Friday, July 13, 2007

Transformer 'R Us

"You're kidding right? Transformers? "

"No...It was awesome."

Mike C. told us that the first movie he has gone out to see, in over two years, was the new robot destruction fest Transformers.

"I used to play with those as a kid man, they were the coolest toys, better than Star Wars action figures, G.I.Joe with Kung Fu grip even."

People expressed shock that he did not see Ratatouille, the Pixar film, which, despite it being an animated kids picture has all the foodie types excited, at least in this neck of the woods where you can't swing a baguette without hitting an organic heirloom tomato. Then he went on to do his lecture about Saute and Stir Fry and I forgot the whole subject. Until last night.

I started thinking about Transformers, or rather about transformation. It hit me that transformation, more than anything else, really sums up what the process of cooking is all about. Not just for Ferran Adria in Spain making a foam out of cucumber or a filet mignon from a mango, but even the simplest things. Take class #3, Sauces; what is a vinagraitte but two very unlike substances, oil and an acid, beaten up together until their molecules are forced to emulsify.... transformation.

Crack a gooey egg in boiling water and see it transformed into a solid white saucer holding a still liquid golden center. Poached egg. Go back to my first Kitchen on Fire class, Stocks and Soups. Take water that has no flavor at all, and big bones, a few plain vegetables, boil it for hours and you transform that into the base of your Veloute sauce for the priciest entree on the menu.

It made perfect sense that a chef would prefer Transformers to Ratatouille. At least a chef like Mike C. who despite his knowledge and skill is really still a kid in the kitchen, a very serious kid, playing around, transforming things into other, better things, searching always for new transformations.

That's also what our life is about, outside the kitchen. And it's not always pleasant or easy. My wife is transforming herself from a full time mom to a nurse, and the knowledge she's had to pick up has been astounding. She's metamorphosed from the overwhelmed student of ten months ago to someone who can put on scrubs, check a chart, witness someone having their trachea removed, and then go start an I.V. drip without batting an eyelash. We've been married for ten years. Ten mostly very good years. We have two fantastic kids. But our marraige, in spite of what we want it to be, has slowly transformed into something else, something we have to decide if we like or not.

Can we control the transformations that we go through, that our relationships go through? I doubt it. "Rough hew them how we may" I think our fates are set. Like Hamlet says, "the readiness is all."

Transformation can be a bitch. But without it, dinner would taste like crap.

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