I’ve always found the whole creative process to be totally mysterious and fascinating. I mean, how do you even BEGIN to explain what creativity is and where it really comes from? A famous scientist said that "no one really understands quantum physics," and I think the same holds true for creativity. How deep can you go in your exploration of it? Perhaps it's unlimited.
From our point of view, the ultimate 'work of art' is one's own life, as we are constantly co-creating our reality from moment to moment (for good or ill!) The urge to create is therefore a powerful one, both psychologically as well as physically. And so our creativity manifests itself in all areas, and at all levels.
Your Raw Kitchen an Art Studio?
How does one define art? It’s easy to think of a painting or a play as artistic, but what about all the beautiful gourmet food that comes out of your own kitchen? According to the Encarta World English Dictionary on my computer, creativity is "the ability to use the imagination to develop new and original ideas or things, especially in an artistic context."
Alright! So you’ve been milling about your kitchen all day, perfecting your latest recipe from scratch. I'm sure there is no doubt in your mind that the result is a true work of art. What about those times, though, when you need a little inspiration and dig out someone else’s recipes to get your creative juices going? Here's what Wikipedia had to say about this: “Colloquial definitions of creativity are typically descriptive of activity that results in producing or bringing about something partly or wholly new; in investing an existing object with new properties or characteristics; in imagining new possibilities that were not conceived of before; and in seeing or performing something in a manner different from what was thought possible or normal previously.” So yes, however you come about it, whatever emerges from your kitchen is a creation in its own respect. Have you noticed how you can follow the exact same recipe several times, yet it will always come out slightly different and unique, depending on factors such as the ingredients you used or how you were feeling that day?
Creating in the Raw
As you get started on your raw adventure, the first step consists of learning the 'lay of the land'. You'll probably want to build a raw library, collecting recipes and food preparation tips which you can easily refer to along the way. If, like me, your budget is a little tight, you'll find a wealth of information on the internet, especially on forums. You may also want to consider checking out your local library. If it doesn't carry the raw books you're interested in, most libraries offer an interlibrary loan service through which you can order them. But if you want to invest in a great raw book, I'd strongly recommend buying Alissa Cohen's "Living on Live Food". It's humongous (almost 1 1/2" thick!) and filled with inspiring stories and recipes.
For me, a recipe is a sort of map, if you will, of a particular person's raw world. Strictly speaking, it is a set of directions to be followed, but this doesn't mean it has to be the end of the journey. To the contrary, it can be seen as the starting point for one's own creative exploration.
I'm always amazed at how subjective taste can be. As Rawkinlocs of the Raw Food Talk Forums put it so well: "One person's "yum" can be someone else's "yuck"! But once in a while, you come upon a gem of a recipe where all the flavors are perfectly balanced (in your own humble opinion!) Ahhhh!!! What a blessing when you find that your taste buds are perfectly aligned with those of whoever created the recipe! For instance, this happens to me a lot with the recipes of Alissa Cohen, Frederic Patenaude and Maraw from TheRawTable.com.
Sometimes, you'll want to follow a recipe to the T so as to get a sense of the creator's taste buds and what he or she intended to achieve in this particular instance. If you like what you find, you may leave it at that, and fully enjoy this rare treat! More often than not, however, you'll need to tweak the recipe a little (or a LOT!) to suit your own taste. The result can vary from the slightest modification to the point of 'beyond recognition'.
Brainstorming or the Frankeinstein Method
There are also times when you'll feel like consulting as many versions of a recipe as you can possibly lay your hands on (and the more, the better!) After taking it all in and letting it simmer for a while, you'll come up with your own mutated rendition. The lasagna recipe, which I'll be posting in the coming days, is a good example of this creative process.
The Creative Leap
There comes a point on your exploration of raw foods, when the critical mass has been reached and you're ready to take the creative leap. (I'm just starting into this phase now!) You feel comfortable enough to start experimenting on your own. In order to take that important step, however, you gotta be prepared to make mistakes. In this respect, we have a lot to learn from children. They are constantly making mistakes, yet they don't give themselves a hard time about it. They are playful and curious, and when something doesn't work out, well, they simply move onto something else - no sweat! Yet children are incredibly fast learners.
So don't be too hard on yourself, expecting to 'get it right' the first time, EVERY time! It's a sure way to kill your delicate creative spark.
Finally, there will also be times when you find yourself on a roll! Whether you intend it or not, you'll spontaneously create something delightful and sublime (although you might not be too sure as to how you managed to do it!) Sometimes, the most astonishing recipes can emerge from a perceived 'mistake'. For instance, Raw Priestess' Brownies, which she generously shared on the Raw Food Talk board, were destined to be something else. Yet they are a wonder of simplicity and completely decadent!
The Quantum Factor
Related to creativity, whether in regards to food preparation or physics, is what I call 'The Quantum Factor'. This is where we are reminded of how magical and mysterious the whole creative process really is.
Krishnamurti said that "there is no such thing as an original thought." Quantum physics has shown that the same intellectual breakthroughs will occasionally occur simultaneously in more than one location. In other words, two virtually identical recipes might emerge from two different kitchens. A good example of this is the famous onion bread recipe that has been floating around RFT. In spite of being much the same as the one in Matt Amsdens' "Rawvolution", Pansy, who submitted the recipe, once wrote that, as far as she knew, the friend who came up with the recipe had no prior knowledge of Matt's version.
Simple is Best!
If you are new to Raw, here’s a bit of advice: start simple! Some recipes can be pretty intimidating; with a long list of ingredients (half of which you’ve never heard of, let alone know where to find them!) and endless steps. Start with simple recipes to help you build your confidence. As you feel more and more comfortable and sure of yourself, you’ll soon be able to tackle more intricate recipes. There is plenty of easy, and quickly whipped up recipes available. Take a look at raw food forums. RP's Brownies call for only 3 ingredients and can be prepared in minutes! There are also good raw recipe books such as Frederic Patenaude’s “Instant Raw Sensations” and “Raw Food Made Easy For 1 or 2 People” by Jennifer Cornbleet. I'm often surprised that, more often than not, the simplest recipes are even better than the complex.
But regardless of where you're at on your raw journey and in your creative process, experimenting with raw foods should above all be something fun! In my own experience, nothing comes out right when I'm stressed or, for some reason, don't really feel like being creative with food. And if something doesn't quite live up to your expectations, so what? You'll get many more opportunities to tweak it to perfection! Halleluuuuujah!
Before I'm off to create something yummy in my own raw kitchen, I'd like to give my heartfelt thanks to all the Raw Food Chefs (who are just too numerous to name!) whose creations have been, and continue to be, a tremendous source of inspiration on my Raw journey.