Monday, November 08, 2004

What do we create?

I so often hear 'Create? I couldn't do that' but I know this is not accurate. We are unaware of how much and how often we create. Ordinary acts create things. It is such a common experience that it is often ignored. I tell my kitchen personnel : if you arn't picking it up, you're putting it down! Workspace is precious in a professional kitchen and you can either leave a mess or leave 'a clean' which you have created during the moments you found it necessary to do something there. The next person who has to use that space will be intantly aware of what kind of environment you created and left behind.

Years ago when the Former Soviet Union broke up and I had just come to Kazakhstan to install a Western kitchen for a hotel privatization, I had an enlightening experience. The old had quickly become a state of absence and new things were desperately needed to fill the vacume. The source of income provided by the Soviet full employment economy was gone and many people were near starving.

I taught my kitchen to make hamburger buns from scratch because, not only were there no hamburgers here, no one was making any buns to put them on either, obviously. I taught my sous chef and my two shift lead cooks how to make them so that, if I didn't happen to be in the kitchen at the moment, there would always be somebody there who could make them. A few weeks later I was shopping at the largest open air market (called the zelony bazaar) for items for the restaurant.

Something outside the bazaar was struggling to gain my attention. Thousands of people had taken to the streets with blankets and were selling anything they could to get some income to keep their families alive. Something, just beneath my consciousness, was trying to make itself known to me from these blankets. There was something new here and I hadn't yet noticed it!

Then I saw them. Literally hundreds of blankets had buns on them. They were calling this soft and mildly sweet new product 'tasty buns' and, perhaps 20,000 people on any given day were baking them off in their ovens at home to sell for a little much needed income during this difficult time. They became popular and the trend persisted throughout the Winter and into the Spring. Thank God my casual act had been able to help a lot of ordinary people whom I would never know or meet to get through this rather difficult period in their lives.

So know that you create, whether you are thinking about it or not. Create willingly and well, it just might help someone you'll never meet!

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