Gaps in the Recipe


Today, I noticed that it can be hard to replicate a relatively new recipe from memory. It feels like a sort of half-way state: one where you are both following a strict prescription, but also improvising to fill in the gaps in your memory. But it’s an improvisation that feels unnatural—like you are just rolling with something because that's the best you recall, but not because of any sort of inspiration or instinct driving you.

This is completely different from repeating a recipe to add your own flair. You are not merely trying to recover the steps in your mind, but instead you are taking a framework of the recipe to guide the broad strokes and your own creativity is filling the canvas within. You are relying on your senses while you cook the meat to know when it is done, not merely cooking it for 2 minutes on each side because that’s what you think the recipe said. You don’t forget the step of seasoning the meat before cooking it. Because that’s your window of opportunity to spice it up, and you would not let it go into the pan without at least some salt and pepper.

Having to adapt my office routine to working from home felt much the same way. I didn’t have my cues to wake up on time to make my commute, or to go to the gym after driving back home. I was just trying to copy them from memory without having them in front of me to guide me anymore. Instead, I was able to see some improvement when I took the time to slow down and look at the broad strokes of my schedule, so I could then improvise between the gaps. This way, I could use the way I felt through the day to guide me into creating a new schedule—a variation on the original recipe that didn’t rely on guides I had to remember, but in the guides I created myself.