You'd think I'd have no shortage of ideas on what to cook, thanks to the forest-flattening number of magazines that flood my mailbox and cookbooks with far more recipes than I can ever hope to cook. Likewise, there is no shortage of ingredients which California is capable of cultivating even in those months with an "r" (and sometimes "ry"). With the depth and breadth of ingredients for sale at the local farmer's market, Whole Foods within affordable driving distance, Draegars, Andronicos, the Milk Pail, Ditmer's meats, Oakville Grocers, etc., I'd have no problem throwing together even the most obscure ingredients. I have all the cookware I (or any reasonably-equipped resort hotel) could ever need; albeit in an exceedingly small amount of space. This is hardly a valid excuse because I've had brilliantly-created food out of a restaurant kitchen so small as to prevent the staff from taking a deep breath. With all my talk (whining, whatever), you'd think I'd be churning out inspired, if not always brilliant, food day after day.

But something has been missing; a singular, elusive, magical ingredient without which any dish can fail, or never take shape in the first place - inspiration. It's not just innovation, execution, emulation, emulsion, or precision, it's about wanting to do all of those things, and wanting to make the best meal you can. For those that cook professionally, inspiration plays a part, but obligation (in the form of needing a paycheck) plays perhaps a larger one. In my case, it COSTS me money to cook, so money as an incentive, isn't part of the equation. In this case, having someone to cook FOR makes all the difference. Cooking for someone makes you strive for the very best because nothing else will do.

I'm not saying I haven't been inspired at all recently, it's just that now someone can chime in with an opinion as strong, impassioned, and leveraged of analogies at great length, as my own; it's a bit like being from another planet, and stumbling upon someone from your own neighborhood.

To anticipate early in the day what I might want for dinner is a challenge for me. I need to think past the demands of laundry, gardening, dishes, overdue emails, bill paying, phone calls to mom, grandma, inmate cousins, and, well, just about anything else; in favor of focusing on the culinary pleasure of the one best-suited to understanding the offer at hand. It's foresight and planning; acting versus reacting.

Inspiration sometimes comes not just from those we hold (literally) the closest, but from those we should simply spend more time with, and don't.

I had dinner recently with a friend (hi Matt!) who reigned supreme in my collection of friends not all that long ago. Time, careers, and perhaps a bit of laziness caused us to drift apart for awhile. Meeting up again, I was reminded of how much we overlapped in our appreciation of... well, just about everything; it's almost scary. It harkened back to a time when we lacked worldly diversity and simply overlapped on the matters of the day.

Regardless of the source, it feels good to march back into my tiny kitchen with a consistent purpose again, armed with a dash of inspiration which I find improves any dish.


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