For thirty years I dreamed of a life as a professional writer. Here's how it is for me, after twenty-five years. There's plenty about work in progress, a whole lot more about the things that feed my creative process.
Help! I’m Running out of Jalapenos – but not any more.
It was over a year ago that I took delivery of a large carton of chile products, air freighted from New Mexico by my good friend Glenn Norman. It cost over $50.00 in postage but was absolutely worth it – even though my polite enquiry, ‘What do you fancy for lunch?’ is invariably answered by, ‘Any chance of toasted cheese and green chiles?’ Day after day after day. Yep, we’re now both hooked.
So… having emptied the last can of chopped chile, I decided to do something I’ve only tried once or twice before, pickling my own. And I have to report that they are… damned good.
While we’re on the subject of tasty condiments, here’s a picture of the remains of the lime pickle I made before Christmas. When I first read the recipe in Ishmael Merchant’s Passionate Meals my jaw did drop. ‘Take 200 limes…’ it began. I suspect that the recipe was written for people who pickle in season. Okay, lads, it’s the lime harvest. Grab yourself a couple of hundred and get out those clean jars.
I settled for fifty – and did a deal with my local greengrocery. A box containing 63 small fruit for £5.00 ($8.00). The recipe requires huge amounts of (a) garlic and (b) chile, plus several other spices. But it’s easy enough. The problem comes in having toldthe world- ie, one’s family – what you’ve been up to. ‘Ooh, lime pickle! I love that.’
I held onto two jars and parted with the rest, disguised as Christmas presents. That’ll teach them.
I have been struggling with the childhood memoir I am
ghosting. As ever with such projects, it’s more or less impossible not to allow
one’s own memories and experiences to creep in. I actually think it’s both
necessary and in desirable, in order to achieve empathy with the subject, and
to give the narrative authenticity. Even when I co-wrote the cricketer Wasim
Khan’s autobiography (Brim Full of
Passion, which was chosen as Wisden’s
Cricket Book of the Year in 2007) – and this was a guy who grew up a Kashmiri
in inner city Birmingham – I had to incorporate passages from my own childhood,
firstly to add a genuine flavour and secondly to allow myself to participate
joyfully in the writing. Joy: it does come out in the writing. It’s a
complicated business, being a ghost writer – at least, it is if you do it with
I quit the keyboard and watched the football. It’s an F.A. Cup tie between ManchesterCity and Blackburn Rovers. I’m
hoping for a goal-fest.