I love to cook. Searching for recipes, reading cookbooks, and imagining what finished platters will taste like, brings me almost as much happiness as the actual process of preparing and sharing the food. From soup to nuts, I find the entire process extremely liberating, joyful, and very relaxing. It's almost zen-like for me.
With a couple exceptions, I have a knack for finding friends who are devout non-cooks. Imagine my excitement when my daughter, Dakota, recently took a shine to baking. I felt very flattered that she was following in my footsteps. I went so far as to have fantasies about wearing matching aprons, singing together while prepping, and filling the kitchen with amazing aromas.
Dakota, on the other hand, sees cooking as an individual pursuit. She comes to me with technical questions like how to get the vanilla out of the bean, but aside from that I am not involved until it's time for taste testing. This made me feel left out. But when she started surprising us with gourmet desserts that were beautiful and mouth-watering masterpieces, I immediately went to a place of extreme pride.
My daughter is a scientist by training and she approaches each recipe with a chemists's finesse. She knows and understands the interactions between ingredients. When working with milk, what you and I know to be curdling, Dakota sees as something that has to do with fat globules and proteins and caseins and another thing or two or three that, when they meet up, have a relationship that resembles the way girls in middle school treat one another. As you can see, science isn't one of my better subjects; I totally apologize for butchering (pun intended) her brilliant explanation!
Dakota also sees each recipe as a personal challenge. And I don't mean your basic challenge, I mean something akin to climbing Mount Everest in your bare feet. Her sense of accomplishment at the end is as huge as the dare she takes on... even if she might have to try it a few times to get it just right.
Because of this, her kitchen is the polar oppostite of mine. It's hyperkinetic and high pressure.The only zen in her kitchen is that, on occasion, she will use an ingredient that is froZEN.
Dakota recently made 12 croissants that took an entire day to prepare and bake. They were so good that she can't wait to try the recipe that takes 4 days. I admire her tenacity and commitment, but never in a million years would I have the patience to attempt this. To be honest, I would much rather drive for 4 days to a far-away bakery to buy a dozen delicious croissants.
As I continue to savor her crusts that are to-die-for, her tarts that glisten like those in a French patisserie, and her cakes with flavors that make my tongue dance, I have come to a realization that actually has to do with work. If we both had businesses and described ourselves as cooking teachers, we would merely be seen as competitors who do the same thing. Look what happens when we describe our classes: In my class you would learn how to scavenge your pantry and refrigerator and concoct amazing pizzas like a salami, caper, garlic, and goat cheese surprise. Dakota's class might be an interactive and fun school seminar or camp class where kids learn chemistry through cooking. All of a sudden we become colleagues who can share business ideas, refer our clients, and even team up on projects. What a nice shift.
The next time you meet someone who you might normally see as a competitor, take some time to chat. At worst, you will discover what it is that sets you apart and use it to promote yourself. At best, you will find a peer with whom you can begin a mutually rewarding business relationship. I hope you will give it a try
Ellen Fisher, Founder and Publisher who is cooking up a big surprise for women in business on April 25, 2013. (Save the date and stay tuned to this eZine for details.)