It is 11:33pm. I accidentally had a party last night and slept…4 hours. Here I am, surrounded by party trash and a sink full of dishes. The plan was to clean and get to bed, since we are 27 minutes from Sunday. Except…
I am no longer in the driver’s seat. I have become a passenger. Shit.
For years I wrote. I wrote because I had to. When you meet someone and you like them, there is a connection you both feel, it is so hard to go to work, to go to school, to watch tv, to do laundry because you are thinking about that person. We’ve all been there. To clarify to those who have a more distant relationship with their creative process, that is how if feels when the proverbial “creative juices” start to flow. That is how I felt about writing. It’s like a drug; when you’re not doing it, you’re thinking about doing it.
Then one day, it was gone.
I continued to think about writing, I still do, that desire is almost always at the back of my mind, but I couldn’t make the words flow. The novels remain unfinished to this day. Whatever space writing had in my heart, pastry clobbered it with a brick of frozen butter. At least the drive didn’t just…take off on me.
Waiting for the ebb of the creative experience to end can be like waiting for Godot, but it is much less funny. For the last two months I have been bone dry. So much so that, as I’ve admitted, I smooshed a cake because I couldn’t make it work aesthetically. At the time, it felt a bit rash, but Nikolai Gogol set to flames the second half of Dead Souls because he felt he just couldn’t make it work. I guess had I been really upset about it, I’d have torched it.
The loss of creative energy is in fact like losing a relationship. You keep checking back to see if the status has changed. You have no idea what the future holds. You seem lost, like you aren’t sure how you did this living thing alone in the first place. If it is gone for long enough, you eventually forget about it. And it is during this time, away from the creative monster that lives inside you, you must live normally. Embrace your freedom — you can see your friends, read books without getting distracted, clean your apartment, eat full meals (occasionally with other people), because when it comes back, that will all disappear. Then it’s forgetting to eat, not returning phone calls, taking notes at inappropriate times as ideas spring to mind, books taking over your bed, but that’s okay cause you sleep on the couch or at your desk during this time.
An Amazon.com search on “Thinking Creatively” delivers 1,659 results. I can’t imagine the money being thrown into this area, which underscores the whole way how everyone has the ability to be creative, so long as we let go of our cultural “hurdles”. Nice.
I know for a fact that I do not experience, on a conscious level, the suggestions these books hand out.
Things like “When you look at an object, consider it’s many uses beyond the conventional ones” or some such nonsense. Honestly, creative folks, do you think this way? Cause I sure don’t.
For me, it’s more like this (Cue Flow-Chart Action! (yes!)):
But that’s how it happens. I don’t just GET CREATIVE. Now part of that stemmed from being served the most disgusting dessert I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing, and it happened to be served in a tea cup.
Sometimes I try to do some research on flavour pairings — Grant Achatz describes the process as “Flavour Bouncing”. You take a main ingredient and gradually build a dish by adding flavours that work with your main and any additional, supporting flavours. This is why my copy of the Flavour Bible is in shambles. Unfortunately, that which comes from such an exercise, to me, feels forced rather than organic. More often this happens:
Truffle Honey Ice Cream Sandwich…
Okay, school and eating a lot of macarons says a dacquoise because it is soft, nutty flavour that can be made complex or diminished to its basic level so something else can take the spotlight…
Do I has almonds…?
WAIT A MINUTE I STOLE SOME PISTACHIO POWDER FROM WORK AND THREW IT IN THE FREEZER “JUST IN CASE” BECAUSE DEEP DOWN I AM A HOARDER.
Pistachio Dacquoise… Pistachios are… Mediterreanian?
Figs…figs grow there…
FIGS ARE MY FAVOURITE…
…figs and pistachios and…lemonsLEMONS
Mediterreanian is pretty…everything is colourful…
Okay, Pistachio, truffle, lemon infused honey, fig, candied violets, gold.
Yes. I have these things, let’s do this until 3am.
How can you do this too?
I have no clue. You may have anticipated a magic answer, but I don’t have it. You’ll have to ask my driver, but I think she’s too busy rocking out to Iggy Pop.
Early Grey Panna Cotta with Brioche Toasts, Grapefruit Marmalade, Lavender sugar.
I designed this because I’ve been drinking a lot of tea in order to ease my assimilation into the British culture. Cream Tea and High Tea are all fine and good, but I was more interested in a typical afternoon of toast and tea. Originally I planned shortbread, but the test run said it was too rich to pair with the richness of the panna cotta. Oh, and that typo… the French Chef I worked for always called it Early Grey. Too. Cute.
Earl Grey Panna Cotta (makes 8 servings)
11g Gelatin (powdered, or 5 sheets)
6 Tea Bags (loose-leaf preferred)
Bloom your gelatin in a Tbsp of cold water. Bring the cream, milk, and sugar to just below a boil. Add your tea bags and steep 4-6 minutes (or to desired strength). Remove tea bags, whisk in gelatin. Pour into serving vessels. Refrigerate 4 hours minimum, though the gelatin will continue to set for 24 hours.
Grapefruit Marmalade (pg.58)
I really love this marmalade. It is not as bitter as most and it’s simplicity gives you the freedom to play around with flavours — you could easily infuse spices, add ginger or zest — I don’t eat much in the way of preserves, so I only make one grapefruits worth at a time.
Slice the grapefruit very thinly.
Place it in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Pour off the water, cover with fresh water, and bring to a boil again. Do this five times total to remove the bitterness of the skin. Weigh the fruit, then add the same weight of sugar. I’ve made an orange version with half the sugar and it has come out nicely. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook to 107 degrees Celsius, or until the rind is translucent. Once cooled, I take scissors to the skins, since they will be almost intact rounds.
So today’s word is: ISOMALT.
Isomalt is a sugar alcohol made from beets. It is very low in sweetness, comes in large granules like rock salt, and is safe for diabetics as the body does not metabolize it as it would sugar (it detects it as fiber, so don’t eat a lot of it, if ya know what I mean). The other great thing about Isomalt (oh aside from it holding up in humid conditions as compared to sugar) is that when cooked it does not colour.
You could make this with sugar, but sugar begins to blonde at 160 degrees Celsius, so it would have a yellow-gold tinge to it. Isomalt stays clear, so it is commonly used in sugar showpieces for its durability and how it takes colour.
For this, cook up some Isomalt (or regular sugar, I dunno 2 cups worth) over medium heat. Isomalt must be stirred until it is dissolved, so stir away. Don’t stir regular sugar. Remove from heat at 17oC. When it stops bubbling, stir in lavender and tea leaves. Pour onto a silicone mat and allow to cool somewhat. Please don’t attempt to touch it until it starts moving very slowly when agitated, you will burn the shit out of your hands. When it starts to set around the outside, pull small portions out of the pool, cut the length you want with scissors, twist if desired, and set carefully to dry.