Mystery Ingredients

December 1, 2023

Mystery Ingredients

grocery bagMystery Ingredients

Several years ago while watching The Food Network, I became seriously attached (that’s my euphemism for “addicted!”) to a show called Chopped where three professional chefs are given a basket of “mystery ingredients” and challenged to create an appetizer, entrée or dessert.

For example, in one episode they had to make a dessert using: boxed macaroni and cheese, apples, raw cashews and cane syrup. Another time they were given short ribs, lemon thyme, zucchini and gefilte fish and challenged to create an entrée. And can you possibly imagine what kind of appetizer you’d come up with if you were given peanut butter, granny smith apples and jumbo shrimp?

Each menu item is judged on presentation, taste, and creative use of the ingredients. In each round, the judges taste all of the chefs’ food and say what they think. After everyone has had their say, they hold a discussion and agree on which chef is to be “chopped” from the competition. After three rounds, there is only one chef still standing and he/she is the winner.

Every time… every single time I look at the ingredients and am positively certain that they won’t be able to come up with something edible that looks good on the plate.

And every time… every single time, I am proven wrong.

This reminds me of when I was teaching second grade. I would sometimes give the children an assignment of combining unrelated spelling words into a sentence. For example, dime-lines-sky. Or dinner-thumb-bells. It always amazed me the sentences those kids would come up with! And it always required a different way of looking at the words, using them out of context. I like to think that this challenge helped them with their creative thinking skills later on in life.

It also reminds me of Paper Bag Dramatics, a fun game we used to play years (ok, who am I kidding… decades) ago in Girl Scouts. The leaders would bring in four paper bags of several unrelated items gathered from different rooms in their house. For example, a bag might include: a toothbrush, a framed photo, a book of maps, a shawl, a piece of chalk, a broken radio and a ball of yarn. Each group of 3-4 girls was given a different bag of items and the challenge was to come up with a ten-minute skit using all of the items together. I loved this game because it brought about much laughter and playfulness as we tried to think of possible creative ways to thread these items into a plausible story.

So… back to Chopped. I loved this show the way I loved Paper Bag Dramatics, and the way I loved challenging my students to combine their unrelated spelling words into interesting sentences because it reminds me of the power of creativity in our everyday lives.

And I can relate this show to the larger mysteries of life as well. At any given point on our journey, we are being handed a bag of “ingredients,” and let me tell you, some of them are more mysterious than others. For instance, right now, my Life Ingredients include: a loving husband who is legally blind, several work projects to attend to, a growing business/work that I love, nurturing a new fiction release, reviving a dusty yoga/meditation practice, and caring for an elderly feline. How do I combine these “ingredients” into my life in a way that brings me balance and inner peace? How do these mystery ingredients come together to make meaning, to activate growth, to bring me closer to myself, others and Spirit?

Take some time to ponder….

What “mystery ingredients” are presenting themselves to you at this point on your journey?  How can they mesh together in a way that doesn’t sap your energy?

Do you need to add a few more ingredients into the mix in order to lighten your load and/or to allow you room for rest and renewal?

Let me know… I’d love to hear how this story has made a difference for you!

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