You Want Me To Put That Arugula WHERE?!

Shut Up And Let Her Cook

I’ve been watching a lot of cooking shows lately. I mean, I’ve always been into them – but now, even more so. I go through phases with what I watch; for a while it was nothing but true crime shows. Then old sitcoms. Now, if a show’s got the word “chef” in it, you can pretty much guarantee I’m watching it. Top Chef, Master Chef, Extreme Chef…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s not forget Chopped and Hell’s Kitchen and Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. I am fascinated watching a group of competitors open a mystery box to reveal ingredients they must use to create a dish. Some of these shows really stretch a chef’s creativity by including oddball ingredients like blueberry jelly beans and duck testicles and cheese crackers. I get a kick seeing what the contestants will come up with, and I think the reason for that is simple:

What on earth can you come up with using these ingredients that's not only edible, but actually tastes good?! (Courtesy of

I’m a foodie.

Which is really just a fancy term for “culinary snob.” Whatever – I can admit it. If it’s processed, frozen or comes in a box, I typically wrinkle my nose in disgust. I’m a fan of Richard Blais on Facebook.  Plus, I’m not afraid to pay $6.00 for eggs. I am forever trying new recipes, and the fancier, the better. Last night for dinner, I had my parents over, and I wanted to dazzle them with my cooking prowess, so I whipped up a sage and black pepper crusted pork tenderloin served with green chile and garlic grits cakes, an apple slaw, and portobello mushrooms brushed with basil oil. It was all quite good – but man, a lot of work! And for the record, I don’t really think I’m special because I can put together a meal like that – cooking doesn’t require much more than the ability to follow directions. I’d be more impressed if I create recipe ideas from scratch, like the contestants on those cooking shows do. When confronted with a basket full of hot dogs, butterscotch candy, carrots and chia seeds, they do not wither under the pressure. Instead, they create dishes that are original, daring, and usually – according to the judges – pretty good. Until I can do that, I’m very blase over the whole thing.

Even when I don’t have the kids and am not having company over – when it’s just me – I tend to go overboard with my meal creations. The stereotypical bachelor lives on Top Ramen and bologna sandwiches. Not me, though I wish that were the case sometimes. It would be a lot less work. Occasionally, I’ll grow bored with cooking or feel too tired to whip up something gourmet, and will resort to the ol’ guilty pleasure standby: a tuna fish sandwich. And if there are Cheez-Its on hand, even better.

I have to admit it, I get especially excited when somebody else is doing the cooking. My parents usually have me over once a week, and those are good days because I don’t have to lift a finger. I do sometimes find myself telling my mom to soak her chicken in buttermilk first, or use smoked paprika to bring out the flavors in such-and-such a dish, and I’ve got to knock that off. She’s been cooking since before I was born, after all. We foodies can be an annoying lot, I’ll be the first to testify to that. I’m making a vow from now on to just shut up and let her cook.

Cover Me

The highlight of this past weekend? On Sunday, I received an e-mail from Todd, the graphics designer with Booklocker tasked with creating the cover for my novel. For two weeks I’ve been anxiously awaiting his response, dying to see if the cover he came up with would do my story justice. I had communicated my ideas to him early in the process, suggesting things like incorporating red to signify bloodshed and green for the environment, while keeping the tone of the cover dark. I mentioned some possible images that would fit the story – a whaling trawler, black helicopters, the planet earth. All I can say is, Todd paid attention. When I opened the attachment and got a first look at my cover, I gasped out loud. He did a fantastic job with it, turning out something I find not just visually appealing, but stunning. Much better than I’d hoped for.

No Time For Kings

I sat there and stared at the cover for a full hour. I am not even exaggerating! I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to see it…one of my friends remarked, Holy Smokes!! It looks so “REAL”!! And I get that, I do. One of the most important things a book needs – self-published or not – is a good cover, one that will grab your interest, and I think this one does exactly that.

Plus…there’s my name. In print. With a barcode and an ISBN # on the back. This is real…and it feels amazing! The culmination of so many years of hard work. Best of all, I’ve got an amazing and supportive group of friends who are contributing their time, money and talent to give me a fighting chance at success. Heidi, my friend who puts out Sacramento Book Review and its sister publication, has promised me not only a free review of my book – something that is crucial for exposure and sales – but also a half-page ad that she will personally design. Another friend knows somebody who owns a bookstore in the area and says she can get my book on the shelf there. This outpouring of support has me stoked, and while I have no illusions of becoming either rich or famous off this book, at least I am content in the knowledge that I have some big advantages other new authors don’t, and am grateful as can be for that.

I suppose if I don’t make it as a bestselling author, I can always train to be a chef.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

22 thoughts on “You Want Me To Put That Arugula WHERE?!

  1. I would love to whip up some great meals like you do, but I think you need the most basic tools and then some to start out with. I have the basic….just need to start getting the ‘then some’. I do have a fabulous Treviso and Goat Cheese Marmalade that is super fantastic though!

    Getting so excited to read your book Mark!! I mean….really, really, really excited!!!


  2. “If it’s processed, frozen or comes in a box, I typically wrinkle my nose in disgust.”

    OMG, you would DIE if you could see my refrigerator….process, frozen and comes in a box – HA!

    I so envy your talent for cooking. I must have been born missing one of the most crucial Italian genes – the cooking gene.

    ” I don’t really think I’m special because I can put together a meal like that – cooking doesn’t require much more than the ability to follow directions.”

    Yeah, you ARE special because the only meal I know how to put together is a bowl of CEREAL.

    I’m one of those people who makes a great dinner guest because I will Oooo and ah over someone’s cooking, and then offer to clean up the dishes as payment.

    *jumping up and down; clapping*

    Mark, your book cover graphic is faaaaaaaaaaaabulous, man! Todd did a great job!

    I am so excited and happy for you!



    1. Ron – it’s very important to figure out how to properly fill your bowl with cereal, and then to master the technique of adding just the right amount of milk. Don’t sell yourself short!


  3. Mark–I am SO tired of cooking, it’s not even funny. I go through phases…and this is definitely a down phase…
    now, about your cover–it looks amazing. 🙂

    I am very excited for you.
    blessings, and best, and now, I am off to microwave my instant organic oatmeal and cut a peach for the top.



    1. Trader Joe’s sells a frozen steel cut oatmeal that looks like a hockey puck. You microwave it for a couple of minutes, and it turns out surprisingly delicious. I bet the peach on top would just make it!


  4. Whoohoo! So exciting!

    I for one am just happy to be back and cooking in my real kitchen with all my real goodies. Tonight’s menu was butter lettuce tossed with garlicky tarragon vinaigrette, cubed Bucheron, grilled onions and grilled peaches. (Luckily, my bro had the BBQ fired up, so I got to get my grill on!) On my plates with my silverware! With amazing crusty bread… None of that on Guam! Yay, home! 🙂

    One tiny thing from an apostrophe wonk like me… No need for an apostrophe to pluralize Diners, Drive-ins and Dives or Cheez-Its. But now you have me hungry for some cable and snack food. 🙂


    1. Sheesh. For some reason I thought Cheez Its had an apostrophe as part of their name. Turns out there isn’t even an “s.” You’d never know I’ve been eating these things my whole life.

      Welcome back to the states! There’s no place like home…especially when home includes garlicky tarragon vinaigrette and cubed Bucheron. Don’t forget all the birds, too!


  5. The book cover looks fantastic. Let me know when I can order a copy of your book and from where? Will it be available to ship to Canada?


  6. Congrats on that amazing book cover – I can only fantasize what it would be like to see my name in print on a cover. You deserve that elation, Mark.

    As for spending $6/dozen for eggs – I understand. I buy the highest quality, dark-orange egg yolks I can find from my local farmers. Well worth the cost.


    1. I’ll take all the validation I can get when it comes to those eggs, because otherwise it’s something I may never be able to live down. As for the book cover, you’re pretty damn talented yourself – I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before you see your name in print, too!


  7. I’m similar to you in the love for those food shows … although I can’t cook at all!
    Mark, I am so happy for you. Your cover looks great and I totally feel your excitement. I can only hope to be where you are someday. So happy I’m able to witness your success 🙂


  8. I’m so pumped for you and how your friends are helping out by getting you on the shelves and in an advertisement! That’s awesome exposure. Really looking forward to hearing more about your book publication journey. Now the first 100 purchases get plane tickets to Portland and a voucher for a maple bacon bar at Voodoo right?


Add Your Two Cents!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: