YOU CAN’T EAT A BOOK, BUT…. By Miko Johnston

Spring has finally arrived. The season of renewal. Rebirth. Intensive house cleaning. Today I’m cleaning out the attic, a.k.a. my brain. Feel free to take what you want from the pile. 

I’ve been so impressed with my fellow WinRs. Jackie Houchin bravely entering the world of book publishing. Jill Amadeo sacrificing personal glory to ghostwrite someone else’s story. Gayle’s generosity in sharing her excellent writing tips. Linda’s encouraging words about writers’ groups. Then there’s Rosemary’s wonderful “Yak Shavings” and the heartfelt way she shares her life with readers. And Madeline’s musings on writing always inspire me.

In fact, Madeline’s recent post sparked an idea, which I promise I’ll get to eventually. I’m about to lose the cooking channel from my cable subscription, so I’ve been semi-binging on my favorite competition shows. I often hear contestants stress the importance of passion in cooking. To me, passion is fine, even helpful if you want to work in the food industry, but it doesn’t make the cut for the top three criteria of a good cook. I’ve known plenty of people who are passionate about cooking and aren’t very good at it, while others who have no passion for it are quite good.

In my opinion, the three most important qualities needed to be a good cook are:

1 – An understanding of the ingredients. Anyone can go into a store and buy food, whether an apple or a piece of fish. Knowing how to distinguish quality, and which variety will be best for its intended purpose, is the beginning of good cooking.

2 – A knowledge of cooking techniques. You can start with good ingredients, but they’ll be wasted if you don’t know what to do with them. Knowing how to use those ingredients, season and prepare them, is fundamental. This knowledge can often salvage less than pristine ingredients, like that fish you forgot about for a few days.

3 – (This may be the most important of all, although I never hear it mentioned.) You have to eat good food. Good food doesn’t necessarily mean haute cuisine or the latest “it” dish. It can be burgers, branzino, or blini. It’s food that’s prepared with skill and care, whether in a Michelin starred restaurant, the corner diner, or Grandma’s kitchen.

Which brings me back to Madeline’s post about reading books by great authors and learning from them. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know I’ve frequently recommended re-reading the authors who’ve inspired you to write, writers whom you’d like to emulate. It bears a similarity to sitting down to a great meal in a restaurant, or watching a talented chef prepare a dish on TV. You learn from theirskill and care. Like cooking, writing requires the same three qualities: an understanding of the ‘ingredients’ that make a good story, a knowledge of the techniques of good writing, and most importantly, reading good books. Much like eating a fine meal inspires us to cook something wonderful, reading a superbly written book or re-reading one by an author we admire, to paraphrase Madeline, teaches, inspires, and rejuvenates us.



Miko first contemplated a writing career as a poet at age six. That notion ended four years later when she found no ‘help wanted’ ads for poets in the classified section, but her desire to write persisted. After graduating from New York University, she headed west to pursue a career as a journalist before switching to fiction. She is the author of the A Petal In The Wind Series, including recently released Book III – The Great War .  Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington.


12 thoughts on “YOU CAN’T EAT A BOOK, BUT…. By Miko Johnston”

  1. Really grabbed onto your good cooking/eating analysis and analogy to writing. I hadn’t thought about the two connected like you did, but very apt and on the mark. Also, so nice to hear my meanderings actually led somewhere for you, and oddly enough you’ve now given me an idea for my current WIP having to do with the “right ingredients.” Funny how that works–the idea/inspiration trail.

    Lovely written post, Miko… Yum.


  2. As Jill said, a great analogy. We do need to clean out our shelves and restock the larder in order to create a great meal for others to feast on.


    1. So true, Gayle. We can use up that old box of pasta and still make a fresh new meal out of it. Fortunately, for series writers like us, we can do the same with our old characters – write new adventures for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Miko, your post has me thinking about economy, both of ingredients and of words. Some of my most creative cooking and writing uses economy, with nothing wasted.


  4. Despite the skills of some of my characters and the recipes in some of my books, I’m not much of a cook. But I love your analogy comparing cooking with writing. Maybe someday I’ll use it and re-learn how to cook well. Thanks!


  5. Okay, this is SO relevant Miko, as I prepare to leave for Italy in 5 weeks – the land of superb cooking and eating. Prosciutto, Gelato, tiramisu, pasta, pizza, pesto, breads, cheeses, espresso, cappaccino. Oh, my goodness, they TRULY are different and better than we have here. So, I’ll try to remember GOOD WRITING and GOOD READING as I’m indulging myself at the table in Turino (and gaining a few pounds while I’m at it).
    And may I suggest the book of ROMANS which I just finished studying for the previous school year in Bible Study Fellowship. A mighty book of truth and justice, indeed!


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