Sunday, August 9, 2009

Channeling Cass, Who Eats to Live

By Sophie

I'm a terrible terrible junk food addict, as the Pens know (especially those who roomed with me in D.C. and got dragged along for McDonalds runs). My taste in, well, taste is lowbrow and well-larded with lard.

I'm not into the sugar so much, but sprinkle salt on just about anything and deep-fry it and we're good. Potato chips are my core food, in particular those sturdy kettle-style salt-and-pepper deals. But I also adore hush puppies, clam fritters, onion rings, catfish, anything at all from the Frito-Lay folks....

(It turns out that both LGC's people - the English - and my people - the Poles - make a version of stale bread fried in bacon fat. Global delicious!)

This has worked out okay for me, surprisingly. I force myself to eat a decent diet, packing away the required fruits and veggies and so forth before prowling the larder late at night for sodium-rich foodstuffs composed of polyunsaturated fats. I don't even have to compete with the kids, because in a freakish departure from the family genes, they don't like junk food. (A shameful memory of mine is yelling at my then-eight-year-old, "You better eat that whole damn cupcake or no apple for you!")

However, change has come to Sophietown.

Starting last week, my diet underwent a dramatic overhaul. I'm eating for sustenance. Food as fuel - consumed indifferently, on the run, chosen for dietary efficacy and without a thought to palate appeal. Cereal and yogurt and fruit for breakfast, a simple sandwich or salad for lunch and dinner.

This isn't a diet and I don't care if I lose weight. Any improvement in my cholesterol or blood pressure or BMI will be unintended.

Because it's all about becoming Cass.

Cass Dollar is the heroine of my next book. I'm not sayin' much about her, because that will jinx the project, but Cass is a haunted young woman who views her body variously as a vehicle and an encumbrance and a ticking bomb. Cass is hardly a sensualist - her world is a lean and daunting place, and she neither seeks nor indulges pleasure of any kind, and certainly not when it comes to food.

I've never tried "method" writing before - the idea of being the character, at least during writing hours. But this project seems right for it. I feel a real affinity for poor Cass (don't worry, she has a redemptive arc and by the end of the book she'll probably be downing jelly donuts and champagne and dancing through sprinklers or something) and I want to understand who she is as clearly as I can, at least in the early days of the draft.

(Note that I just gave myself an out there. "Early days of the draft," I said, which is code for "if I really need a Dorito then all bets are off.")


Unknown said...

Interesting idea for getting into character!

One of my hottest sex scenes was written during a long dry spell. I'm not willing to suffer for my art in that way anymore, but I love this idea!!!!

They say that after about a week on an extreme low-calorie diet (food supplement, 800 calories a day), you just stop being hungry. Extrapolating that to a whole character state is really interesting!

Good luck w/early draft. After two weeks of no sugar-delivery food, I lose all craving.

One HoHo brings it all back though :)


Unknown said...

let's hope your system doesn't go into shock...should i stash an emergency bag of cheetos in my car just in case? *vbg*

Martha Flynn said...


L.G.C. Smith said...

Now, see, all that fried bread in your gene pool? It sustains you through periods like this current aberration.

About that fried bread -- I was once appalled by a young Brit asking if he could pop a slice of bread in a pan of hot bacon grease I was cooling to toss.

"You EAT that?"

"S'brilliant," he insisted.

All I could think was ick, ick, ick. When I told my mother about it, she admitted to having grown up eating bread fried in bacon fat. Shudder. There are scary things we don't know about our parents.

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