A Recipe — and Some Thoughts on Theme and Incident

First, the recipe, which is a variation on your basic Alfredo sauce.

Hot and Spicy Alfredo Sauce

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream (light cream is fine as well)
  • 1 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tablespoon of salt
  • Pepper
  • A dash of cayenne pepper


Cook the butter, the pepper flakes and the garlic in a frying pan over low heat until the butter melts. Wait until the garlic turns transparent. Now add the cream and stir well, add 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese and blend. Remove from heat, add Tabasco, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir well.

Toss it over your pasta and add the remaining Parmesan cheese.

As you can see, this begins as a standard Alfredo sauce, but it has hot red pepper added to it in three different forms.  In much the same way, a standard plot may be made more complex and interesting by the addition of exciting ingredients — pirates, maybe, or political shenanigans, or the sudden discovery that one of the parties involved in a relationship is not necessarily what they seem to be.  What things should be added will depend on the base story, of course; a realistic narrative of suburban angst and adultery, for example, is unlikely to have a plausible reason for the inclusion of pirates (though if such a trick could be carried off, it would be awesome.)

Then we come to the next stage of the recipe, in which we make the hot and spicy pasta Alfredo into a more substantial entrée:

Hot and Spicy Chicken Alfredo

Take about a pound of chicken tenders, or a boneless chicken breast.  (I suppose you could use boneless thighs, if you like dark meat, but I tend to save the thighs for more slow-cooked dishes.)  Cut the meat up into 1-inch chunks.  Put a bit of oil in the pan you’re going to be using for the sauce, and saute the chicken chunks until they’re white clear through.  Remove them from the pan, and proceed with the recipe as above.  Add the cooked chicken chunks at the end, just before tossing the sauce with the pasta.

By adding the chicken, you’ve made your pasta dish heartier, and more full of protein.  (You’ve also stretched one pound or less of chicken to feed several people, if that’s your primary concern.)  In the same way, you can make your spiced-up standard plot more substantial by working in some meaty thematic material — the issues the story is thinking and talking about that aren’t the basic plot or the exciting details.  And like the cooked chicken, the thematic material needs to be there and waiting before you start messing around with the basic plot (aka the standard sauce) and the exciting details (aka the spices.)

2 thoughts on “A Recipe — and Some Thoughts on Theme and Incident

  1. Would you like to comment on “What do I do if, half-way through preparing this dish, I discover that the bottle of Tabasco sauce that I was certain I had is nowhere to be found and all the stores are closed”?

  2. How about, “Start conducting taste-tests on the available alternative hot sauces, and be very grateful that the mini-mart at the local gas station carries Tabasco”?

    Not that anything like that happened recently, or anything.

    (Somebody else will have to work out the writing analogies for that one, though.)

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