amazing and cool shit, dinner time conversation, lovely things, miscellaneous, drivel, Uncategorized

…learning…

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There is a part of me that is utterly fascinated with artwork and the way people draw/interpret/express the things around them. Including even the stuff I draw, which sometimes I just stare at and study; the shadows, lines, the way something turned out that I never actually tried to do, but was very ‘telling’ in some way or another. Art is a gateway to the soul, which is why it intrigues me and overwhelms me all at the same time. Often, when I draw, it’s as if I’m not drawing at all, but something else inside me is. I’m just sort of watching it unfold. It gets bad if I try to control it, which scares me, because I’d really like to be able to, but it ends up wrong, uptight, not genuine. It’s the one thing in my life that demands I let go, let something else drive for a while, sit back and just be quiet.

This is going to be a spiral sort of post, I’m sensing, whirling around in meaningless circles and may or may not have a point at the end. I’m thinking lately of a thought I had that popped into my head many years ago. It was during the first real anxiety I’d ever known, probably the first of many midlife crises, this one at the age of 30 or so. I remember it was a typical day; driving into work and for some unknown reason finding myself in tears at the prospect of another day doing what I was doing. That was not unusual. I fight myself and deny facing up to certain things written so plainly in front of me, always thinking I can defeat them simply to show they cannot beat me. It’s the German in me – the 75-ish percent. The rest is Scots-Irish. So you know when it comes right down to it; I’m a stubborn ass. Driving into work, crying – and tears do not come easily to me – I did not even cry when my mother died. I learned to bury them years ago and keep a stiff chin to the world; smile when I was grimacing inside – I knew that something was seriously not right.

My brain being my brain – it came up with the reason; ‘I can do Architecture, but I can’t do Architecture’. It was something to gnaw on anyway and staunched the tears for a long while, but I really never really knew what that meant. Until recently.

Lateral thoughts, I’m reflecting on eviscerating and plucking my first Duck and pondering a friend who’s almost finished with a 2 year program of studying Culinary Arts. At the end he’ll be a chef and I will be not much further in the world than I was when he started the program and I was considering going into it. It all came home, visiting him last Saturday, watching him make a garlic carmel sauce. A very lovely, intriguing thing.

I came away thinking that I was glad I hadn’t gone to cooking school, in the same way that going to Architecture school never made me a real Architect; though I can call myself one and practice the profession. I tried to talk about the duck – my experience – the sort of thing any hunter, any country kid probably thinks nothing about, as it is likely completely routine, and it turned into a tangent about eating foie gras, and how after finally trying it, he sort of liked it…

I came away thinking about the culinary program I’d design, if I was going to teach someone to cook. Maybe, rather, the only sort of culinary school I’d ever attend… The curriculum would probably start with eggs – and incubating them until they hatched. Then raising the chicks into hens and roosters. You’d get more eggs and you’d wonder, what the hell to do with them all; give them to neighbors – use them – raise them into more chicks… But eventually there would come the day when the Hen or Rooster would have to become a meal. And you’d have to slaughter it. Kill it first, hold it’s neck in your flinching uncertain hands and do that deed. Then you’d pluck it, eviscerate it, clean, and prepare it for a meal, feel it’s warm guts all over your hands, sever it’s head, windpipe, feel the way the feathers on the belly come off neat and easy, but not so much off of the wings… I’m sure you’d look at the liver and heart and gizzard with a much different appreciation. I’m sure that making stock would only seem right. I’m sure you’d never slaughter more chickens that you ever had to…

Eventually, you’d move on to bigger things in the barnyard; Pigs, Lambs and Cows – and it would be the same approach. Raise, slaughter, butcher. Along side, there’d be the garden and grove; growing grapes, grains, herbs. Learning to mill wheat; malt barley, press grapes for wine and olives for oil…

Only then would I think that a person could be ready to begin elevating cooking into an art; considering sauces, learning that wine can be made into vinegar, blood a perfect thickener, fat a wonderful medium for storing…

And yet, no one really cooks this way. You can become a chef and still, when you show up at a friends house with a fresh killed duck on the kitchen table, still – have absolutely no idea how to make it into food. You can have no idea what to do with the steaming guts; what parts are edible, what parts aren’t, no idea at all about any of it, and still call yourself a chef.

It’s not about being a chef or an architect; rather it’s about the nature of the way we learn, or are supposed to learn these days; it’s completely severed from the roots of why and how people did things anyway. You never get the basic appreciation of where or why something was done a certain way. You were never asked to do it for yourself – or to depend on it for survival.

I remember when I was trying to get in to architecture school, visiting Taliesin West in Arizona. It’s the former home of Frank Lloyd Wright and campus of the school he founded. The first year students all live – for their entire first year – in structures that they build from materials they scavenge on site. That is their home. I loved that concept, because it prepares one for looking critically and realistically at architecture. You see flaws and beauty in ways you’d never know, never understand if someone simply told you, asked you to memorize it.

Maybe it’s the thing that years later made me leery of being trained to do some ‘thing’. Because that’s an entirely different prospect then when you surrender to it, become a part of it, and it simply becomes an extension of your soul…

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