Saturday, June 30, 2018

Cooking: A Weird Heat Companion

I am not really the right audience to appreciate cooking as an art form. I don’t much enjoy doing it myself. Cooking a beautiful meal takes time, and unfortunately, I would rather spend my time in other ways. I also have a rather Neanderthal concept of food. I get about as much enjoyment out of a boxed mac and cheese as I do with an extensive meal. After eating, as long as it tasted fine and I’m no longer hungry, I consider it a success. Of course, I can realize when I have had especially great food, but I do not feel the need to dedicate an amount of time to recreate it.

When I watch cooking shows (usually for the human drama as opposed to the actual cooking) the actual process leaves me mostly baffled. I can follow directions, and my results usually match the accompanying picture. But the creative ability to experiment? It is alien to me. I do not understand how to turn the right dials to make adjustments and improvements to meals.

It is this experimentation which does fascinate me. To me, it’s the difference between preparing a meal and capital-’C’ Cooking. Almost anyone should be able to follow the step-by-step directions and accomplish a meal. That ability to analyze a set of ingredients, though, is what impresses me.

Like other art forms, cooking fulfills the individual. It is about having a finished product at the end and feel pride. On the other hand, people enjoy cooking for others as much as they do for themselves. In this way, the art of cooking is different from the others. A meal is inherently consumable. Sure, critics can express admiration for a painting or a song, but a recipient can really love an exquisite meal. That bond is special.

Even though I do not feel the same way about actually cooking myself, I can appreciate those who compare a finished meal to a freshly painted canvas, to a work of art. Arriving at the right combination of spices and flavors takes practice. There is no question to me: an elaborate meal--like any work of art--takes time, effort, and emotion. I sometimes wish I had an expert tasting palate and could tell exactly what makes up a meal. In the meantime, I’ll leave it to the professionals.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Growing Up: A Weird Heat Companion

Whenever I hear the phrase “growing up,” my first thought is the lyric from the blink-182 song, “Dammit.” Of course, it is interesting the band I listened to most as a young person and still claim as my favorite band today never fails to remind me of my younger days. Immediately, I start to think of old friends and skateboarding and staying up late, things which are increasingly rare as I do, in fact, grow up.

Naturally, growing up is a good thing. When we are young, we talk about what we want to be when we grow up. It is always in this sense of wistful, hopeful dreams. What we “want to be” is the most idealistic concept of our futures. Regardless if those dreams are attainable, it is exciting to think ahead to what will come.

After we grow up, life is very different. We have established lives, happy marriages, delightful children, full-time jobs or any other measure of success. We are independent and can make decisions to better ourselves. At the same time, though, we have unavoidable complexities, like bills and responsibilities, we never used to have. We look back on childhood as a simpler time.

Part of this is the lens of nostalgia. We are able to look back on our former lives with warm thoughts. Unfortunately, we are not able to look ahead at the unknown, so we can only compare against the past. It may be a case of “the grass is always greener” where we do not know one side and cannot go back to the other.

The band, blink-182, was narrating their own lives when they sang, “Well, I guess this is growing up.” They were also narrating the experiences of their fans. Sure, there is some sadness in losing the innocence of childhood, but there is also a sense of empowerment as we advance in the world. I could still put on “Dammit” and go out on my skateboard, but it would not be the same. Not better, not worse, just different.