Unlearning can be empowering

Recently, I read a quote by Charles Bukowski who wrote, “Knowledge is knowing as little as possible.” When I read it, it resonated with my spirit. Perhaps in part, because I have come to this place in my spiritual journey where I realized that there was much that I believed, but did not know for myself. I had believed this is the way things were because of what others had told me all my life. One of the things I came to realize was that I had to unlearn all that I had been taught and then put myself in this place of rediscovery. What would I do, if I were in a place of creating new knowledge and new experiences in my life? What have I not yet created, accomplished, because of what I thought I knew. 

Sometimes when I am finding myself cooking, I have this tendency to fall back on what I have been told is the proper way to do something. Or falling back on flavor combinations I have been told go together. Or making a dish the way someone else taught me to do it. Or even making a dish that I have created in the past. For example, the other night I was going to make my wife’s favorite dish, cabbage casserole and as I went through the pantry, I realized that I did not have any of the Morningstars Farm crumble or the sour cream that I also use in making this dish. So for a moment, I found myself saying well I guess you can’t make it for her because you do not have the ingredients. Then I stopped and came back to that creative, childlike, inquisitive, let’s try anything space and rehydrated some TVP in vegetable broth. Then I stirred that in with the sautéed garlic, onions, and cabbage. In place of the sour cream, I added some cream cheese and a splash of buttermilk. Then a mixture of orange and white cheddar soy cheeses that I had left in the frig. Back in the oven it went and voila – 35 minutes later I had cabbage casserole to serve to my boo. 

There were two major differences this time though. I found myself enjoying making this a bit more then I normally do, something I would never have even thought about. I think in part because I was doing something new with it. The second major difference was that I actually liked it this way. I have never been a big fan of this dish, so I was not expecting to like it this way or any other way. I was surprised. The minor changes I had made transformed this into an unexpected surprise for me. I am not sure whether it was the cream cheese/buttermilk substitution, the TVP substitution, or the new brand of soy cheese that made the difference for me this round. It really does not matter. What matters is that when I threw away my rules about how to make something I was not a huge fan of, I wound up creating a version of this dish that I actually enjoyed.

How many things have we not tried because it was not what we were taught to eat, or not how we were taught to prepare it? Sometimes we have to throw away the rulebook in the kitchen and create new flavors, new combinations, new things we have never tried. There is a time and a place for rules, but there is also a time when rules constrain our creativity.  For example, I doubt there is a cookbook that tells you how to make fois gras ice cream, but that is what Richard Blais did on Top Chef All Stars in the Finale. Sometimes we need to throw away the rulebook and find our own way in the world.  Watching Blais make fois gras ice cream, I was temporarily blown away, but then I remembered hearing about Humphry Slocombe and the ways he has reinvented the rules for ice cream. Like how he invented a prosciutto ice cream for Chris Consentino. Sometimes we need to stop cooking like we have been taught to cook, and begin cooking as our spirit and creativity guide us to teach.