Saturday, March 31, 2007

mastery: lather, rinse & repeat

I experienced a profound sense of mastery this evening. This is not to suggest that learning in this particular area of endeavor is done - simply that I'm now aware of the impact of choice on each step of the process I followed, an awareness that has freed me to. . .

"Holy crap, Bob, you're doing it again. Enough with the cryptomysticism, get to the point. There's a Saturday Night Live repeat on NBC with that guy from the Office."

Fine, fine.

Tonight, I made. . .the perfect. . .shrimp scampi.

"You are such a ____ing idiot."

Hold on, Sparky. Have you ever made shrimp scampi? From scratch? Without. . .a recipe?

Have you gotten your mise ready without measuring anything?

Have you judged the doneness of the shrimp by sight and touch, instead of by the clock?

"Have you lost your mind?"

I've made so many crappy shrimp scampi recipes before I've lost count. Each time, I've screwed something up.

  • Heated the oil and butter up too fast, which burns the butter
  • Threw the garlic in for too long, which burns it
  • Failed to totally defrost the shrimp, which encourages you to leave the shrimp in too long, which makes them rubbery
  • Forgot the salt or added too much salt
  • Added the lemon too early or too late and in too great a quantity
  • Added the parsley too early, or too late in too great a quantity
  • Added the red pepper too early
  • Overcooked the pasta. . .
Or one of any of a dozen other opportunities for failure.

But if you balance the ingredients, the timing and the heat just so, something magical happens.

It's magical when you're plating the dish, you discover you've got left-over chopped flat-leaf parsley to dress the plate.

It's magical when you slide the plate in front of your wife you get that wide-eyed expression of "wow, that smells and looks great."

Then somewhere between bite three and bite four, when you've realized it's perfect, the thought pops into your mind. . .

"What can I do differently?"

Confident in your ability to deliver an excellent outcome, the student in you is released, free to experiment without fear of failure.

"So, was it good?"

"Yes, it was good."

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