Checking the Recipe

I make a lot of Caesar Salads. For whatever reason, people tend to like what comes out of our kitchen in this regard. As a result, the dish features regularly in our home diet and in what I am asked to share in other contexts, on other occasions.

The initial recipe came from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham. I stayed close to this source for so long that I can still report that Cunningham’s instructions appear on page 475 of this text. At a certain point, however, I felt familiar enough with this guidance to reference Fannie Farmer a little less frequently - and eventually not at all.

For a long time, this was fine. I continued to make salads, people continued to enjoy, I went on feeling satisfied with the offerings. A while ago, however, something changed. One Caesar tasted bitter. After making some adjustments, the next one seemed bland. The one after this, too salty.

We’re having a birthday dinner for one of my nephews tonight. A few hours ago, I settled into the kitchen in order to compose the salad he requested. When it came time to make the dressing, I hesitated. Then, after contemplating the above for some time, I did something I’ve not done in years. I went to the bookcase, searched out Fannie Farmer, and opened the book to a well-stained, dog-eared page 475. I checked the recipe.

This is something I do with meditation as well. For the most part, I practice without any overt guidance. I don’t listen to recordings or read from notes during my home sessions. Instead, I practice from memory - both body memory and mind. From time to time, however, something will feel slightly awry. There will be a sense of something missing or an edge of uncertainty apparent. I’ll try to adjust on my own for a session or two. Then, more often than not, I’ll check the recipe.

I’ll go back to whatever my source had been for that practice and re-familiarize with the original instructions. I’ll listen. I’ll read. I’ll take notes. Sometimes this process will earn an insight along the lines of, ‘That’s what I’ve forgotten’ - but not always. Just as frequently a more subtle adjustment will come with this act of revisiting; a less dramatic realignment will take place.

There almost always seems to be some measure of realignment, though; some degree of reconnection. This is typically a relaxing and assuring experience. It brings forward a quiet but notable sense of ease. Which very much describes how I felt when giving my Caesar dressing a taste not too long ago. ‘Ah,’ I thought as my shoulders released, ‘I bet my nephew’s going to like this one.’

- Neil