column later) another treasure I discovered buried in a bookshelf—Curtis White’s The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves. The book was published in 2003, and I’m not sure when or where I bought it, but I know I’m so very glad I’m reading it now at this moment, a crossroads in my writing life. Curtis is speaking to me at a time when I so need to hear his message. The book is full of fascinating points, but I’ll summarize the most pertinent one here. Curtis maintains our national collective imagination is in poverty.
“What does this poverty mean in practical terms? Well, it’s something we experience daily. Take our entertainment. Even when it’s clever (which I acknowledge that it is at times, in the full superficiality that term implies), does it help us to understand that the present world is not the only God-given, natural and inevitable world and that it could be different? Or does it stabilize the inevitability and naturalness of the present disposition of things? On the whole, our entertainment—movies, TV, music—is a testament to our ability and willingness to endure boredom…and pay for it.”
He goes on to discuss academia, and most chillingly, the military-industrial and political systems as well, but I’ll turn the focus to what is pertinent to the erotica-writing life. While what we call “the arts” (certainly on any national level) is tied to corporate interests as his hilarious analyses of Steven Spielberg and Terry Gross reveal, the vibrant imagination he champions thinks change. A healthy imagination challenges the status quo, rather than, say cynically aims to “create” for the sake of a record-breaking advance or a fifteen-minute run of fame in the fickle media’s spotlight.
Of course, as an English literature professor, Curtis himself is heavy-handed with the criticism of what is worthy and what isn’t, an old editorial voice I must quiet in myself to do any writing at all. But the truth is, I do want to be reaching for something more in my writing at this point, and Curtis is helping me articulate that goal. The other day my sister was urging me to write “a couple of vampire bodice-rippers” “under a pseudonym if you have to” all of course with the purpose of cleverly manipulating "True Blood" mania (so many say it's the "sexiest show on TV") to make money, which is as we know the final validation of my talent.
I reject every single element of her argument, and I could go on and on as to why. But the main reason I will never do this is because writing about vampires for these reasons will, appropriately, suck all the life out of my soul. Maybe I could do a ghost story, because I’ve always loved them, but that is a key difference—and lucky you, if you love vampires and this is your moment in the sun, so to speak.
Curtis helped me see the important quality every piece of creative work that I admire possesses. Whether novel, an essay, an erotic tale, an episode of "Mad Men," the experience of interacting with these creations sparks my curiosity, gets my mind leaping, opens up new space, makes me feel alive. And when I’m writing a story that makes me feel this way, my passion almost always conveys itself to my readers (or so it seems). Writing this way takes a lot of work, a lot of clearing out, and a great deal of courage. It may never tickle the fancy of an agent or the wallet of a publisher. It may never fit into a profitable niche. But it will make me—and hopefully my readers--see the world with new eyes and yes, feel more alive.
And that, my friends, is the best revenge against the corporate vampires that would suck the life out of our souls. So keep writing with all the passion in your hearts. We will change the world one dirty story at a time!