amazing and cool shit, dinner time conversation, horrific mistakes, lovely things, miscellaneous, drivel, potentially useful information, things I love, tom being tom

…teaching and learning…

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I’m fixated lately on making fondant. I’m not much for sweets but for some reason it’s stuck some gnarly talon into my skull and I’m thinking I’m going to have to play with it. I get on these jags from time to time – it’s the thing that elevates me and makes me think I’ve done something with my fleeting moments on this planet. What really makes me think making fondant is worth exploring is all the cookbooks I’ve been perusing lately telling me to just buy it pre-made from somebody with no explanation as to why – without even a hint at how to make it. Julia Child has a recipe for it, as does LaRousse Gastronomique and it really doesn’t seem that difficult – sugar and a little glucose or tartaric acid to stabilize it, heated to about 238 degrees and then worked on a marble slab with a metal spatula till opaque. I’ve made worse and more complicated things – candy glass windows for a gothic gingerbread house that managed to kill off a short lived family tradition, for example…

Life is arbitrary and strange. I got into this whole mess of cooking, really, when one day when my bread machine died. I looked at the half mixed/kneaded dough and the control panel with blinking lights and wondered if I could figure out what to do with the glob of flour and water and yeast sitting inside…

I have no recollection of what ever became of that loaf of bread – but I suddenly became fascinated with the workings of it all. Moments as such illuminate all of the chasms of the inner workings of the world. A world which I immediately recognize as one I am not yet privy to. An underworld. A secret world which nobody has ever told me of, and which society at large never encourages you to discover – and seemingly doesn’t want you to find. It is often that single thing that consumes me, and for that sake alone.

Even after the first attempts, I wondered why on earth anyone would surrender such a sensual and fulfilling task to a machine, wondered even more why I never learned how to make bread or understand such simple ingredients – why it isn’t taught right along with brushing teeth and wiping ones own ass… I became intrigued about the very things that bread machines, and other appliances, sever you from.

It always makes me think about the entire odyssey of it all, the subtle yet significant and intractable difference between teaching and learning. They’re complete opposites, I think. They are as simple and stark as that which suddenly, for whatever reason, you want to know, versus that which someone tells you, or implies that you should know. One comes from within as a genuine quest for understanding, the other comes in the form of some unsolicited edict, which right or wrong, my body does not naturally accept at face value.

I’ve had too many moments in my life where no one ever told me ‘how’ and I was faced with figuring it out on the fly. I managed. I actually prize what I’ve learned as a result far more than the lessons I ever paid tuition for. Somehow I think I’m not unique in this regard. Somehow I think that formal and structured education, while purposeful for some things, has serious shortcomings when it comes to knowing anything.

Necessity may very well be the mother of invention – but the mother of necessity is desire, determination and stupid, unbridled curiousity…

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