Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Where for art thou?


As you can see from the image above, a lack of writing does not denote a lack of supping. That lovely little trundled up and stuffed rainbow trout was positively smashing. I served it with some lemony arugula and some lightly pickled cucumbers and chilies last night.

Indeed, where have I been? My online writing has often, or perhaps, entirely, been a meditation of the 'self'; an outlet in which I can write about the things I love. Writing, some might suggest, is a cathartic exercise. What other reason is there to write?

Unfortunately, my day-to-day work has resulted in reams of writing about things that don't interest me (and likely won't interest you), but instead, this writing allows me to pay my mortgage. In fact at this moment, writing this post is preventing me from finishing this 'other' work.  Likely the only audiences of the majority of these 'other' things I write are a small group of people looking for answers in the business and media world (and I appreciate them hiring me). Published? Not likely. Unless you count annual reports for Crown Corporations which may be registered in the National Library but are certainly nothing to get excited about. Okay, I must be at least a little proud of that or I wouldn't be crowing about here in an artlessly passive way.  

However, given the possibility that someone, somewhere in the great digital ether might read these small dispatches about my cooking...now this, this provides me with at least enough wherewithal to write with a sense of artistic discipline (however small). This is the kind of writing where one can set a scene, determine a subject and whimsically create a conflict. Well, perhaps it's not that involved, but it must be said that a research report about television viewing habits is not likely to include the word azure. I love the world azure.

So as I was saying, the writing aspect of food has been a wonderfully therapeutic, albeit self-involved project that has helped keep my head clear and prevent me from doing something rash, say like attempting to butcher an entire lamb down to its primal cuts on my dining room table.

Yet, the last several weeks have seen sea changes in my potential future. Sea changes that make me realize, there is one thing that I like to do more than write, and that is to cook (and I enjoy the irony that the term 'sea change' is derived from Shakespeare's The Tempest---certainly a gentleman who knew how to write).

I am the precise polar opposite of another writer, Gabrielle Hamilton, author of the most excellent memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter (and 'no', I don't dare compare myself to her on the level of writing skill - she is veritable Wordsworth in chef's whites, I am a data analyst faking it in on a blog).
 
In her case, she cooks in her highly acclaimed New York boite, Prune. However, what she wants to be known for is her writing. She finds it peculiar that the pop culture tide has come ashore in the restaurant industry. Why are chefs becoming celebrities? She wonders. She has suggested that she sees herself as an author first and as a chef second. At this very moment, I see myself as a cook first and a writer...well, somewhere far down the list. Sure I can string some words together, but Gabrielle Hamilton writes prose that bloody well sings to me. Her narratives are tight as drum, she uses such economy with her words that nothing feels superfluous, and yet her phrasing transports me. I am moved by her description and detail. She has a talent that I so greatly admire.

And admittedly, to me, chefs are indeed rock stars. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Heston Blumenthal, April Bloomfield, Thomas Keller, David Chang, Fergus Henderson - these are people that really do inspire me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I am genuinely interested in what they have to say. 

In any event, as I have said, whilst taking moments between the busy work I have been doing, my mind wanders to a lot of 'what ifs'. I am sitting in a strange twilight...on a cusp between planning for something fantastical, something I can call my own and on the other side, I have to remind myself that perhaps it is still far out, beyond the breakers and barely materialized in my minds eye. An opportunity is taking shape and I am afraid if I remove my gaze for a second it will dissolve to nothing. I catch glimpses of it. So real and close, that I momentarily have to remember to breathe, while other times, I look back at the data sheets spread out on my desk and another half-written report about a focus group and wonder if this predictable little career is the way to go; convenient hours, regular vacations and Saturday's off. I would hate to spend a lifetime regretting.

Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.  

But regret can go either way can't it? To try and fail, or not to try...and always wonder. Only time can tell what's next for the Beech Tree.
 

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