Monday, November 9, 2015

Mounties and Tarts

I'm up a bit earlier than usual. Marz and I are house sitting four pets---a two-person job--and the cats start prowling and yowling at 6:30 AM. 
Constable Motel (bear) gets up at sunrise, but is the silent type. Here is its Mountie coat, in process [and my bed-head]:

An inexperienced tailor, I arrange the fabric on the bear and sew around it (inside-out, so the seams don't show).

Slow and imprecise, it's teaching me--for instance, to cut the armhole on a slant, the angle at which the arm meets the body, which I'd never thought about.

 Since stuffed animals don't move much, their costumes don't have to be functional, 
but I do want them to hold together and be lump-free. 

That's a key to making anything well, isn't it -- taking (or giving) whatever time and care it requires?
Along those lines, I've been inspired by the amateur bakers on the Great British Bake Off (on PBS--just watched the finale of series 4 last night.) 

I usually hate reality TV shows, but by US standards, this competition is unbelievable friendly
--bakers even helped one another--
and I liked how it revealed the fiddly work of creation. It's about knowing how to do a lot of little steps, and then bothering to do them. 

Some stuff I'd never bother with:
Hand-making filo dough? Geez, why? 
But if you don't know the fundamental littles (layering butter and flour, sewing on a button), all the showy stuff won't matter.
Mercifully the recipe for these Nectarine, Almond and Cream Tarts calls for store-bought puff pastry. 

[I want to make these! maybe for Thanksgiving.] 

The other aspect of course, is talent.
Seems you can't exactly learn or teach talent? but I think most of us could activate a lot of dormant talent. 

I've been thinking about this, this fall.
Each of the manuscripts I've been editing lacks imagination. 
BUT... I suspect the authors may be hampered not by lack of native imagination but by lack of the time and care required to germinate that imagination.
The pay is poor and the deadlines are tight, so people just crank stuff out fast. 

And of course many of us came up through schools (and maybe families) that didn't cultivate imagination either.
If they didn't, we have to do it ourselves.

Looking at the Bake Off bakers, you see they all spend innumerous hours practicing and experimenting.

Maybe it's the experimenting that counts---if we practice the same thing over and over, we just get the same results, like the mss I'm editing, which are monocultural.
You have to dream up new stuff, which takes time, and, half the time, results in failure, . . . but imaginative failure.  :)

The other aspect to all this is outside support. The success of your cake depends not just on your skills but on the availability of good ingredients and a decent oven.

I've drifted off into theory here, which sometimes means I'm avoiding something personal:
In this case, the thing is, here in the autumn of my life, sometimes I feel bad that I've been so unproductive [naturally I compare myself not to the authors of the presidential books, but to the presidents]
and other times I'm really proud that I've protected my empty time:
 time to dream, perchance to fail.

And I'm wondering how to think about the time I might have left (according to life expectancy, another third of my life, fingers crossed). It feels like I might want or need to make some choices about that (e.g., imagining eating less carbs).

Not sure. Not sure what...


Zhoen said...

So many skills I would return to childhood to acquire, but I would also need different parents. Glad I got the ones I did manage, like reciting the alphabet backwards.

My family butter tarts did not have raisins, but walnuts. I wish they'd put in pecans. It's a sort of northern pecan pie, a dish that occasionally satisfies that yen.

I may have to dig up the GBBO, with Sue Perkins, who I like from other Brit shows we've managed to find and watch, like QI and Have I Got News For You.

Zhoen said...

Oh, and before I read, I saw your photo, and thought, "Wow, you are having a good hair day!" I think it's pretty in that photo.