Everything I learned about life I learned from watching the Iron Chef. On the program the two chefs battle fiercely for 60 minutes but when the judgment is in, when Chairman Kaga announces the results and the winner, the two rivals usually are very gracious and humbly shake each other's hand as they congratulate the up to then unforgiving competition on the effort put in. It's as if since they are the only two put through the grueling high pressure ordeal they are more alike than different, and they understand one another on a whole other level than the folks watching in.
This was all reinforced when I recently had coffee and conversation with a friend and it was one of those rare times in life when you are glad to be exactly where you with who you find yourself with. Among the things I learned was that in the kitchen she doesn't have the patience of her mother who is a fine cook. When it comes to following the precision often necessary in making a recipe turn out tasting right she admitted that touch isn't one of her strongest points. At least, I thought to myself, she actually tries to follow some precise steps. I tend to be the type of chef who just experiments and throws things together and hopelessly hopes that somehow it will turn out tasty.
Prime example: my sister gave me a bottle of hot stuff aptly named "Da Bomb" that is a liquid combination of the hottest peppers known to man and Mercurian. It's so potent that I once got some on my skin and it burned for days. (Just imagine what it does to one's stomach lining!) Since I generally get a kick out of spicy food I was most thankful for the gift. I dutifully tried it in stir fry after stir fry only to find out that just a drop of the stuff made whatever combination of stuff I chose to try together taste inedible.
Frying meat and vegetables together is about as ambitious as I have gotten ever since moving out on my own, trying to create the right combination of ingredients to call a dish my very own. I usually include chicken and broccoli but the other elements tend to rotate from vegetables ranging from carrots and onions to potatoes and scallions; to spices like garlic, ginger, curry, Worcestershire Sauce, and thyme. I have for a long time desperately sought something to counter the bite of "Da Bomb" and add some taste to the kick- everything from chicken mushroom soup and yogurt to lemon juice and milk. The best I could come up with to add flavor to the oppressive oral ouchability was mushing up some bananas. Oddly that combo actually turned out kind of OK.
Now if you've gotten this far in this week's entry you are probably wondering what the point of all this is. Well listening to my friend at the coffee house, a kindred Bob Dylan fan, I found myself thinking that life too often can be like cooking. There are those that follow the recipe and those that spontaneously and boldly chart their own course. Often those two end up in the same place with the end result not turning out as well as hoped. Often being a great cook means keeping it simple and basic. Other times those that know enough to use fancy ingredients and fancy mixtures and timing can create a dish that simply cannot be replicated by mere mortals.
Similarly life, often times more complex than we can hope to understand, is about trying to find a mixture between work, friends, and family. When everything comes together and crashes it can often be about sorting through the aftermath, plowing through and hoping for the best. Or it can be about stripping away and simplifying wherever possible.
Ever since the day more than a decade ago of making the decision to take in a feline roommate, I have struggled with the never ending fight against cat hair lying in unsightly clumps around my home. It quickly got to a point early on where I gave up and realized I couldn't ever stay ahead of the fight. But the last few weeks I've noticed that Mr. Max is shedding at a rate even more prolific than normal. I don't know if it is the goofy weather we've had all summer or if it is another sign of his increasing deteriorating health but I've tried to comb him more regularly and tried to breathe through my nose and not my mouth in hopes of not consuming more hair into my lungs.
Then it struck me: since he has no hopes of creating an offspring (snip snip) he may be attempting to create a next of kin by shaping a lump of hair into another fully formed kitty. Failing this scheme the hairballs urped up contain enough of his DNA to be gathered by some sympathetic scientist who will choose to clone him. Call me paranoid but I'm sure this is what is going on.
To foil his plot and to energize one who more and more just doesn't have the energy to do anything but to hang his head at edge of the bed and sleep (looking way too cute) I've decided the two of us will hit the road and form a Rap duo: Notorious Bad Sleeper and Puss Pussy Max. His bellowing meow embellishments to my rants about oppression and sulking cry wolf pigeon philosophy relating to the meaning of life can only make us a hit with the kids. Look for us in a venue near you. But I'll warn you you'd best be advised to stay away from any stir fry that may be part of the offering.