One of the most profound lessons I learned this year — and believe you me, there were a LOT — was over Christmas. For Christmas Eve dinner, I made bouillabaisse from the New York Times Cookbook, as I have on dozens of occasions before. But this time, instead of using the recipe as a suggestion, I followed the directions to the letter. The result? SPECTACULAR. It was easy, took less than an hour, and the stew was a subtle yet jubilant celebration of seafood in all the right ways. But the true test was the next night, when I made it again for my lifelong French foodie friends, the Gayot family. (Running around LA looking for clam juice on Christmas, however, wasn’t easy.) Never shy or retiring (Sophie told me flat out, “Do not bring wine or flowers. But bouillabaisse sounds fun”), they murmured praise in French and English. They loved it. Sophie has finally found a decent bouillabaisse in LA. And so on.
The lesson here? That Craig Claiborne probably knows, oh, a teensy bit more about food and how to make it than I do. It’s his job, he’s done it for 60 years, and look! He’s written down what he knows in a book! Just there waiting for me!
I’m done reinventing the wheel, I think, and will take a good long listen to a professional, no matter what the arena — food, financial, design, hair, whatever. But when it comes to INVENTING something else, something new, something that is busting to come forth from my deepest psyche, well, then, I’m all over it.