Brining Olives (Metaphor #3)

olives in bowl
The Haul

The other weekend, we went across the street to help the neighbors pick olives. The overall haul (from just one tree!) is shown above at an unsettling angle that makes it look as if the olives should be falling out of the bowl, yet they are not.

Since the olives were so abundant, I got to take some home. This is where the process comes in.

olives
(Left to right) Jar 1: 10% brine; Jar 2: 20% brine; Jar 3: 6% brine + vinegar

I went home with enough olives that I decided to try three different brining methods. These are the olives after about 10 days. Whether they float or not is based on the salt content of the brine. The jar on the left has a 8-10% saline solution and will be changed daily, then moved into its final brine/vinegar solution after a couple weeks. I’ve kept it on the counter so I remember to do this, which is why (I think) the olives have turned slightly ripe-looking.

The middle jar has been kept in the refrigerator so I don’t accidentally change its brine too soon. Once a week for that guy! The salt content is closer to 20%, which is why the olives are all floating. They will move into a brine/vinegar solution in approximately 5 weeks. The jar on the right has been sitting in a dark cupboard in approximately a 6% brine, with some vinegar as well. This one is a bit more of a fermentation. I won’t change its solution until about a month out and will add herbs and spices after the new year.

My hypothesis going into the brining process is that they will all turn out approximately the same, the differences based more on the types of vinegar I use for the final jarring (red wine, apple cider, or rice) and herbs and spices I add. Although I realized just a tad too late that I should have been better about managing a control for the vinegar, in case that really is the only difference. (I may not be so sure of my hypothesis, it turns out.) I do have a second jar of each, so I can play around with vinegar somewhat. If this hypothesis proves valid, then it will just come down to which method is easiest. Definitely the third!

What does any of this have to do with writing? Well, since writing is primarily an invisible process, the impulse is to compare it to something visible. So for a writer, pretty much any process becomes a tangible comparison for what happens predominantly in her head. For instance, I often think of revision like cutting back growth in a forest, slashing with a machete through anything that’s in the way.  Only then can it grow back thicker, and in a more ordered way.

I tend to be completion oriented and will force myself to sit in a chair until the work is done. I find this approach works better for more technical or non-fiction types of writing. When writing fiction, I have to remind myself that it can actually be beneficial to put a story aside. Then, when I come back to it, my ideas are often more developed. As long as I’ve been thinking about the story in the back of my mind, of course! And reading. Reading really is key. It might just be the salt in this brining analogy.

A good deal of the writing process seems to happen in the subconscious. And the rawer the initial idea, the more “brining” it seems it often needs. The more impatient I am to force an idea that isn’t quite ready, the more times I find myself having to throw the water out, as it were, again and again, until I’ve got something palatable.

And so, I’ve been trying to give myself permission to let stories sit, to set them aside and move on to something else, then come back to them when a new idea surfaces. That is, before submitting them to journals. Otherwise, letting them sit in the slush pile for a good month or six has a similar brining effect. 🙂

 

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