Limit Things so that You Can Explore the Universe of Them More Completely

As undergraduate art students are taught, it is necessary to limit the scope of the work they are doing in order to be able to accomplish a reasonably well finished piece of art.  To start out with the idea of making a painting is too overwhelming.  A painter needs to start out at least with an idea of the type of painting he or she wants to make, in order to limit the number of choices to be made during the painting.  Is the painting to be representational, or abstract?  Should it be of a small detail, or of a grand view?  From life, or from the artist’s imagination?  The number of options can be daunting.  Thus it is helpful for an artist to limit his or her scope before beginning so as to be able to explore a theme, such as abstraction or life drawings, more fully.

So, too, with cooking.  The minimalist food writer Mark Bittman, author of “How to Cook Everything,” has published a new cookbook entitled “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.”  When asked how whether or not it was too limiting for him to cook only with vegetables, he replied by quoting a vegan Japanese chef with whom he knew.  “It’s like pen and ink; You limit things so that you can explore the universe of them more completely,” he explained were words that inspired him and described his vegetarian cooking experiences.  Once he limited himself to cooking vegetables, Bittman said that he was surprised at the range of things he could make, and the new ways he found for eating certain foods.  “What really freaked me out was how many things I could do with whole grains,” he said.

To cook only vegetarian food can be a limitation, especially if one is used to cooking meat.  The majority of cook books on the market include meat.  However, according to Bittman, we can find a new universe of food and eating if we take the step of limiting ourselves to vegetables and grains.  So, it is helpful to look at vegetarian cooking as an interesting experiment, and one that is better for us and for our environment.

It is also, when compared with meat cooking, something like an art.  For many people, meat makes everything taste good.  It is more of a challenge to cook without meat because of this.  However, sometimes in cooking, as in art, limitations can actually expand our ability to do work and be creative.  With all ingredients on the table, to come up with something creative is harder when the variety of ingredients is greater.  Some of the most innovative and delicious recipes are also the simplest.  By getting rid of meat, we open ourselves up to the possibility of creating some truly delicious dishes, rather than meals that simply satisfy our basic desires for fat and protein.  We also have good reason to take on this kind of limitation, as Bittman points out, because when we actually pay attention the industrial method of raising meat is so disgusting when.

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