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How My Son Got Me Into Writing AND Cooking

Since it’s my Mouthwatering May blog special event, I thought I’d share with you how I got into both cooking and writing, and the role that my son played in this…

Let’s start with the cooking… now, I’m no Masterchef, and nor do I want to be, but I did develop a bit of a knack for cooking when my son was little. As it turns out, he had a few food intolerances, and after doing an elimination diet with him I discovered he was sensitive to almost EVERYTHING I tested him with. Preservatives, MSG, colours..etc were the main culprits. So I began buying ‘additive free cookbooks’ and also experimenting with recipes of my own.

It was around this time I was also studying for my naturopathic qualifications, so I became more aware of food and nutrition and its impact on the body, and I was wanting to cook fresher, healthier meals. Also, I later discovered in addition to many additives he was also intolerant to dairy foods and gluten (found in bread, pasta, biscuits, and almost every single packaged food!), so once again I donned my well-used apron and experimented with even more recipes.

There were many disasters; homemade breads that crumbled to oblivion, inedible muffins that tasted like rocks, and don’t get me started on the pathetic cheese-less pizzas! But time and practise are great teachers, and soon I was whipping up meals and snacks that not only he liked, but other people too. Now, eating this way is a way of life, and I rarely follow a recipe. I’m an intuitive cook – I throw things together and make it up as I go.

Some of my favourite sweet creations (which have no sugar either! …except for the icing ;)) are: choc hazelnut and coconut muffins, gluten and dairy free banana cake, and choc macadamia cookies. And some of my favourite meal creations are: chicken soup with broccoli-stem ‘noodles’, roast balsamic chicken with mushroom, zuchinni, and carrots, lamb cutlets with sautéed bok choy, mushrooms and mustard dressing, warm chicken and red cabbage salad, grilled salmon with steamed broccolini and toasted pine nuts, butter-less butter chicken, and smoked salmon and avocado rice rolls (see pic above). Yum!!

So how did my son get me into writing? I always had a vague idea in my mind that I might write a book one day, but it was one of those things you never really think will happen. I wrote poetry as a teenager, and when I became a mother I started writing a few snippets of random scenes that would pop into my head, and even began a suspense novel, but gave up at chapter two!

Anyway, life moved on, I became busy with other things, and my son began pestering me to take him out of school and home-school him. At this time, I was running a busy and successful business, and could barely cope with helping him with his homework, let alone consider the idea of doing it ALL day EVERY day. But as my son neared high school and his high-functioning autism became more of an issue, it became apparent that the school system just wasn’t suited to his individual needs, and things became too much of a struggle (that’s another story!). So, I left my business to have a break and think things over for a while, eventually deciding on distance education instead of full-on homeschooling. Luckily, after a detailed application process, he was accepted, and although he’s not a fan of school in general, it’s been the best thing for him.

So what’s this got to do with writing? Well, after I left my business and made the commitment to do what was best for my son, the idea of writing a book resurfaced in my mind. I thought… “If I don’t do this now, I never will.” So after we’d finish school for the day I would spend time working on my first novel. And this time, I made it past chapter two (yay!), and eventually, after one year, I reached THE END. It was the best feeling EVER, and I wanted more. So I started my second novel, and nine months later typed THE END again. And now, I am nearing the end of my third novel which so far I’ve been writing for about four months (I must be getting faster!).

So there you have it, if it wasn’t for my son convincing me to home-school him, I may have continued working long hours in my business, with no time for anything else, and with my old ‘one chapter suspense novel’ being the only thing I’d ever written.

I’ve found my true passion, and with commitment to my craft, and a few gluten free choc macadamia cookies by my side as I write… I couldn’t be happier! 🙂


Sunday Lunch with Jenn J McLeod…

 Please give a warm welcome to author Jenn J McLeod as she joins me for Sunday Lunch…

1. Can you tell us about a happy memory from your life that revolved around food?

At 22, travelling around Australia in a Ford F100, my girlfriend and I were ‘rescued’ by four Sth Aust. farmers (on their annual pilgrimage). We dropped our exhaust on the (then corrugated dirt) Stuart highway, miles from anywhere. We met up with them again at Coober Pedy pub and they suggested we camp out of town. We did! (Had not heard of Wolf Creek then obviously.) What an experience. In the middle of nowhere – 100 clicks from Coober Pedy – they cooked us kangaroo tail soup, kangaroo steak, damper and baked vegies – all from a campfire (see picture below!). My love of a life in the country was born.

2. Do you have any food-related rituals or routines in your household, such as a specific meal for certain days of the week?

Very regimented at breakkie time  – need it to wake up. After that, who knows! As long as I get my two soy lattes every day I’m a happy girl.

3. What is your favourite

Drink: alcohol – full stop. Only don’t stop. Pls don’t stop. Barman! Another one pls…and one for my friends. (I shout cyber drinks these days since deciding too much of the real thing is bad for my health and my waistline. Although I will be lashing out come Conference. Try and stop me!)

Indulgence: brie cheese & crackers with homemade persimmon paste, pretzels and red wine under a setting summer sun.

Meal: Home made pasta or pizza with home grown spices and herbs.

4. What’s the most revolting thing you’ve ever eaten?

Oysters or smoked cod in white sauce. Brrrrrrrrr!!!!!

5. If you have children, have you discovered any ingenious ways to hide vegetables in meals?

I hide the dogs’ tick prevention pills in yoghurt (a dollop in each bowl of biccies). Does that count?

6. Is eating out at cafes and restaurants a regular part of your life? Do you have any favourite places you’d like to mention?

Eating out was my all-time fav thing to do…until I bought a café. If you want to stop eating out (save money and lose weight) buy a food business and see what some chefs do in the kitchen, learn what the 10 second rule is, or discover how cheap and easy that $30 masterpiece is to make! I promise you will never eat out again.

7. Do you eat while you write? Are there any particular foods or drinks you always have on hand while writing?

Who can eat and write at the same time? I need every finger to hunt and peck my way around the keyboard. Besides, I can’t afford slippery food fingers if I want to keep the letters from fading away.

8. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you choose?

Kylie Minogue or Tina Arena. Two different and very successful women who found success their own way. I admire their tenacity and the ability to reinvent themselves to broaden their audience and grow with the changing music scene. I’m not sure writers can ever do this. Both these ladies have endured set backs (in different ways) and stayed focused and positive.

9. Which one of the following types of cooks are you?

  • Cooking? What’s that?
  • I cook only when I absolutely have to
  • I’m an average cook, and stick to my regular meals
  • I like to experiment with new recipes regularly, or create my own
  • Next season of MasterChef – lookout!

None of the above. I now use my new status of soon-to-be-published-author, milking it wherever possible (usually at dinner and dishes time), except when I can’t because my B&B – purpose built for pups and people  – visit us on facebook here. (shameless plug) — offers evening meals. Typically:
Char-grilled Atlantic salmon fillet on Moroccan cous cous, with homemade mango chutney, cucumber yoghurt and salad with preserved lemon dressing

Our Mediterranean Table – Spaghetti Bolognaise with hand-made fettuccini, Mediterranean salad, olives, shaved parmesan & crusty sourdough bruschetta

Hungry yet?

10. Do you have a favourite recipe you’d like to share?

The Calingarry Crossing CWA ladies (from my first novel) have THE best / easiest no peeling required pumpkin soup. They posted it on my blog a while back! Here it is.

Thank you, Juliet, for my very first invitation to blog as a ridgy-didge author, having signed up with Simon & Schuster for my two contemporary Australian novels earlier this year.

House For All Seasons (due May next year)
The Simmering Season (due May 2014)

In the meantime, come on over…

Come home to the country…

Jenn J McLeod

Small town stories. Discover them. Love them.

Thanks for visiting, Jenn, and I can’t wait for your books. Consider them pre-ordered!

Leave a comment for Jenn below, and you will go in the draw for prizes at the end of the month (Just make sure you also subscribe to the blog posts ;))