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Getting it right

From Food

I’ve been on break from school for a while. I wish I could say that I did something truly amazing with my time, but I mostly focused on watching Twin Peaks, doing yoga, and finally figuring out how to make brown rice properly on a stovetop. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I seem to finally have discovered the method that works for me. The secret is washing the rice. Over and over. Three times, at least. You drop the rice in a bowl, run cold water over it, then polish it between your fingers like Ebenezer Scrooge counting the last of the day’s shillings on a cold December afternoon. When the water becomes cloudy, use your hand like a sieve and tip the bowl over, draining out the water between your fingers without losing too many grains. Lather, rinse, repeat. You are finished when the water runs clear. It’s slow, but it works. For one cup of rice, I use 1 1/4 cup water. I bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to the lowest possible setting, and do my best to wait patiently. It’s hard not to open up the pot and meddle with the process. But nothing destroys rice faster than over-attention; too much stirring and you have risotto instead of sushi.

This break I’ve also finally learned how to sear a perfectly moist chicken breast, and how to make the right macaroni and cheese. (I love macaroni and cheese. Without those crucial bits of butter and milk during my growing years, I’d have wound up even shorter. But now I make mine with broccoli, Worcestershire sauce, and my all-important Calphalon saucepan.) Nothing fancy, just techniques that make things easier later. It feels good, getting these small things right.

I also received Peter and Caitlin’s notes on the novel. I suspect that they had several “spare the rod, spoil the child” discussions before giving me those notes. For two people who approach their craft from such different points, they wound up agreeing on a number of issues. And for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have a plan. I’m thinking of the story as a story again, and not a checklist, and remembering what made me want to write it in the first place. All the decisions I was loath to make earlier on are much easier and clearer, now, and it feels good to have it under my hands, polishing it, clarifying it.

It’s there when I go to sleep and it’s still there when I wake up. I missed it.

  • Madeline Ashby… a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity,, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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    Madeline Ashby's books on Goodreads
    vN vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)
    reviews: 342
    ratings: 2160 (avg rating 3.43)

    Company Town Company Town
    reviews: 232
    ratings: 1217 (avg rating 3.68)

    iD iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2)
    reviews: 73
    ratings: 439 (avg rating 3.66)

    Social Services Social Services
    reviews: 3
    ratings: 10 (avg rating 3.50)

    A Clock Stopped A Clock Stopped
    reviews: 2
    ratings: 5 (avg rating 4.20)

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  • Madeline 's bookshelf: read

    Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (2nd Edition)Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways: To Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients into Your CookingGluten-Free Girl and the ChefPeople Crossing Borders: An Analysis of U.S. Border Protection PoliciesHalf the Day Is NightThe Magicians

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