Every writer knows this trap. The words just flow onto the screen, your soul in all its naked brilliance is becoming one with the page, you are not merely writing truth you are bringing it to life with every stroke of the finger.
Experience yells in your ear, "Do not under any circumstances hit the send key!" Go away for at least day, then come back and read. Brace yourself, because nine times out of ten your brilliance is drivel. Rarely does writing slip out this easily.
That said, I am taking a chance. At a food writers conference a decade ago a story came out of my head that was dangerously like the experience I just described. Yet, as I read it again, I realize I'd like to send it out on its own. It's a kind of writing that doesn't fit into most of what I do. So in the spirit of "This is what I wrote and please take it as you will," here is the story that came out of a writing exercise back then. I've changed the names in the piece to protect the privacy of friends.
Why Irwin Goldstein Doesn't Eat Chicken
Irwin Goldstein never eats chicken. When he used to come to dinner at our house I could see he was trying to control being revolted by the smell of it cooking. I always made something else for him.
We moved into the house next door to Irwin and Claire Goldstein in the late 1970s. They made us part of their family, and no one deals with people quite the way Irwin did. Irwin was always the first guy to greet you with a grin and a hug, to embroider whatever had happened that week with laughs.
But unlike my uncles who told World War II stories all the time with lots of bravado and that sense of reveling in the youth and adventure, Irwin never talked about the war. I knew he'd been there, but figured he just didn't have much to say about it.
One night out of nowhere Irwin began talking about being an 18-year-old kid going into World War II. He loved it. He had buddies. It was an adventure. He flew. He was a tail gunner on a b-something airplane.
Then he stopped telling the story. He got real quiet.
Then he went on. His war story was his plane was shot down over Germany. Everyone died except he and one buddy. For weeks they hid during the day and traveled at night, lost most of the time and trying to find a safe border.
They were two Jewish kids terrified of being caught. They almost starved. One night a stray chicken turned up. They strangled it. They couldn't make a fire, so they ate the chicken raw.
And that is why Irwin Goldstein never eats chicken.