Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right or better.

There is a cookbook on the market compiled by a chef who “has never tasted a single morsel of food.” Watson, IBM’s cognitive system that famously defeated two human grand champions to win the US quiz show Jeopardy, has turned its attention to the kitchen.

It was strangely jarring to find this out on the same day that my copy of "Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto" arrived. Aaron Franklin and  Jordan Mackay's book is available only in hardback, there is no ebook at all. Cracking the spine on a new volume is something I haven't done for a long time and it was good to get involved with instruction and memoirs based on years' worth of hard-won knowledge as opposed to theory for a change.

It echoed as well with The World Beyond Your Head, which I started to read on the exercise bike this morning. That advocates skilled practices as a way of engaging with the world in a more satisfying way and gives the examples of a cook, an ice-hockey player and a motorbike racer as people whose roles force them to deal with material reality; no representation can replicate the feel of the puck on ice or gravel under your tyres at high speed. Each relies on good judgement of a complicated subject and the ability to manage the presence of others in the same space.

Whether this applies to my BBQ technique of putting something in the smoker in the evening then buggering off and picking it up in the morning is probably moot.

I could go and see Matthew Crawford next Tuesday, but that - given the giddy social whirl - is also my only chance to catch The Car Man at Wimbledon. If I have got his proposition right, he would probably advise me to go and learn to appreciate the embodied skills of the dancers rather than him.

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