Living Abroad

Are great Blog Posts a matter of taste?

Eddie

Yay. I’ve just finished writing. Ready to click Publish when I pause just long enough to ask myself, “Is this any good?”

I have, as many of us do, an Inner Editor that should be responsible for this kind of thing, but lately he’s been yelling at me to write faster. Write every day. Write at least a 1000 words. Just write…Right?

Eddie my Inner Editor

Don’t know about your Inner Editor, but mine is Eddie. He has anger management issues.

 

I’m told that writing, like golf and surgery, and making the perfect omelet, is one of those 10,000 hour skills. With enough practice, you may not achieve perfection, but you’ll become a master. It’s a comforting notion for rookies like me who have plenty of room to grow, but my problem probably isn’t more words. I don’t know if I’m sharing the “right” words.

 

It’s just Blogging

I accept the incurability of my disease (Hello, my name is Gabe, and I’m a Blogaholic). Initially, I got my fix through reading, then writing. Eventually (finally), I discovered that the blogosphere is more than a spectator sport. It’s a place for conversations that require more heft than social media can handle, and more back-and-forth than books/magazines are designed to support.

I don’t have to find a publisher willing to take a risk, or convince an agent to campaign on my behalf, in order to share my stories. All it takes is me, my 1000 words, and a Publish button. Yay Internet.

Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s OK to become another voice yammering into an already noisy space. I want to make a meaningful contribution to the conversation. To inspire, and ideally, to engage.

 

The secret to a great Blog Post is in the sauce

After putting my considerable brain power to use (Netflix has a show called OA that is definitely worth the 8-hour investment), I still hadn’t had an epiphany. It was time to go over to the In-Laws with Monica. Please bear with me for a minute while I set up the scene. I think it might be relevant.

We’re in Bucharest, Romania on our way to celebrate an Eastern Orthodox holiday by preparing a traditional dish called Piftie (pronounced pauf-tse-yay). It’s an all-day family ritual. I may have passed out for a portion of the process, so you might need to refer to a more reliable guide if you’re thinking about making this at home, but here’s what I remember:

 

  • Boil huge kettle of water. If you’re asking yourself how big the kettle needs to be, think Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Start with “double, double toil, and trouble” and go from there.
  • Collect a pile of pig parts: ears, cheeks, if pigs wore gym sox, then that part of the legs. Don’t forget the tail. The skin is apparently an important ingredient for flavor and texture, so that stays, but too much meat ruins it.
  • Chop up vampire and American-guy repelling quantities of garlic
  • Toss in a few chunks of root veggies that would otherwise be mulch, or pig food (circle of life people, circle of life).
  • Break off a hunk of the goat’s salt lick and add it to the mix (for medicinal purposes).

 

This is done in the tiniest apartment available. Family and friends spill out of an o

Romanian Piftie

This is a traditional Romanian delicacy. Seriously, this is “food”

ver-flowing kitchen into the living room as a steamy miasma saturates everything. Neighbors, noticing the smell, don’t make panicked calls for Hazmat teams as I would expect. There are curious knocks at the door. No disgust. On the contrary, and it could be an artifact of the toxic haze, but I’d swear it looks like they’re hoping for an invitation.

I sneak a few peaks at Monica. I’m expecting to get rewarded with one of those apologetic looks that says: “I know, I know. Totally weird. I’ll make it up to you later.” Instead, this woman who, like me, drinks her wine with pinky out, and carefully hand-picks each

organic, locally grown tomato before buying, is completely engaged in the scene.

Something about this whole thing feels “right” to her. And completely bizarre to me.

 

There’s no accounting for taste

Later, when it’s just us, and I’ve burned all the clothes we wore, I try to dissect the why of what I just witnessed. This is important because some suggest that good writing is a matter of satisfying the “tastes” of your audience. Should I learn to make Piftie?

As she spoons a few more sips of Piftie, I see bliss. I wonder how this amazing woman, with whom I otherwise share so much, could have such a polar reaction. Not appreciating the miraculous healing power of Taco Bell to the same extent I do is one thing, but a gelatinous pile of pig tail and garlic? I love her. But I don’t get it.

Even if I devoted (survived) 10,000 hours to the art of creating Piftie, I doubt I could foster that kind of bliss. More importantly, I wouldn’t want to.

She tries to help me understand. Part of it has to do with being raised in a communist country until 1989. Things that we consider luxuries today were completely unavailable, and things that we take for granted, like fresh meat and veggies, were in very short supply. Piftie parties (my phrase) are a way to celebrate the important things. Family, friends, warm homes during winter, and full bellies.

 

It’s about the Passion

Despite Monica’s convincing argument, I can’t say that this experience expanded my palette. But it wasn’t a total loss. Eddie and me got an object lesson in why it won’t work to write what we think potential readers will like. I can’t do it, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. And you got a free recipe for Piftie. Win-Win.

That’s what it’s really about in the end. Creating win-wins. A very wise person recently gave me advice along these lines: Write about the stuff that excites you, the stuff that you can’t keep to yourself, even if sometimes you should. If I can do that, then I think I’ll make a meaningful contribution to the conversation.

I may not get why Monica and I have such different culinary tastes, but fortunately, I think this advice is going to sink in. Besides, I’ve got more than 9,500 hours of practice on my way to that elusive promise of competence. Might as well enjoy it, right?

78 Comments

  • Reply Camis January 18, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    such a tsimmis! And so many delightful psychological themes. You made the Mary Oliver “Journey” to leave all the competing needs and hungering mouths and found yourself in the midst of sanctioned and loved community ways to deal with same! My Croatian grandmother taught me to make streudel, Kiffles and cabbage rolls when I was in college. Then, someone gave her storebought streudel and dolmades and she refused to ever cook those dishes again. She said “store bought is just as good”, but of course it isn’t. It doesn’t have 4 or 5 women laughing and talking as they pull dough ever thinner over a kitchen table, or sharing a bottle of Slivovitz while waiting for the finished product to bake or steam. I sometimes think that in our pell mell rush to “have it all” we, in a frightening mirror image of The Journey run away from what we want the most.

    • Reply Gabriel January 19, 2017 at 9:53 pm

      Bonus points to you Camis for helping to expand our vocabulary. (Google just told me Tsimmis is an Ashkenazi Jewish sweet stew.) And it the images I saw look a lot better than Piftie.

      Would be a lot harder to prove my point about trying to mold my writing around what I think will “taste” good to others if I used something as delicious as streudel and dolmades. But I really enjoyed the image of a handful of grandmothers, mothers, daughters gathering around the kitchen, cooking, staying hydrated (which is incredibly important, always always always stay hydrated), while making delicious food. Love it.

      • Reply Camis January 20, 2017 at 5:49 am

        Good for you, Gabe! I wondered if you wondered lf know the word. There is a second meaning as well that may come a little closer. Tsimmis is made from whatever vegetables and meat you may have on hand and, yes, always something sweet. It may be a handful of raisins or even carrots. It is made in celebration (of anything) and the other meaning then is ‘such a big deal’. A rather self deprecating acknowledgement that one has had good fortune and indeed has something to celebrate. So the origin stories are similar though no part of a pig would ever have come near a tsunamis.

        Your story of writing to suit was not lost on me, but sparked a different path. When you put your efforts out, you never know where they will lead your readers. We seem to have all gravitated toward fellowship and celebration after trying times. So raise a bowl of piftie at a successful launch.

        P.S. I’ve never seen a blog with such fabulous art attached.

        • Reply Gabriel January 20, 2017 at 11:15 pm

          You’re awesome Camis! I can’t think of a better way to start the day than by learning something AND getting compliments.

          And you’re so right. “when you put your efforts out, you never know where they will lead your readers” Love it, and the journey.

        • Reply lisakunk January 22, 2017 at 1:07 pm

          Thank you both for the education. You both have a wonderful way with words. Drawing pictures in the reader’s mind. I think I might skip the piftie and try the Tsimmis so the pig may live.

          • Gabriel January 22, 2017 at 9:54 pm

            Some day I may have the courage to share my stories about becoming the porcine “Public Enemy #1” in San Antonio, Texas.

  • Reply Aunt Jan January 19, 2017 at 6:23 am

    Food is a link to the past, to a time that only the aroma’s can bring back to us. Like Camis above, I remember many times in our Hungarian Grandmothers kitchen in Denver, with just she and I, where she taught me to make strudel. Explaining that “only” when one can stretch the “whole ball of dough” to be paper-thin over the kitchen table without breaking a hole anywhere in it, is she ready to marry… Well, I guess I should have listened and heeded this sage advise and I would most likely never have had to experience 3 divorces… Wonder if its too late to try that dough again… (especially when my kitchen table is 1/3rd the size of hers???)

    • Reply Gabriel January 19, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      These comments are amazing! Love the imagery, and I can smell the strudel. One of my jobs as a house-husband is to cook. I’m starting to enjoy it, I really am, but very rarely do I experience that passion you both elude to. But I recognize it. (Probably why I tried to use a family-cooking metaphor to figure out what my secret ingredient will be in writing)

      On my journey to become a better writer (and househusband), I’m gonna make a lot of hole’s in my strudel’s. I’m probably gonna need to get quite a few table’s until I can find the right fit. But I one thing I’m sure of, it’s worth it.

      Here’s to us Aunt Jan. A couple of crazy people living great big lives in little places. There are going to be some gaping holes (Ouch). Trying to stretch ourselves, like that dough (and this metaphor), to cover an oversized table.

      It sounds painful and challenging, but if Great-Grandma says so, I’m gonna listen.

      Thanks so much for this, and congratulations on your newfound freedom.

  • Reply Almost Iowa January 19, 2017 at 9:25 am

    “I’m told that writing, like golf and surgery, and making the perfect omelet, is one of those 10,000 hour skills. With enough practice, you may not achieve perfection, but you’ll become a master.”

    As Stalin once said, “quantity has a quality all its own” but be careful, runners have a term called “junk miles”. It is when you are running miles upon miles a week and not really gaining strength or speed because you are focused primarily on quantity. It can become self defeating.

    This is not to say that quantity is worthless – just keep an eye on it and keep an eye on quality too.

    • Reply Gabriel January 19, 2017 at 10:26 pm

      Cheers for that Almost Iowa! The Stalin quote is going on my profound insight list. I’m probably wrong about the context, but I can’t help but think this was a strategic military reference, given his propensity for forcing overwhelming numbers of untrained troops at the enemy in order to achieve victory.

      I agree with you though. Writing regularly, writing a lot, is necessary for practice, to improve. Now I just need to figure out which parts of my writing are worth sharing. And Eddie hasn’t been much help recently. Hopefully time and practice will help me “keep an eye on quality too”

  • Reply Papa T January 19, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Each of us has a “legacy” of foods from our backgrounds and formative years. For me they came from Southern roots. Some seem to be repulsive to many – grits and boiled peanuts to name two. Others are more generally accepted – fried catfish, real smoked pork BBQ, Brunswick Stew, and pecan pie. And some are just nasty, even to me – brussel sprouts, and collared greens. But each represent memories of the past. Smells from a kitchen that still had a wood stove. The taste and smell of corn bread or the delight of homemade chocolate pie made by loving hands. Fresh produce like peas shucked or beans snapped on the screened front porch that were thoughtfully brought over for a “visit” on a summer’s eve. It’s far more than just food.

    • Reply Gabriel January 19, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      Ha! I can see this post is going to be horrible for any hopes of a diet. I’m getting crazy hungry and it’s not even time for second breakfast yet!

      These images of home, of family, and food, are incredible. So vivid and tangible.

      After hiking the AT last year, I can tell you that I’ve had everything on your cherished foods list at least once, as well as those that are on your “nasty” list. Love them all. I had a hiker appetite so my standards were pretty low, but I’m a huge fan of great southern cooking.

      Thanks for sharing, even if you’re killing any chances I have of losing those holiday pounds…

    • Reply lisakunk January 22, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      Being a southern girl, I must put in a good word for the lowly collard. While nasty to some, it’s one of my favorites and a huge part of childhood memories. It’s essential to know how to cook collards and when to pick them to not have a bitter batch.

      They must be frosted on in the field to calm the bitterness and make them sweet. Also, the leaves come in different levels of toughness. After washing them through several waters, (nobody likes grits or critters with their collards), my grandmother taught me to roll the biggest leaves and slice them across like a cucumber and down the length of the slices, therefore chopping them before they hit the boiling water and ham hock (or whatever seasoning you’d like; I use chicken broth nowadays). Let the larger leaves cook a while before moving up in size to add the next largest leaves. Finally add the bud, or small tender leaves last. I add some salt, pepper, and sugar to the pot and depending upon the potential eaters, add a little cayenne pepper. Strain and chop well.

      Now here’s the best part for me. Make a collard sandwich. It doesn’t matter on what. I used to take white bread and a margarine cup of collards to school and make it into a sandwich at lunchtime. You can imagine the harassment I received but it was their loss. Yum. Oh, and most people pour some vinegar over the chopped collards if not eating them in cornbread or a biscuit. Oh my. I know what I need to eat for supper.

      Gabriel, I’m enjoying your blog. I like to think of myself as a budding Erma Bombeck. You seem to have a little Erma mixed with your Eddie.

      • Reply Gabriel January 22, 2017 at 9:51 pm

        Ha! I’m gonna paraphrase an Erma Bombeck quote in response since its perfect here: “Like religion, politics, and family planning, collards is not a topic to be brought up in public. It’s too controversial.”

        Thanks for following, and love your blog!

        • Reply lisakunk January 22, 2017 at 10:29 pm

          Aww thanks for the compliment and for reading.

  • Reply the incurable dreamer January 19, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Umm, Gabe. So, sounds delicious! Eek! Mad love for the tradition, but not too keen on tasting that!

    PS…if you take the time to put your voice to paper, it is a great blog post. Glad I found you in the blog world! 🙂

    • Reply Gabriel January 19, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks so much Tanya. For the encouragement, and for sharing my sentiments about gross foods :))

      You’ve created another incurable dreamer!

  • Reply Didi January 19, 2017 at 10:43 pm

    Is it ok to say i could “smell” your blog through your Romanian dish description this time and it wasn’t a good smell.
    I’m pretty sure we in the Netherlands have some food too that seem pretty inedible for a lot of people.

    Isnt that the beauty of this world, that there are so manny differences in what people like and love. And isnt it the beauty that being open to that, never loose your curiousity, makes our own world so much bigger and richer?

    And isn’t it even more beautiful to find out, that despite all differences, there are so many common grounds that connect people.

    • Reply Gabriel January 19, 2017 at 10:52 pm

      Hehehe. I’ll take it as a HUGE compliment. I’m gonna pretend that it was my holy-cow-amazing writing skill that brought this little fragment of traditional Romanian cuisine to life.

      Totally agree, there is so much beauty in diversity. And I also try to keep an open mind about new experiences. Whether it’s new food, or new opinions, or even different tastes in music (although I have a VERY hard time understanding people that don’t feel that same uummmpf when Rhianna is playing), I think my world is the better for it.

      Love your last point. Common grounds that connect people.

      I’m beginning to enjoy the comments portion of this blog even more that the post itself! You all have such amazing perspectives. Learning so much!

      Thank you Didi

      • Reply lisakunk January 22, 2017 at 1:30 pm

        I was just thinking the same thing about your very interesting commentators. Good stuff.

  • Reply restlessjo January 20, 2017 at 1:38 am

    Drugie sniadanie- second breakfast! 🙂 There’s a lovely memory. I think you have to write from the heart, Gabe. You’re never going to make everyone happy so you may as well start with you.
    Fervently hoping to avoid the spam bin this time. Me and pig swill have a lot in common.

    • Reply Gabriel January 20, 2017 at 1:43 am

      Ha! And so true

      Except NOT the Pig swill part :0

  • Reply Green Global Trek January 20, 2017 at 2:27 am

    Gabe you write very eloquently and had me wanting to read the next sentence throughout the post. So don’t be so hard on yourself! The process of creative expression is important, even if the end result is not always “perfect.”

    I have to agree that this dish sounds, well, totally gross| haha. But then again certain foods we grow up with, we just think of as comfort food because they resonate with us. While others new to these foods, find them, disgusting.

    Keep writing and creating!!
    Peta

    • Reply Gabriel January 20, 2017 at 11:11 pm

      Thanks so much Peta-both for the compliments on writing progress, AND for agreeing that Piftie sounds gross. (Monica still thinks I have weird tastes, so I can use all the backup I can get).

      • Reply Monica January 21, 2017 at 1:14 am

        I would choose pork tails over grilled snakes anytime!

        • Reply Gabriel January 21, 2017 at 2:38 am

          Ha! It’s a deal love. I’ll take the campfire grilled snakes and you can have all the pig tails.

  • Reply Bun Karyudo January 20, 2017 at 6:47 am

    Are you absolutely sure there’s no toe of frog in Piftie, Gabe? With that great big cauldron-like pot, it seems like there should be toe of frog. No? How about eye of newt, then?

    Anyway, I think the wise advice you received about blogging is good. I read a lot of blogs about subjects I know almost nothing about and ordinarily wouldn’t be particularly interested in, but when the writer really cares about the subject, I often find myself getting swept along in the enthusiasm.

    • Reply Gabriel January 20, 2017 at 11:21 pm

      Ha! Given that tail of pig is on the list, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few additional secret ingredients make it into the pot.

      So true. I often wonder if I’m cheating by writing about things other than hiking, depression, househusbanding, or my smooth transition to life in Romania. I’m gonna take this as permission to (occasionally) write about things that really get me excited. No takesees-backsees.

  • Reply Barb Knowles January 20, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    “I discovered that the blogosphere is more than a spectator sport. It’s a place for conversations that require more heft than social media can handle, and more back-and-forth than books/magazines are designed to support.” I LOVE that!

    • Reply Gabriel January 20, 2017 at 11:30 pm

      Thanks so much Barb! means a lot coming from you. I really enjoy your frank, yet immersive writing style, particularly as it pertains to your personal essays/memoirs. I’m looking forward to stopping by your blog regularly to learn from the veterans!

      • Reply Barb Knowles January 21, 2017 at 6:18 am

        Now no buttering up your followers! Seriously, though, that’s a wonderful compliment from a very good writer. I appreciate it immensely. My blog started out with the purpose of writing about teaching, and the funny things that happen that we aren’t prepared for. But it quickly turned into just anything I want to write about, lol. I prefer my memoir essays, which will be going into my book. So I sprinkle those throughout. Thank you again.

  • Reply theslingsta January 21, 2017 at 6:33 am

    Wise words, I think. There’s a lot to be said for writing about the things you absolutely want to, and focussing on doing that really well.

    If it’s honest and well written it may well get an audience.

    If not? Ah well, it’s only blogging (and we can’t all go viral!)

    • Reply Gabriel January 21, 2017 at 8:20 am

      I think words. Wisdom probably doesn’t have much to do with it.
      Thanks for stopping by. I want to assure you that all my medical training has taught me excellent preventative/protective measures. So rest assured… none of that sickness is gonna go on here. Nothing viral, bacterial, parasitic, or fungal. And if it does, pretty sure there’s medicine.

  • Reply cracTpot January 21, 2017 at 11:44 am

    I’m all for win-win’s and while there is no accounting for taste, there is no questioning this is some good writing! Can’t wait to see what you serve up next

    • Reply Gabriel January 21, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Sweet! Hope you don’t mind if I keep stopping by your place for pointers…

  • Reply Bespoke Traveler January 23, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    There is so much advice out there on how to live and how to write. I like following Anne Lamott’s advice on both: “Live like you are dying,” and “Tell the truth as you understand it.” I love that a recipe for Piftie drove you to examine the art of writing and why you do it.

    • Reply Gabriel January 24, 2017 at 3:04 am

      Anne Lamott is amazing isn’t she!

  • Reply Kristine @ MumRevised January 24, 2017 at 6:55 am

    So nice to find you, Gabe. My new year’s resolution was to write every day. Sometimes it is more of a re-write, but it is still words so I let it pass. I think I have about 92,000 hours to go and reckon I will be good at it by the time I am 93.
    Write from the heart and it is never wrong. Not understanding the healing power of Taco Bell; however, is all wrong. And, if this was intended as a travel blog for Romanian cuisine, you are definitely wrong. 🙂 Learning to use a thesaurus for the word ‘wrong’ would not have been wrong.
    PS: OA is outstanding!

    • Reply Gabriel January 24, 2017 at 7:02 am

      HA! Kristine you are absolutely my people (no offense intended of course), and clearly of similar tastes. Love it- like Taco Bell and OA love it.

      Thanks so much for the comment. Feel free to stop by whenever u aren’t busy not being busy with jury duty.

  • Reply dave ply January 24, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I’m reminded of something my mother used to eat but could never convince me to even smell, a Scandinavian dish called lutefisk. Different strokes for different folks.

    (PS: I think you’ve been holding out on me Gabe, you’re much better at this than you claimed to be…)

    • Reply Gabriel January 24, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      Ha! Never heard of lutefisk. Sounds like I’m better off…

      Thanks for the compliment Dave, means a lot in light of the beautiful photos and scenes you share on your blog. You’re gonna make me blush. I know I’ve still got a LOT of growing to do before I’m ready to break out of my blogger training wheels, but I’m having so much fun playing.

      PS I’m still hoping to create a sketch of your snow wheel…

      PSS Hope to see you back!

      • Reply dave ply January 24, 2017 at 9:05 pm

        Google it – if you dare.

        BTW, are you originally from Lakewood? That address on your email signup is about a half mile from my sister’s house.

        PS: I think most of us still have those training wheels, carefully hidden behind panniers of supposed experience. I’m reminded my old job where the boss would have me teach classes about topics I knew little or nothing of, but allow me a few weeks to teach it to myself first. All you need to be an “expert” is know a little more than the student – based on that, for current newbies you’re now an expert!

        • Reply Gabriel January 24, 2017 at 9:11 pm

          It really is a small world isn’t it? I grew up near Evergreen (halfway between Denver and the ski slopes).

          Hehehe. sounds very familiar. During surgical residency one of the dictums we lived by was “Show one, Do one, Teach one.” Sounds a little scary when you think about this as it applies to laparoscopic cholecystectomies and transplants, but works great when you’re talking about draining abscesses or cleaning out knife wounds…

  • Reply Klausbernd January 28, 2017 at 8:09 am

    Dear Gabriel,
    I lived most of my life as a professional author and editor, which meant writing every day 5 days a week. My experience is that a regular writing practise is important BUT you need somebody who plays the editor. It cannot be the editor within, it has to be an editor from outside. Even on our blog I do the writing but Dina and our beloved Bookfayries do the editing. If you don’t get critique from the outside you will never become an author people like to read.
    A lot of bloggers write a horrible style, they are only hooked on the topic. That’s a classic mistake because the reader more or less consciously becomes aware of the style but not the author. The author is quite often blind, he or she can’t see what’s an akward style.
    Anyway, to make it short: Writing without editing from an outsider doesn’t make sense.
    All the best
    Klausbernd and the rest of
    The Fab Four of Cley

    • Reply Gabriel January 28, 2017 at 9:05 am

      I agree with your perspective. First drafts should be written with the door closed, BUT before sending off a finished product, the door needs to be opened for trusted readers to evaluate. I do take advantage of second (and third) opinions as often as possible before posting blogs, but not often enough. You’re work as part of the Fab Four of Cley obviously pays off with succinct and vivid writing, as stunning photos.

      Part of me is jealous of course, but MORE of me is happy to have found you all. Now I can read along. And learn from the sidelines.

      • Reply Klausbernd January 28, 2017 at 10:56 am

        THANK YOU! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
        Don’t get jealous, please not! We are professionals. We wrote more than 50 books besides many articles and filmscripts and blogging is not so different – only muchmuch shorter (what our beloved Master doesn’t like at all). And Dina and Selma are a photographers who are very knowledgeable about literature too. Well, Siri and Selma are Bookfayries, meaning booklovers. So we live surrounded by book-people and actually in a big library. All the walls in our house are full of book-shelves. So you see, literature is our world and life – and always was.
        And now we relax blogging a post every fortnight and sometimes later. So we can concentrate enough energy on this post. We cannot understand how some folks blog daily, at least we need this time to think about our post.
        Have a cosy evening wishing you
        The Fab Four of Cley

        • Reply Gabriel January 28, 2017 at 11:53 pm

          HEHEHE Now you’re just bragging. Sounds like such an idyllic life. Books, and blogging, and bookfayries. Sign me up!

          • Klausbernd January 29, 2017 at 3:49 am

            Well, that’s the privilege of being retired 😉

  • Reply Miriam January 29, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Writing with passion, drawing from the past and slating from the heart, clearly that’s what you do best Gabe and to me that’s the absolute market of not just success but absolute enjoyment of blogging. That, and connection with your readers, is what it’s all about. Another wonderful read. Thank you. ?

    • Reply Gabriel January 29, 2017 at 2:10 pm

      Awww thanks so much Miriam. And I think you’re absolutely right!

  • Reply marymtf January 29, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Is that Dorian Gray?
    If you could recommend a butcher, Gabe? Mine doesn’t sell vampire.
    Talk about ten thousand hours’ worth of babble. WordPress has just congratulated me on 5 years of blogging. I’m on hiatus right now. Just blog hopping for a bit and giving the grey cells a break.
    Having read your post, I doubt you need advice, but if I can share my personal experience – when I began, I thought it was a matter of (like that movie) build it and they will come. I built it and waited, and waited.
    Writing is like aerobics, Gabe. The grey cells get flabby if you don’t keep it up. Mine is slush.

    • Reply Gabriel January 30, 2017 at 12:42 am

      Ha! This is Eddie. He has anger management issues and bad breath (and his people skills need some work). Funny you should ask about my butcher, because I’m here in Romania now and I haven’t had any luck hunting vampires. I’m pretty sure HBO scooped them all up to play extras on True Blood. But when the show ended, they decided to stick around in classy Louisiana.

      Mary, congratulations on reaching hitting super star status in the blogging game! I’m in that “waiting” phase… … and I’m not jealous of your success, not even a little bit.
      I do, however, wonder if there are any tricks of the trade you’d be willing to share to reach a larger audience (without resorting to sketchy or pushy tactics).

      Now that I think about it, I’d better stop asking you questions. Otherwise, I’m going to become one of those youngsters shouting an endless series of “how comes?” from the back seat of the car.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for the delicious comment. Hope to see you back again Mary. I’ll leave the seat down just in case!

  • Reply hailangeliccreation February 1, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    First off, I love the image! If that’s one of your digital paintings, then I can’t wait to see more! Do you think you could teach me?
    While I agree about the idea about a daily writing habit, there are a few things in the close statements that irk me. Any mention of perfection in conjunction with writing seems as insult because writing is never finished, let alone perfect. Also, having word goals (mentioned 1000/day) isn’t bad, but one shouldn’t always strive for quantity. Quality work matters as well, though getting through the shitty (excuse the language) drafts and the scrawled on pages is a form of growth. Quantity and quality are both parts of the process as you work and flex your writing muscles.
    Keep up the good work, work on the shitty stuff, and try any and everything!
    Happy writing!
    -Author S

    • Reply Gabriel February 3, 2017 at 3:02 am

      Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment. (I apologize for the late reply. I’m in the process of rebuilding this blog and several of your recent comments have slipped by)

      You strike me as someone with far more writing experience than I have, and as a veteran, I hope you’ll indulge my immature enthusiasm, at least until I find my footing.

      If I remember correctly, it was Ann Lamott who teaches us to never be afraid of writing a shitty first draft. Sounds like you would agree, and that the art of building these shitty first drafts is a form of growth in and of itself.

      That’s great news for rookies such as myself! Thanks for sharing

  • Reply Gail Kaufman February 12, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Wow, there are many learnings from this one post: Eastern Orthodox tradition, Piftie, writing skill development, blogging culture and our shared passion for organic food. I need a nap☺

    • Reply Gabriel February 12, 2017 at 10:30 am

      You’re so right Gail. I’m still trying to figure this blogging stuff out. I have a tendency to pack too much into a post, which makes them too long, and meandering. I’m sorry I wore you out. But if it makes you feel any better… I wore me out too 😉

      Hope you’ll continue to come back. And I really appreciate any constructive criticism, particularly from veterans such as yourself!

      • Reply Gail Kaufman February 12, 2017 at 10:33 am

        So sorry, Gabe. Criticism was not my intent at all. It looks like I need to improve my skills at writing sarcasm. I really did enjoy your post.

        • Reply Gabriel February 12, 2017 at 10:48 am

          No need to apologize at all. I was probably responding to comments from my inner-editor (eddie). I really do appreciate constructive criticism, and as a retired military surgeon, I think I might actually miss it 😉

  • Reply Photobooth Journal February 15, 2017 at 12:04 am

    I’m not that good at reading blogs. I’m more an image browser generally, but some blogs, like yours are well worth the effort of having a closer look. I found this piece particularly amusing and engaging, despite the fact I can find no correlation between your description of the making of this Romanian delicacy and the photo you supplied.

    Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. I will try to get back here as often as I can. Kate.

    • Reply Gabriel February 15, 2017 at 6:55 am

      Thanks so much Kate! And I’m like you in many ways, the blogs I enjoy most are those with lots of visual aids. I’m trying to spice things up with digital paintings, and I’ll be thrilled if you just stop by to check out those (because I obviously have a tendency to get long-winded).

      I especially love feedback and comments from artists such as yourself!

  • Reply Photobooth Journal February 15, 2017 at 12:07 am

    PS is the picture of “Dorian Gray” you have used a creation of yours? A manipulated self portrait perhaps? I ❤ it.

    • Reply Gabriel February 15, 2017 at 6:53 am

      Thanks so much! Actually, all the sketches here are my creations, but I take advantage of lots of digital aids to improve the quality.

      This portrait of Eddie however is the product of my overactive imagination. But my wife Monica tells me if I don’t relax and become less critical of myself, I’m gonna end up looking like him 😉

  • Reply Mick Canning March 1, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    Hmm…10,000 hours of making piftie and all you have is a pot of garlic and pig parts (or, perhaps, about 10,000 pots of garlic and pig parts!). 10,000 hours of golf and all you have is…uh…a ‘game’ of golf, but 10,000 hours of writing, and hey! You’re a writer! THAT’S a win-win!

    • Reply Gabriel March 2, 2017 at 6:20 pm

      Ha! Sounds like we would be well-matched golf partners then (but only if you’re referring to Putt-Putt).

  • Reply Creative_di March 4, 2017 at 9:39 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful advice Gabriel. As a newcomer to blogging, I appreciate hearing your thoughts. Yes, I suppose it’s a matter of ‘write it and they will come.’ We get the audience we deserve from what we write about. A lovely story too. And thank you so much for finding me first. I really appreciate it. You’ll certainly find what’s on my mind, or mostly in my heart, there ?????

    • Reply Gabriel March 5, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by here as well! I love meeting new bloggers, partly because I’m still a blogger rookie myself.

      I hope you enjoy the community aspects of blogging. This has become a cherished piece of the blogger puzzle. Creating posts that trigger conversations, and foster relationships. I know I have a long way to go in terms of developing my writing skills, but the journey is far more exciting and rewarding when we have the support and feedback of an engaged community.

      I’m looking forward to following you and good luck!

      • Reply Di March 5, 2017 at 2:00 pm

        Thank you for your warm welcome Gabriel. And for your kind words about my blog and blogging in general.
        Have a great week and ‘see’ you again soon ??

        • Reply Gabriel March 5, 2017 at 4:40 pm

          hehehe had to pull ur comment out of the spam folder. thanks Di

          • Di March 5, 2017 at 4:45 pm

            Oh really, Gabriel! It’s so tricky at times. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried adding a profile photo but it never seemed to upload. Finally just now when I stopped trying so hard, it’s worked! Glad you found my comment anyhow ???

  • Reply forgivingjournal March 14, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Gabriel, this is a great post. Funny, because my last post had a lot to do with where my writing is coming from – is it from a place of integrity and authenticity, or a place of pleasing. And does it bring joy and value, and who decides that? I just do my best, you know? And forgive it all. 🙂
    Many blessings. So good to meet you via Nikki this past week. ~Debbie

    • Reply Gabriel March 15, 2017 at 5:02 am

      Thank you so much Debbie!

      I’m working towards that level of maturity with respect to writing. i’m not quite there yet, but I hope that the enthusiasm and support of veteran bloggers such as yourself will sustain through these growing pains.

  • Reply lisakunk April 27, 2017 at 5:38 am

    To say I love this piece is a true understatement. I hope to read lots oodles more of the things you just cannot keep to yourself. And btw you’re a pretty funny guy. Keep sharing.

  • Reply rhymelovingwriter July 15, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    Oh no! I’ve got some serious reading to do now that I’ve found your blog. I’m enjoying your style (and honesty) tremendously. I’m still a newbie to the blogging world but your work is leaving me feeling seriously inspired. Mahalo!

    • Reply Gabriel July 17, 2017 at 9:39 am

      If you’re a newbie to blogging than you’re off to a great start. Genuine comments like yours will draw others to your corner of the blogosphere. And those that stop by will be eager to engage!

      Once I get a few minutes to catch my breath, I’m looking forward to visiting your blog!

    Now it's your turn to play!

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