Weekend Meditation: Curiosity

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Would it work to sprinkle a little finely minced rosemary over this lemon tart? Can I cook a pizza in my teeny tiny oven and have it turn out like those wood-fired ones from A16? What does a nopales taste like? Does this recipe have to have this much sugar? What can I make with a passion fruit? Who is coming to dinner tonight and what would they love to eat? Where does this chicken come from and was it treated well there?

So much of my cooking is asking questions, being curious and investigative. This, I've come to believe, is a good way to live a life.

When we ask questions, it often means we don't have a fixed idea, we haven't solidified or reified something. We don't know everything there is to know about it. Which means there are discoveries and possibilities, which in turn leads to places we've never been. A little scary sometimes but also exciting and liberating.

There's an old saying: "Not knowing is most intimate." What this paradox is pointing to is that when we have an idea about something or we think we know it, we're a little removed from it. We've placed it in a box and stuck a label on it. But when we don't know something, we're curious and investigative and in an active, dynamic relationship with it. Things are always changing, and not-knowing means we're right up close, checking it out, intimate.

Cooking is a wonderful exercise in knowing/not knowing. We have to know enough to make choices and decisions and we have to not-know enough to be aware and adaptive to circumstances. Food, especially when we use fresh or minimally processed ingredients, is always a little different each time we work with it. This morning's strawberries are a little sweeter, so we use less sugar. Maybe tonight the sweet potatoes can be roasted with a little garlic instead of being made into a pie. It's seven minutes earlier than last time, but the cake is done and ready to come out of the oven right now.

Curiosity is perhaps the most important ingredient in any recipe. What are you curious about? What have you discovered? What don't you know?

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Weekend Meditation

Dana Velden is a freelance food writer. She lives, eats, plays, and gets lost in Oakland, California where she is in the throes of raising her first tomato plant.