January 22, 2007

On Basics

A long, long, time ago, I was a gymnast. My coach was very obsessed with what he called "basics." Handstands. Somersaults (back & front). Bridges. Shoulder blocks. Proper running form. Hollow body holds. Handsprings (back & front). Block Jumps. Kips. Free Hip Circles. 1/4 turn handsprings (aka roundoffs). Jumping into the air and spinning 360 degrees before landing with your feet in the same spot. Walking (I'm not kidding). Scales.

It was his opinion that if you could truly master all of these things, the more complicated tricks were yours for the taking. Those of you who are familiar with gymnastics or acrobatics will note that the list above does not include a single full salto. No front flips. No back flips. Certainly no twisting flips. And, goodness gracious, no combination of multiple flipping and twisting. Yet that was the ultimate goal. And one that most of us eventually reached. Most of us achieved success at various tricks with less injuries and more air awareness than our competitors from other nearby gyms. We were slower to achieve. But we had staying power (or as much staying power as a 15-year-old female gymnast can hope to have, you know, like 1 full season of competition...).

This focus on basics has bled into other areas of my life and formed my philosophy in many areas. I believe if you get your head or body or senses around the fundamentals of most fields of study, the complex stuff will eventually work itself out for you because it has too. And if it doesn't, then either, you need more work on the basics, or you can actually spot the fundamental flaw and you can make the field a better place.

HK recently left a comment on my blog,

So, what I'm needing now is this: I've never had either the means or interest to cook for myself, have a decent-sized kitchen that has gone unused for the past six years, and have resolved this year to(among other items) cook and bake more. What cookbooks or steps would you recommend to someone so situated? (a 28M bachelor in New York City with a flare for the adventurous eating-wise).

His desire for flare and adventure is much like a gymnast's desire for a full-in, full-out dismount from the uneven parallel bars. Admirable, but scary and likely to result in much more disastrous failure than starting with a simple straight body layout dismount.

But, the thing is, there are tricks. There are ways to make it look like you are doing difficult things when really what you are doing is the specialized simple. Those outside of the gym have no idea that a front tuck mount to the beam is blind, but fairly easy. It looks impressive and it's easy to master if you've got a solid running form and front somersault. So, in that vein, I'm going to collect my food thoughts for a few days and come up with a general plan for HK that is both basics-based and high on adventure/flare. In the mean-time, I'm collecting your thoughts and preferences. Any suggestions (other than dixy_chick's very helpful suggestion to go Asian, which, flare-wise is an excellent one, albeit one that involves many failures, in my experience)?

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