Friday, March 6, 2009

Homemade Meals

New Years is a time for reflection and goal setting. This year, the occasion found me in Los Angeles, the surf-town meets glam megapolis of the west coast. Aside from confusion over who to fear more, Crips or the LAPD, I found myself a tad perplexed on the direction I wanted to take over the next year. So many opportunities were open to me professionally and personally, and I believe I possess within myself the ability to take my life successfully in any direction I decided upon. So I was left at a roadblock.

But then, I played Clay.

Clay, for those of you unexposed, is not a board game. It’s not even a game. No, it is an organizer filled with 36 different colors of clay and several tools at your disposal for crafting whatever your mind can conceive. And so I faced the same roadblock I faced with my New Year’s Resolutions. With no limit or framework on what I could do, what should I do?

So I sat for a minute.

And I thought.

And thought..

And thought…

Finally, I considered the frequent criticism I have to offer the TV when watching competitors on Top Chef. Too often they try to live up to a challenge in a way that they have never been comfortable or they haven’t previously tested out, and in trying to reach some unproven concept the chef consistently falls short on the goal. The people who achieve their goals and wow the judges, however, have one main thing in common. They take the challenge, and twist it to their talents so what results is what the judges asked for, only enhanced by the years of experience held by the creator.

So what did I do? I made a clay Italian dinner. Something I know and love. The marinara sauce came garnished with basil and parmesan. The fish had scales and the broccoli had some of the most realistic clay stalks anyone had ever seen. Judges challenge bested.

But that brought me to a startling thought. Am I limited by my experience? Other people around me were making expressions of love and graphics and designer beads – all functions of what they knew. I am enamored with Italian food, so that was my first thought. Was I victim to tunnel vision? And if so, how do you defeat this tunnel vision?

I concluded that life, much like a chef’s palette and repertoire, is made up of a series of experiences. This ultimately brought me to the Resolution I think I am most proud to have made so far. When a chef becomes dissatisfied with the recipes he has and the foods he has been making, what does he do? He travels. He seeks new ingredients or unique ways to interpret old ingredients. He experiments. He experiences. Since people suffer and benefit from the tunnel that is their experience, I have decided will begin construction to widen my personal tunnel. This may sound revolutionary, but I think we all do it in bits and pieces. This blog was my first step. Now I will be taking another, joining book forums to discuss new and classic literature, finding debate forums to sharpen my pith, and continuing full speed with my self-directed cooking courses. Where will it take me? Who knows? If you make life all about the kiln, then you’ll forget how much fun you had playing with the clay.

-The UE