Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble…

18 06 2010

I am a longtime fan of the three witches (or weird sisters) of The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Their very presence on stage communicates an incredibly dark mood with  impending dire events, although they are essentially no more than instigators. I love their impact and the clarity of their characters as agents of confusion and dark meditations.  The audience, safe in their seats, can enjoy the dark thrill as the drama unfolds. Shakespeare’s brilliance, for me, is in part the immediacy with which a scene can be set, anticipated and experienced – a one liner by three old ladies on a dark stage…

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air”

In the sweet comedy of my life I employ  similar dramatic (albeit imaginary) techniques to help me achieve some objectivity. I then settle back to watch my ‘play’ in full knowledge of the characters and their roles and my own intrinsic control. As a small example let me share a snippet of my morning.

Act 1: Scene 1

Setting: Dining room. Very early morning. Woman half-heartedly checking email at laptop – silent. Man beside her on another laptop, typing and periodically reading aloud items of interest.  Morning sun shining through golden curtain. A coffee at hand. Daughter cozy in bed.

Woman: (sighs repeatedly)

Man: (looks over with a smile)

Woman: (sighs louder)

Man : (reaches across to stroke her hand) – What’s on your mind?

Woman: (takes hands off computer and gazes at the golden curtain).

Suddenly, the light in the room turns deep purple. The walls darken. The warmth disappears and a chilling stillness creeps into the room. The mist that slides up the walls is portentous of something mystical and unnerving on the horizon.

Woman: (leans back and looks deeply into the man’s eyes) – I am trying to decide whether I should allow myself to spiral down into the wasteland of deep despair.

Man: (with barely a pause – smiles; laughs; tries to check laughter; gives up and laughs fully.

Woman: (with a surprised eyebrow raise and a hint of a lip twitch) – Well, I didn’t think it would be quite that funny?

Man: (trying to check smile) – No, sweetheart. I’m laughing because I know you and I know that is exactly what you were thinking and I love that I know you.

The light transitions to a warmer, less intense,  purple hue and a spotlight falls on five musicians with cellos and flutes in the corner of the room.

Woman: (sighs deeply again and puts her hands to her cheeks) – What am I doing with my life? Who am I? What do I want?

Musicians play. Audience murmurs in acknowledgment of the gravity and importance of the woman’s angst-filled questions.


I think we’ll take an intermission at that point. I’m sure you get the idea…

For someone like me, who happily wallows in the small details of life and for whom the minutiae of moods and experiences  are truly enjoyable – a pedant, I have been fondly called – it is equally important to have an objective overview. The trick is the balance. I find I am often walking that tightrope between ‘looking in’ and ‘looking at’ and techniques like this – for example, watching my existential worries as if they were a play – gives me a broader perspective that helps me stay balanced.

So, I was thinking… How do these tendencies translate to my experience of making meals?

As a novice cook, I tend to sift through magazines and menus and recipe books for ideas that spark a small desire in me. I then reconstruct the idea into something that seems workable and allows me to play with the details. What if I used a broader approach and created the whole idea myself? What if I came up with a recipe that combines flavours and textures and colours and healthy preparation and cost efficiency?

Given the premise that there are no new ideas,  I intend to create something new to me.   I want to see if I have learned enough in the last six months to make a delicious new recipe for my burgeoning repetoire.

With this in mind, I spent an extra half an hour at the market which is not at all like me, looking at some of the foods that I seldom play with. I came home with  polenta, some large mushrooms,  acorn squash, slivered almonds and a collection of interesting tomatoes.  I have a whirly, swirly idea, right now, of a tower-like structure of strong flavours and textures built on a foundation of something soft and tasty, interspersed with a unifying herb sauce. Hmmm… I will give myself a day or so to ponder some visions of  this Dandylion Extravaganza and then I will hop to it.

I will post the result of this mindful amalgamation of  ‘big picture’ and  ‘the particulars’ as soon as it is realised.  Tonight, though, I intend to make a version of my Thai Red Curry. It is a one cauldron dish, with the exception of the baked tofu, and I can play out my Macbeth fantasies over the stove top.




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