It’s Not An Exact Art

Dear Pogue,

You know how I like to cook and experiment with food? It’s a creative art to me. Well, someone gave me a day at a cookery school learning how to bake bread. So yesterday I set off early, into the city on my bike, and spent the day getting covered in dough and flour. It was fun and I came away with two bags full of breads, rolls and cinnamon swirls which are just the best with coffee! When you come over I’ll make some.

While I was at the school there was an exercise where we were paired with another person. I got a rather intense fellow who seemed to want to take charge and, being laid back, or lazy, I wasn’t too bothered. First instruction, place 60 grams of flour in the bowl. I took the scales, placed the bowl on them and poured in the flour. At 58 grams I stopped. You know how minute a gram of flour is? Well my new friend wasn’t having that and with a level of concentration I had not realise could be used in bread making weighed out 2 grams. This was to be continued. 15 grams of yeast. 300 grams of another flour (I weighed 292 grams, quite deliberately) and the teaspoon of salt. By the time the salt was added my wicked side was fully in charge, so before a teaspoon could be measured I emptied salt into my hand, judged a teaspoon, and dropped it in. I thought we might need a defibrillator as disbelief and horror grasped his face. Strike one for all the laid back people of the world.

Care what other people think and you’ll always be their prisoner.

Lao Tzu

Having assured him it would be alright I kneaded the dough and left it to prove. It rose, was baked and a couple of hours later we had a totally acceptable batch of rolls. You see, like many things in life, it’s not a precise art. 292 grams will do just as well as 300 grams. But I continue to come across people who have a set of guidelines, or instructions in their heads and these are sacrosanct. Never a thought of deviation, a little experiment or, forbid, rolling with a feeling or instinct.

I feel for these people.

Why? Because so much of life is going to pass them by. So much richness and colour. If the instructions say; “paint it red”, there are a 100 shades of red and what is pleasing to your eye may make me stop and think: “Really!” Life is a rich kaleidoscope but you need to understand that red is not red but a whole spectrum of possibilities. There may be a need to battle the inner demons of exactitude and rules. If none ever experimented, ever went to the edges, lived on the fringe then I dare say we would never progress. Even in the realms of science, so long an exact art, we are finding that things actually aren’t governed by hard rules. Have you ever read Quantum Physics 101. That stuff is crazy and rather exciting at the same time. But at some point someone had to go to the fringes and question the rules of Newtonian physics and such.

A lot of life, a whole lot of life is not a precise art. For all of us, life is not yet written and you get to choose the story you write, for good or bad. Someone said to me; “but I had no choice”. I replied; “there’s always a choice”. It might not be your preferred option, the consequences may not suit, may even be challenging, but you always have a choice. Own it! You do the job you hate because of the money. The choice is there, just decide on the consequences you can live with, but don’t tell me you have no choice. Life isn’t that precise that you have to do that thing you’re doing.

Life isn’t that precise…until it is.

Returning to my adventures in the kitchen. There are certain recipes that do need precision if I’m to succeed. I can’t flaunt the instructions and expect success. And so with life. The train leaves at 10.18am and if I want to be in London at just after 11.00am I need to be on it by that time. It’s not a 292 grams or 300 grams, and there’ll be no noticeable difference. It’s a be on time or don’t bother. Still a choice, consequences, but some things are precise.

You just need to know which is which and for the most part there exists latitude and you don’t need to stress over the instructions. You can explore and experiment. You can let your inner wild child out to play. If it’s red, find the shade of red that makes you smile. Even dare to move into the brown spectrum and see how it feels. You are even allowed to go to the edge and look over. Maybe you’ll find out you can fly.

Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.

Mary Lou Cook

I think life, real life belongs to those who aren’t afraid to go to the edges to find their answers.

Yours, still tasing the cinnamon,


2 thoughts on “It’s Not An Exact Art

  1. This is very well written and a very interesting perspective that I find quite meaningful and interesting. I myself am sadly one of those exact measurers when it comes to baking, but I hope to change that. I felt compelled to write a comment because I found this post very good, but I am now realizing I don’t have all that much to say, so I’ll stop here.


    • Thank you for what you’ve written. As my last post said, it’s these little encouragements that mean so much and make one smile. Next post tomorrow. Please give that a read.


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