Food - and Lots of It!

I hadn't realized until it was pointed out to me, that there are so many references to food in And All is Always Now. And this should come as no surprise, as I love food and even teach a class on food, and am always planning my next delicious meal, even as I drive home from a long, tiring day at work.

Since And All is Always Now takes place in England and the US, and a little in France, there is mention of some foods from each country. There's of course roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, scones, sticky buns and trifle from England; sandwiches, salads, sprouts and New Age food, and of course the chocolate devil food cake from the US; and baguettes, pate, croque monsieur, and moules marinieres from France, to name just some of the foods consumed by those lucky characters in And All is Always Now. 

One significant fact that came to light was the Englishman's (and woman's) delight in coming to the US and eating the food here. On first impressions, it seems that in the US, it's a regular Garden of Eden as all the fruit and vegetables are so large and shiny and brightly colored and unblemished, and the portion sizes of each meal are a source of joy for anyone who likes to eat a lot. Going out for a salad (and not even requesting "the big salad" as did Elaine in Seinfeld) might produce an imaginative selection of vegetables, nuts, fruit, grain and chicken heaped into a bowl equivalent in size to feeding a whole family in England, and as for the sandwich - well, it seems one has to have jaws like a snake to be able to open one's mouth sufficiently widely to be able to take a bite. 

Some people complain about the food in England, but I don't think there are valid grounds for criticism. I think desserts are particularly enticing  in England, as nearly all are smothered in thick cream, which in my mind is always a treat. Below is a recipe for a Strawberry Cream Cake:

Tisha Bender - Strawberry Cream Cake - Recipe

Strawberry Cream Cake

Blend together 8 ounces of butter and 8 ounces of raw brown sugar.
Stir in 4 eggs.
Stir in 8 ounces of unbleached white flour.
Add 3 heaped teaspoons of baking powder.

Pour batter into two greased baking pans and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until it smells right.
The cakes should be a golden brown in color.
Test by inserting a fork to make sure it comes out dry.
Turn out onto a rack and leave to cool.

Meanwhile whip up a lot of cream (the more you have, the more delicious the cake) until it makes soft peaks.
Spread over one of the cooled cakes and add a generous amount of cut up fresh strawberries. 
Put the other cake layer on top, and repeat, by adding much more whipped cream and strawberries on the top.

Bon appetit! 

Should you want to know any other recipes, please ask me and I will gladly provide them.

The Story Behind the Story

I think it is always fascinating to hear the story behind any creative piece, whether it is a novel, art work, music or play. My story behind the writing of And All is Always Now is simple, and it all began when I was only 17 years old. I had been staying in a farm house owned by the parents of my first love, in a very remote, rural, rugged part of North Wales. He and I had enjoyed many adventures together, roaming over the countryside, chasing each other up hills and down into valleys, shrieking with laughter and probably disturbing the serenity of the cows which grazed contentedly on the lush green pasture, and which gazed up at us momentarily with their dark liquid eyes. 

And All Is Always Now | Tisha Bender | Cottage Sketch

All was immense fun, and in its way profound. And then it happened; he showed me a trim little uninhabited and very isolated cottage deep in the countryside, which, as we were staring at it, revealed a mystery of its own so sudden, surprising and profound - one which terrified him but which gave me an inner feeling of fascination and calm - that I believe I have puzzled over how the strange occurrences that happened there could be accounted for all my life since then. And so, as I put my pen to paper to take "my line for a walk," (click here to read more about that in my previous blog post), the mystery very slowly and gradually unfurled, revealing a highly complex, yet plausible explanation, though it was one which did not follow conventional leaps of logic, but which instead jumped aside in a very lateral way of thinking. 

I don't, of course, know whether this could be the true explanation. But then, we never know the truth about anything, do we, locked as we are into our own subjective reality and trying our hardest to impose order and understanding on the chaotic, unpredictable outside world in which we try our best to live a meaningful life.

Listening vs. Reading

P.U.N.C.H now available on

Tisha Bender | P.U.N.C.H. | Audible

"Read all about it!" That was a common cry I'd hear from newspaper sellers on street corners of London when I was growing up.

But how things change! The French expression, "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" (the more things change, the more they remain the same) I think might be challenged by the advent of listening to books rather than reading them. I am thinking about this because of having recently narrated an Audible version of my novel, P.U.N.C.H., which can be found on

There are definite advantages to listening, as opposed to reading. For one thing, good writing is like music, as it should sound pleasing to the ear. For another, a whole story can be brought into brilliant existence by a narrator, and perhaps even more so when the narrator is the author him/herself, who can convey what was meant, what was emphasised, what each character sounds like, how to tease out each subtle nuance. It's straight from the author's mind to the ear of the listener. 

What happens, however, to the co-construction of meaning - the process by which a reader brings more meaning than the author intended because of subconsciously superimposing his or her ideas, thoughts and experiences to the printed page - when that printed page is not read but is listened to? Does the listener still co-construct meaning? Or is the meaning more definitively conveyed by the narrator?

I was riding the tide of the huge changes in education in the 1990s. when online learning came into existence, and I was part of the discussion then as to whether learning would be altered because online students would read rather than listen to class discussions. Now, with the possibility of listening to books rather than reading them, this argument is reversed. Do we agree with Marshall McLuhan when, in 1964 he said, "The medium is the message." 

What do you think? How do you think the co-construction of meaning might be altered if a novel is heard rather than read? Or, will it be altered at all?

Pen, Paper, and A Great Idea


I write in the 'old fashioned' way, formulating my first draft with pen and paper. It's not just any paper, but 'le papier carre' - paper with squares rather than lines. This paper inspires me; I see it and my fingers start twitching, so eager are they to write. I first came across this type of paper in France when visiting my French penpal when I was sixteen. I'm also mindful of the advice of Roald Dahl who said to stop while the going is good, to force yourself to stop (not always easy) in the midst of an idea, as it is so much easier to pick it back up the next day rather than face the horror of a blank page with no idea what to write on it.

I most like writing early in the morning, as this is the time closest to my dreams. I once had a job in which I was working from home, so I used what would have been my commuting time, to write. Sometimes, when the writing was flowing really well, I told myself this was just one of those days with a long commute and every traffic light was red, but instead of feeling the frustration if that had been so, I felt beautifully energised and fulfilled.

Words on Wilkie

I never had a cat before Wilkie. In fact, as a child, I disliked them, and they would always climb on me. I'm a dog person, and having a cat was nothing I ever expected.

Photographer: Jen Hsieh

It happened when once I was walking in the park, and a garbage collector came up to me, and asked if I wanted a kitten. I didn't. But he showed me two recently born fluffy golden kittens sheltering under a bush. That did it. So I went home and spoke with Jeremy, and he was very excited, and we rushed back to the park with a box and looked under the bush. Nothing! We searched for a while. But how were we to find a kitten in the vast expanse of the park? We returned home with an empty box.

Telling the story to Charlie, who'd long been pushing me to get a cat, resulted in him finding online news of someone in search of a home for newly arrived little kittens.

Jeremy and I went there, and the woman of the house clapped her hands, and out from under the sofa scurried an assortment of tiny kittens of various colors. But I had eyes only for the fluffy, sandy one. I picked him up - he fitted into my hands - and looked into his huge, round, light blue eyes, and at the downy, sandy fur on his back, and great depths of thick white fur on his tummy. He purred and I was smitten.

I called him Wilkie, having just read Wilkie Collin's amazing novel, Woman in White.

But what did I know about cats? Having only been a dog owner, I projected a vast amount of dogginess on Wilkie. On command, he sits for treats ('Good Boy Drops,' I call them, after the not-bad-tasting English chocolate discs for dogs). And he gets exceptionally excited with the arrival of the postman, and often has been known to bring me one of the letters, a little tooth-mark still apparent in the corner of the envelope. 

And no light "cat-like tread" for Wilkie; he'll clatter down the wooden flight of stairs with a resounding "umph," and will noisily crash around with his toys. 

Photographer: Jen Hsieh

Photographer: Jen Hsieh

Wilkie is definitely a cat with character. He can be catatonic, with a definite observable schedule - the rocking chair in the study in the morning, the rocking chair in the living room in the afternoon, and a dining room chair in the evening - and then he'll just as quickly catapult himself into action. 

He's also very conversational, especially at mealtime. I'll say, "Do you want your food now?" and he'll say "Now!" We'll repeat this a few times, until I pour the food into his bowl. Then he'll noisily purr as he's eating, especially if I brush him with the fantastic comb from Jen, at the same time. 

I used to think Wilkie's face was impassive, unlike dogs who mostly seem to smile at me. But I was wrong. Wilkie's heart-shaped pink nose with a freckle on it, plus his large round eyes (which have now turned green) liberally express a range of emotions.

The Flow of Inspiration


I once heard that if a writer waits for inspiration, then that writer won't write anything at all. So, what I do, is write my way into the story, meaning that it's as much a process of discovery for me as it is for the reader. I see this as equivalent to an artist "taking a line for a walk," which is a technique of just putting the pencil on the paper, and seeing in which direction it drifts and sways.  

Later in the writing process, as the story is taking a definite shape and the characters become real, the ideal state can be achieved, in which I feel that the plot unfolds and the characters sometimes say things that surprise me, and I feel as though I am just the conduit capturing this information and and writing it down as quickly as I can. When it speeds up and becomes blissfully and excitingly immersive, I almost wonder if I can write fast enough to capture it all. It's an amazing state of flow in which all else disappears, and the story forms itself, and the passage of any time at all is a complete surprise.

If you embark on anything creative, whether it's writing, music, or painting, or if you are looking for a solution for a mathematical, programming or scientific question, are you inspired straight away, or does the inspiration flow more gradually? I am a great believer in the power of the subconscious mind, and think it is coming up with creative ideas even when we are not directly aware of it. Would you agree?