I’ve reached the point in my vocational journey where my passion for cooking surpasses my culinary abilities.
Last summer I seriously researched going to culinary school. But this pursuit does not fit into our resources of time or money.
However, I have been able to take several cooking classes at Sur La Table. It’s not culinary school, but it still is pretty great way to experience some growth in cooking skills.
This past week as I chopped, mixed, kneaded, and sauteed using my new gastronomic savvy, I realized that three cooking principles provide guidance in navigating many areas of my life:
- RATIOS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN FORMULAS
You can do a lot more as a cook if you understand the ratios of preparing food, not just the formula of a recipe. For example, the foundation of every sponge cake is a 1:1:1:1 ratio. You can make most standard cakes simply by using the same amount of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs (by weight not volume), and then adding optional ingredients (vanilla, spices, etc) to meet your tastes and cravings.
When you understand the ratio of a cake (and invest in a kitchen scale) you no longer need to depend a formula (aka a recipe) in order to create something amazing.
Truthfully, deep down, I want a formula to help me manage everything in my life.
And I want my formulas to work every time.
But every formula I have tried for faith-based living (X + Y – Z = success) has eventually failed.
Perhaps a happy and fruitful life is found in pursuing a balanced ratio rather than grasping at the empty promise of a formula.
The ratio of how I’m investing my time in faith, family, community, work, rest, play, and personal growth matters – but attempting to force my life into the allotted wedges of a time/schedule/balance pie chart has failed miserably.
I just need to remember that all these things work together as a ratio, not a rigid formula. My soul feels purposeful and at peace when I spend time investing in each of these areas every week. But it’s okay if the amount of time spent in any one area – based on my needs and others – varies greatly from day to day.
- TECHNIQUE MATTERS MORE THAN TOOLS OR INGREDIENTS
Cooking always involves three critical elements – tools, ingredients, and technique.
We live in a consumer nation where marketers of products want us to believe that the tools or the ingredients matter the most. But, as my chef instructor pointed out, if you travel to a third world country and eat homemade bread made by a village grandma on her cracked and broken pot, you will quickly realize that technique is what matters most in creating amazing food.
This has made me think a lot about how often I get distracted by thinking what I need most is a product to help me master a skill or accomplish a goal.
As much as I hate to admit it, consumerism is woven into my psyche. It takes intentional effort to resist the lure and promise of products. I am always tempted to hitch my wagon to the hope of product’s ability to enable me reach a goal or achieve a dream.
In reality what I need to do the most is show up every day with what I already have and do the very unglamorous work of developing my skills.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not legalistic about this either. It’s fun to get a new tool (ie my kitchen scale) or to use new ingredients (I just added sumac to my spice collection to recreate authentic mediterranean flavors at home). I just don’t want to allow my growth to be held stalled because I’m trapped in the mindset that attaining specific products is a prerequisite to success.
- RELY ON EXPERIENCE RATHER THAN INSTRUCTIONS
This is the biggest challenge I face in using my new culinary knowledge. I still want to use my recipes like a security blanket. They are comforting because they ensure success.
But like letting go of the edge of the pool to enjoy the freedom of playing in the deep end with the big kids – I have to start cooking using the experience and knowledge I have already attained. And not just from cooking classes, but from 20 years of cooking for my family.
I know more about cooking than I think I do. I’ve just never tested myself by relying on my culinary experience more than a published recipe.
What other areas of my life are held up because I’m too careful about relying on instructions rather than trusting instincts that are rooted in years of practice?
I want to live a life of creativity that is a little less reliant on the security of concrete instructions, and a little more adventurous by acting on knowledge already attained.