When D and I were in Argentina (lo these many years ago), we spent some afternoons volunteering at a drug rehab center. Really we were just hanging out, spending time with the guys there (it was an all-male program). And we were fortunate enough to get invited to play in the center’s weekly futbol game.
I was not in shape, and my soccer skills would possibly be respected on the junior high intramural level anyway. But I realized that if I was aggressive–if I went after the ball and ran to the spots where I’d be likely to score, assist, or defend–I could probably make up for much of my lacking skill.
This turned out to be a pretty good assessment; I managed a nice assist to a guy who netted a beautiful header. Right after he put it in, he turned to me, obviously a little surprised (he must’ve noticed my less than stellar footwork) and said, “¡Buenissimo!”.
I was so sore that I was hobbling everywhere for a week after that game, but when an Argentinian compliments something you do on the futbol pitch, it’s ok to walk like a gaucho.
It’s easy to see is that sometimes aggressiveness can make up for lack of skill sport. And it’s often a way to learn. When you’re aggressive, you’re getting out there and trying to make things happen. You almost can’t help but learn along the way. It can be applied in other arenas, too, though.
When I’m not playing futbol on open lots in Argentina, I’m often cooking.
Two things I read recently–and the results of applying them–reminded me of this, and have even helped me come around to turning up the heat a little. (I am known for turning burners down even when others are cooking.)
The two things I read about were soffrito and a brief idea about replicating the results of restaurant recipes at home. Both appear in The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss (despite appearances from the blog, he’s not the only author I read), which I’m currently borrowing from the library.
In regards to replicating the results of restaurant recipes, he notes that the difference is often exaggerating or going a bit further with one step. The example he cites is a pea soup. In the restaurant, the peas are blended with a powerful commercial blender before being strained through a fine sieve. Because of the difference in power between industrial and home blenders, a home cook would have to blend the peas for much, much longer in order to get similar results. A useful note. Be a little more aggressive. Exaggerate a little.
I applied this aggressive, “exaggerating” idea to the way I usually cook greens in a few ways: by blanching them for a minute or two longer than the usual three minutes, and by cooking both the soffritto and the greens over slightly higher heat than I would normally use.
The results were excellent–the greens were more tender and flavorful than any I’ve cooked recently. I kept cooking the soffritto until a fond started developing, and kept the greens going until they got very tender. They are usually chewy, but these were almost melting in my mouth.
Many times these same ideas–being a little aggressive and realizing that the stated instructions might need a little exaggeration–can yield similarly improved results. ¡Buenissimo!