A Matter of Perception
With my cooking skills on a rapid rise, days of late have found me head over heels for my powers of perception. Do you suppose it’s only natural that cooking with one eye on the recipe book makes it come out tasting great? But surely there must be people who can’t do something well even when they follow instructions to the letter! And thus I am singing my own praises for what can only be a keenness of perception I have had since birth.
Curling into a backwards flip over the horizontal bar, to name an example, is something which in the end, despite the one-on-one training sessions given by my grade school teacher after class, I never once accomplished and still cannot do as an adult. “Go at it like you’re wrapping yourself around the bar!”—and this means what exactly? Pretty much nothing to me. I can’t visualize it at all.
On the other hand, I had a distinct flair for writing compositions in Japanese class, and they always came back with a gold star. Given a theme, my pencil whisked across the page with a mind of its own. Come to think of it, it may have been that when I sat face-to-face with a sheet of ruled paper, several topics flashed into my mind, leaving only the issues of ordering and transitions, which I assembled on an unconscious level. I was a crafty child who, beyond knowing how I should write to appeal to the teacher, pursued this relentlessly in my writing. In essence, I feel the presence or absence of so-called perception may be a question of whether you can picture yourself accomplishing a task before you start.
When I’m reading a cookbook or buying something for the kitchen, my polished Cooking Sense™ swings into brisk action. I can see all at once in my mind’s eye the scene of me preparing something myself, arranging it appetizingly, and eating it with a smile. The things I make while imagining how delicious they will taste always come out that way, while if I throw something together on the spot the flavor is strangely not at all good. Mental pictures are curious things indeed.
My awakening to the world of cooking came a few years ago. How much potential I have to continue improving is an unknown value. One day I may strike it rich by inventing not a Remi Pan but a Maaya Pan line of saucepans. Looking at how I am today, you would find it hard to believe that when I was young I was the type who had an entire list of despised foods and was indifferent when it came to meals. I hated white rice, you see, along with sashimi, nattō, miso soup, and anything pickled…Japanese food generally did not sit well with me. Ramen, sōmen, yakisoba, udon—the entire spectrum of noodles thrilled me not. As I grew older I overcame nearly all of these dislikes, or to be more precise they ended with me falling completely in love with them.
Recently I have finally come to appreciate the deliciousness of Japanese soba. Simple yet complex, it is truly a refined food that conveys a sense of Japanese aesthetics. But when I eat soba people always end up pointing out how I “eat kind of like a foreigner.” Intentionally making a slurping noise as you eat is regarded as proper for Japanese soba. It is this slurping that, no matter how hard I try, I cannot do. Sucking only brings in air and leaves me short of breath. Getting people to relate is no easy task, but I really want someone to show me how! What do I have to do to slurp noodles?! In any case I can’t even form a picture in my mind. In other words, I lack perception…. I think I shall now go try my very best to visualize a refined version of myself walking casually into a traditional soba house and slurping my noodles with an emphatic sound. I couldn’t ask for more.