There is a Chinese proverb that teaches, “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” Cookbooks, culinary classes, recipe websites, are awesome and can be a great source of inspiration when cooking. I have learned a great deal about cooking from these sources. For me, these have all been teachers. Even watching the Food Network and The Cooking Channel have and continue to be teachers. However, one of the things I have had to remember is that I cannot depend on the teacher for my wisdom, knowledge, and understandings. To do so, keeps me in a prison where I sacrifice my adventure, freedom, and creativity.
I have come to appreciate this lesson in journeying with my students as well. I can offer them the opportunity to learn, present them with materials to read, films to watch, and guest speakers to listen to. However, at the end of the day, it is their decision to be an active participant in the learning process that determines how much they take out of the class and what they choose to do with what they are learning.
I have friends who cannot make anything without a recipe card or cookbook in front of them and will never deviate from the recipe. That is fine and their food is always well done. On the other hand, there are those I know who are constantly experimenting with food, creating new recipes and flavor profiles. We take what we are craving and then make something based around that ingredient. For example, I love cheese. Zoë loves pizza. There was this one evening that we were craving pizza and I had nothing in the pantry with which I could see making a crust, and then I remembered that I had a box of puff pastry in the freezer. So I defrosted it, rolled it out, covered it with some pasta sauce, crumbled vegetarian Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese. Then I was thinking some caramelized onions and peppers would be awesome on that. So on those went and then I rolled it up and baked it until the puff pastry was beautifully brown and puffy. And here we had it this puffy, crispy, crunchy Italian sausage pizza roll. It was kind of this cross between a calzone and a pizza. It was so good and it satisfied both of our cravings. Had I been dependent on a recipe to make something that evening, I might not have found anything that would tell me to do this. Because I stepped forward in faith, I was able to create something that allowed me to teach myself something new, create something out of nothing, and see how much I had grown in my own culinary journey and adventure.
Our spiritual lives can be like that as well. So often, we become dependent on what our teachers tell us, that we never build on, explore, or examine what is given to us. They hold the door open, but we never enter. We only look at the door and those who are going through, but only take in that which is presented to us on this side of the door. We believe what we are told, but do not always come to that place of knowing for ourselves what we know in our hearts that we can draw on and build on when our teachers are not around.
That is one of the things I like so much about Chopped and Iron Chef America, you have to create out of your creativity, and you have to enter the door of culinary creativity by yourself. There is no one there to teach you, you now must teach yourself. At times, you might get ingredients that you are familiar with and have made before, but all too often, one has ingredients they have never thought about combining and all of a sudden have to walk through the door on their own and create something amazing. I have a friend who gives me a hard time about my idea for a lox and cream cheese brownie, which I do plan to make one day. However, I figure if they could make a smoked salmon cupcake on Cupcake Wars, why I could not do a lox and cream cheese brownie. Just because it is not in the book, does not mean it cannot be done.
How many things that we thoroughly enjoy in life would not exist if people were not able to walk through the door on their own? We all need those teachers to open the door for us, but at some point, we need to walk through the door on our own.