The title of this post is a direct quote from a program called Chopped on the Food Network. Chef contestants get a basket of mystery ingredients (ex., chicken feet, peach schnapps, and shoelaces) and have 20 or 30 minutes – depending on the round – to come up with something edible to present to the judges. The judges of course are chefs or foodies with highly developed palates and sharp critical skills (“My colleagues each got three chicken feet and my plate only had two. I also found the shoelaces lacking in color and consistency. I expected better from a chef of your calibre.”)
It always amazes me to see how some people can care so much about things that other folks are completely indifferent to. Nevertheless the vast majority of us do have passions. An interesting thing about passions is how they sometimes surprise even us. The things we really care about may have been things that did very little for us upon first exposure. This was the theme of my November 9, 2010 column.
The idea came about one day when I made two CD’s for my brother, one of Lucinda Williams songs and one of Tom Waits’ songs. The CDs came with instructions: “Look, I have little respect for you but here is your chance to redeem yourself. Listen to each of these CDs five times. That’s five hours out of your life for each artist and I promise you your life will be changed forever.”
After a cursory listen to each CD a single time he said to another family member, “I don’t know. There was one by some girl. It wasn’t bad. The other was by some guy. It was weird.” I don’t think he listened to either one again.
Alas, he had blown his chance at redemption. (It’s OK, Bro, I still love you even if you are a putz.)
The reason I had asked him to listen five times is because I know some music needs time to grow on you. Stuff I like off the bat sometimes gets boring. Music that grows on me over time tends to remain a favourite for many years. I try to give every CD five listens before deciding if I like it or not. Knowing that some music, which I now consider life changing, did not always stand out upon first listen has taught me to be patient and to allow passions to develop. Why would I risk depriving myself of great experiences by simple virtue of impatience.
Here is the November 9th column:
(Source: Nourrir les passions. Journal Métro, November 9, 2010)
Have you ever noticed how some things you love doing seemed weird or frustrating when you first tried them? What about your favourite foods? Are there any that you found strange upon first taste?
Golf and tennis are two activities that come to mind when I think of the contrast between the experiences of the beginner and those of the regular player. The novice tennis player will spend most of the first hour fetching balls that sailed over the fence. And very few people even make contact with the golf ball when they first try to hit a drive. Yet somehow we see tennis and golf nuts all around us.
The same goes for wine, music and food lovers. Does anyone enjoy the taste of wine upon first sip? Hardly. So why then are there so many oenophiles, opera buffs, and foodies?
The connoisseur and the snob
When we meet people who are crazy about things that are unimportant to us, we usually find them insufferable. I certainly do. Wine lovers come to mind with their nonsense about long noses and round mouths and their obsession over viscosity and tannins, whatever the hell they are. I’m convinced the alcohol content, which makes wine drinkers happy and horny, may have something to do with nurturing that particular interest. But part of me also admires them for being so passionate. As long as they recognize that their passions are not those of others and they are not condescending, they can be quite inspirational.
Some people will see connoisseurs as snobs. If you know nothing about opera and overhear a conversation about the latest production of Rigoletto, you may feel a little intimidated. You might then do what many people do and turn that sense of intimidation into a tendency to put others down and see them as snobs. But who is the true snob, the person who likes the esoteric art form or the person who gives something a cursory try and then turns up his or her nose, or worse still, does not even try it?
The simple truth is that many passions start slowly and grow on us over time. Be they cuisine, music, sport, or literature, we often do not discover their magic for quite some time. What matters is that we let patience and open-mindedness help us discover what we like. Why should we deprive ourselves of potentially rich experiences by not allowing them the time they need to develop? Who knows? We may even become wine lovers ourselves. Happy, horny ones at that.
01 Dec 2010