I always considered myself a perfectionist, until I actually met perfectionists. The amount of care, dedication, and effort that went into the smallest of details, no matter the project, truly blew me away.
I’ve never been one for detail work. I don’t like “futzing” with things. I’m not a tinkerer. I cannot stand repeating a small task over and over and over again.
However, in the kitchen, most of that frustration and desire to hurry things along goes away. I’m happy to putter, to move the knife slower to get exactly the right slice. But I still find myself saying, “That’s good enough.” So when I watch shows like “Chef’s Table”, or “The Mind of a Chef”, I am still amazed and completely inspired by the care these artists take with food. Not just in the preparation, but in the presentation, the layering of details, the complexity that is almost overlooked by the supposed simplicity.
I’ve been watching the fourth season of “The Mind of a Chef”, which featured chef Gabrielle Hamilton. She is known for her restaurant Prune in New York, as well as her memoir, Blood, Bones, and Butter. I found myself immediately smitten with her style of cooking in watching her episodes, but it wasn’t until the last one where she said something that struck me like nothing else had thus far. She was teaching one of her cooks how to make a dish that looked simple, but required a significant amount of time, repetition, and detail. As they folded and crimped over and over and over again, Gabrielle said, “There is no reason to be this precise, and there’s no reason to not be.”
What a concept. I really feel smacked by that statement. It applies to so much in life, not just food. There is no reason to care for the well-being of people I don’t know, but there’s no reason not to. There’s no reason to sit and meditate every day, but there’s no reason not to. There’s no reason to make my backyard flower garden look beautiful and pristine, but there’s no reason not to.
What would happen if I took that much care in everything I did? It seems to me that care (as opposed to rigid, self-flagellating perfectionism) is at the root of many beautiful things. When someone takes care–of themselves, of their food, of their homes, of their relationships–others take notice. It draws appreciation, it incites love.
For many people, I think particularly in our American culture, time is a precious commodity, and we feel very selective about where we dole out those extra minutes. But what better way can we show our love, than through the amount of care and time we give to things, and to each other?
I know I’m going to be reflecting on this for a long time…