Sunday, January 09, 2011


Wabi-sabi (侘寂) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience.  The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "incomplete, impermanent, and imperfect."  It's kind of an on-going theme here.

Incomplete: I'd had a few posts that never quite got done, including a review of the Savory Spice Shop's holiday party at Colt & Gray (I'll get to it eventually, but here's a plot spoiler: Colt & Gray rocks). 

Impermanent: I get fleeting moments of inspiration (and energy) to kick off a Speakeasy Kitchen in Denver.  

Imperfect: I occasionally get pretty far off perfection, which causes me to steer in a different direction.

Take, for example, the macaroon.  I found a recipe with detailed instructions for what sounded like a heavenly little treat.  French macaroons with raspberry-rose buttercream frosting.  I've often heard that macaroons seem harder than they actually are.  I'm here to say that's not really true. 

I had tidy, but imprecise, little rows of macaroon batter, piped out of a gallon freezer ziplock baggie because I don't own a pastry bag.  I was proud of my ingenuity.  The batter was slightly drippy as the recipe had warned it would be.  It flowed.

And it flowed.

Except when it burnt.  (Imperfect.)

This was my second attempt at macaroons and it came out worse than the first.  I felt as hollow inside as this crisp-skinned one.  "They'll be a great crunchy treat that I can dip in my coffee tomorrow," said Mr. Rose in his most consoling tone.  But that wasn't going to work for dessert for a bunch of lawyers and judges whom I'd be feeding tomorrow night.  (Incomplete.)

"You make good rice pudding," offered Mr. Rose.

And so I went back to the pantry to cobble something altogether different.  (Impermanent!)  It would be a dessert I couldn't mess up at this late hour.  I made a lavender-lemon rice pudding.

I sewed a little pouch full of lavender and dropped it into the pot.

I felt a lot more comfortable improvising in this way than I was with full instructions for the macaroons. 

It was more Englishy than the Frenchy dessert I'd planned, but it's a dessert that will compliment the rest of the menu and that the judges will hopefully enjoy anyway.  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and when the wabi goes too sabi, it's time to switch gears. 

It's a beautiful thing.


  1. love the idea of a lavendar rice pudding. Totally agreed - sometimes you just have to follow where your inspiration leads you!

  2. Sign of a true Chef is the ability to switch never know what life will dish you or what your diners will want dished!

  3. hey, i totally relate. don't know if you saw my blog post called "someone left the cake out in the rain." And I never heard that macaroons were easier than they seem. If that were the case, there wouldn't be a whole book written about them!
    I'm sure the rice pudding was yummier anyway! : )

  4. @Jessica: The rice pudding ended up being a perfect compliment to the dinner. I wish I'd thought of it first!

    @Travis: I think the sign of a true chef is being able to make the macaroons in the first place, but I'll settle for the skill of versatility. :)

    @Johnisha: You and I need to get together. I believe we have some cooking and some violin concertos to work on.

  5. That is an amazing pudding, and I would most definitely choose over a macaroon any day :)


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