Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Original Material

There’s something about substitutions in cooking that really bothers me. I know that a great many of my fellow amateur chefs feel free to substitute to beat the band, from using olive oil instead of canola oil, to preparing fish from a chicken recipe. Not me--I feel like I am cheating by not following instructions to the letter. I am getting ready to start tonight’s beef stew, and am short one slice of bacon. We have turkey bacon, but I refuse to use it instead of the pork. I know this is all pretty neurotic, but in my mind it has to do with honoring the intent of the original concoction. 

My precise stew, down to the last onion (and almost the last bacon)

I recall the substitute teachers of my educational past. Nice as many of them were, they were in no way a real “substitute” for the actual instructor. To be fair, it’s not their fault. My Patrick subbed for several years after college, and he talked about how little freedom he had to be creative in class in the teacher’s absence—the districts just really wanted a student-sitter, a place holder until Mr. or Ms. So-and-So returned.  

I cast a jaundiced eye on replacements of characters in TV series (I am still mourning the unexplained switch-out of Darrins on Bewitched), and I rarely enjoy remakes, rewrites or remixes. I know “covers” are all the rage now in music, but I honestly don’t get it. If you are a good musician, why not use your own stuff? If Adele sings a song that becomes a huge hit, can’t we leave that to Adele? I scratch my head at the march of the Broadway revivals, or (worse) the endless stagings of Disney movies. I know that there are scads of super talented folk with original material that never get a shot, because the theatres are all booked with yet another take on Hello Dolly.

GREAT show!! How 'bout something new?

As a writer, I live in fear that I will unwittingly write a piece containing material that I read somewhere before. I have been known to Google clever turns of phrase that I have come up with, convinced that whatever I have jotted down cannot possibly be my own invention. I guess the bottom line is that I think that original stuff, be it an apple pie recipe or a sitcom, is sacred and should not be mucked around with. I realize that there is nothing entirely new under the sun, but we can at least TRY to be new, can’t we? We don’t HAVE to copy each other’s fashion designs and paintings. Now, this can be taken too far: I know of a contemporary classical composer who refuses to listen to any new music at all, for fear she will inadvertently “lift” some notes here and there. As a result, she misses out on the entire canon of amazing works being created today. No need to be so extreme!

But for tonight, Rachael Ray’s Beef Stew, verbatim (minus one piece of bacon). Straight from the source!!

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