This is the last of the whiteonricecouple‘s video we did at the end of the BlogHer conference in San Francisco last fall. They were off the cuff experimental food and cooking editorials, and this one came on the tail of my linking Richard Wrangham’s contention that it was the cooking of food that gave us the calories we needed to make the leap from hominid to human and what it might have to say about our current state, having largely given up cooking in America for the past 60 years (that’s video here).
This video has nothing to do with food, but it does have something to do with awareness, and that has everything to do with the kitchen.
Of all the knowledge I’ve absorbed from Thomas Keller, perhaps the most important one of all is the importance of being aware. Awareness means everything from anticipating the actions of the cooks around you and what they are doing and what they will be doing moments from now, to the bumpy texture of your
Hollandaise (add some water or it will break), knowledge about how bacteria work to the fact that the bread you just threw away instead of turning it into useable crumbs or bread pudding wasted not only the bread but somebody’s time.
If you are aware, you can see it in other people. In bread baking class at the CIA, while working on Making of a Chef I watched the bread guru there, Richard Coppedge, having set the various teams to work on that morning’s doughs stride toward his desk, pause just a moment, then carry on, saying, “Team two, measure 25% of your water as ice.” It was an awareness of the temperature of the room (summertime) and the heat of the flour and the type of dough Team Two was working on.
I was once hanging around the Zuni Cafe kitchen, working when I could. I was seasoning the famous ricotta dumplings. I thought they were under seasoned, and Judy tasted and said yes they were, and she went to attend to something else across the kitchen. I seasoned. But I didn’t think it was enough, I hesitated, reach for a little more salt and from across the kitchen, Judy shouted, “Enough!” That’s aware. She was right. (If you don’t know her cookbook, Zuni Cafe Cookbook, it’s one of my all-time favorites).
In the video I claim that being aware is one of the most important qualities of our humanity; and because so much of my work revolves around food and cooking, I see awareness in the kitchen more acutely than in other walks of life. I believe cooking is a fundamental part of our humanity and that the better cooks we are the more human we are and that awareness is one of those forces that enhances our humanness as it does our cooking. But it’s not just in the kitchen, it’s everywhere, the effects of awareness, whether you’re a writer or a photographer, in which case awareness is fundamental to your work, but even if you drive a bus, deliver mail, manage a company, or develop software, the more awareness the better. I think we need to work toward 360 degrees of awareness, squared (or sphered, rather).
And Todd and Diane, you guys are the … best. Can’t wait to do something with you that’s actually planned ahead of time!
If you liked this post on Awareness, check out these other links:
- Read the book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham
- Bob del Grosso, of A Hunger Artist always has something to help others become more aware.
- Chef Richard Coppedge’s book Gluten-Free Baking from the CIA
- Civil Eats share information on food systems and sustainable agriculture that help build better communities.
© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved