Monday, May 4, 2015

Creativity Lessons in the Kitchen

Creative Lessons from the Kitchen

I glanced at the label, not sure why I bothered. Everything was in German – a language that even a pre-schooler had more mastery than me. “Bio” turned out to mean “organic.”

Somehow I volunteered to make dinner for one vegetarian friend and three more hungry companions.

Ok, chicken for four, and one.. tofu? Hmm.. the firm texture might stand-in for white meat. Could batter it the same way and make it work?

So, not only am I in a foreign country barely able to read or speak.. I’m trying to improvise a recipe. Luckily, I’ve made this recipe enough times that I had the basics down. Batter the meat, fry ‘til golden brown and bake, finish with melted cheese and sauce then serve with pasta.

Well, if I blow it, there’s always pasta..

As I’ve talked about, my love of Italian food led to a thirst for learning about the country. (Here’s more on that – )

Along with my massive report we also had project booths for an international fair. We were supposed to design a display of things about the country, including a food item. I decided to bake an almond flavored bread that I made into the familiar boot shape of Italy. For mountains running down the seam I used almond slices that were sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

Not all my experiments were successful. Once I tried to make my version of “Irish stew” by cooking potatoes with a mix of available sauces. I was the only one willing to try that one!

Still, over time I found recipes that taught me patterns – like the scales that musicians play or writers use to create stories that keep us spellbound.

I learned elements that in a pinch I could use when only the barest of ingredients were available. For example, the “Holy Trinity” of Asian cooking is garlic, ginger, and green onion. just these three alone can turn a bland piece of meat into something elegant.

When I started to dance tango, I was eager to jump to the cool, “advance” stuff. As mentioned in this previous blog post –  we get tired of walking exercises.

Years later, when I ended up teaching beginners at our weekly event,

I would point out how you just needed to master a few fundamental steps to create interesting patterns and most of all be musical.

“Is it okay?” I asked nervously.

“It’s good!” my friend declared.

I breathed a sigh of relief, and we all tucked into the chicken / tofu parmesan, passing the generous bowl of pasta around.

  • Passion inspires action – it was my passion for Italian food that led to curiosity and the desire to learn more. That continued into other food explorations anytime I visited a new part of town.
  • Experience provides inspiration – just opening myself up to new sights, sounds, tastes ignited sparks for creativity. Sometimes it’d be a new Food Network video. Other times it might be something I found on jycmba on Pinterest.
  • Learning to adapt teaches us to be open to possibilities – missing an ingredient or needing to adjust a recipe sometimes creates the circumstances for us to experiment. And more often we discover that we would’ve otherwise miss.

How have you learned ways to be creative through other skills or passions?

Join me in chatting with Chris Hill tomorrow and hear his creative journey from the corporate world to the kitchen. More details here –

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