Friday, January 6, 2006

Striving for Perfection, with Panna Cotta & Pomegranates

A couple of weeks or so ago, a very wise woman told me something important. She told me that sometimes, you can get so afraid of not doing things perfectly, that you end up doing nothing at all.

I never thought of this before. I like to believe that I'm human. I make mistakes - I'm not proud of them, but I try to learn from them. I'm notoriously messy, I can't be bothered to vacuum before I have guests over, they'll dirty the place anyways, and well - the dishes have been known to wait for a couple of days, or even a week, before I get round to them. I do like organizing - the spice drawer, the sock drawer. I make scrapbooks. In school, I take notes using mind maps. Sometimes, the dinners I throw are planned down to the tiniest detail and I've done long lists taking every possible outcome into consideration - what glasses to use, what herb to top a dish with - and at other times, I forget to buy half of the groceries I need.

Still, deep down, despite all these thing - I guess I have to admit that I am a perfectionist, when it comes to some things. I guess one could say I do strive for perfection. And I think that that fact is a major limit to what I can do - or at least, a limit to the things I actually want to do and do do.

Like blogging. My conscience is black, black, black, for not having blogged at all for the past month, and then some - I know, I didn't blog that much before either, but NOTHING? Surely, I've been eating??

And I don't want to go all whinny and apologetic, because it's my blog and I can do whatever I want to with it (or in this case, not do anything at all!) But the thing is, I don't want to not blog. I don't want to stop doing this, out of fear of not doing it perfectly.

Foodblogging for me is a life confirming activity. It manages to meld together some of the things I love the most: food, writing, photography and meeting new people. It helps me to remember to appreciate these things, to treasure them. It makes me happy. So you could say I blog out of purely egoistic reasons. That just makes it even more ludicrous to be held up with this idea of me letting someone down when I don't put up posts. Only I suppose I am letting someone down - myself. Not necessarily because I'm not writing 7 posts a week, but because I fail to remind myself of the things that are important to me - one among many of them definitely being this.

I think my lack of posting lately has a tiny bit to do with a sudden feeling of blogging having to be perfect. Or, let's say - unique. A slight feeling of pressure to produce posts that are special, and not just a statement of this and that ingredient, blended in this and that way, baked in a so and so warm oven. But who decides what "perfect" food blogging is? Among all the other things, what I like about food blogging is that there are no judges. There might be favorites, nominations and book contracts signed, and there's a general consensus that well, food is a major subject. But other than that, you're free to do as you wish.

I think I forgot that. I think I forgot that "perfection" isn't the goal. Having fun is. So I'm going to stop feeling bad about not blogging when I don't, and just enjoy the times that I do. Not worry so much about it, about it having to fit my own, or someone else's definition of perfect. Just like I didn't worry to much about these.

Panna Cotta with Pomegranates

As it was, I actually wanted to do a pomegranate jelly to put on top of the panna cotta, but time and such had me opting for the easier version of just spooning the seeds on top, providing a nice textural crunch. Just goes to show that really, it isn't about things being perfect, or as you had planned - improvising and doing what seems right can be just as good.

For 8 small tumblers of velvety smooth panna cotta:

0,75 L whipping cream
4 gelatin sheets (soaked. You could experiment on the amount here, I'll try it with three sheets the next time I do them)
150 ml sugar (1,5 dl)
Seeds of 3 vanilla beans

Seeds of 2 pomegranates

Whisk together the cream, sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a pan. Bring to the boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool for a bit. Gently wring the water from the gelatin leaves, then dissolve them in the hot cream. Strain the cream through a sieve into the tumblers. Put in the fridge for a couple of hours, to shapen up. Decorate with the seeds from the pomegranates.

And woe and behold, I might not be able to do the things I set out to do - but other people do, and do it so well! Go Nicky and Oliver!;-)


carin said...

What I like about your blog is that it is honest, straight forward with personality and charm. As well as wondeful recipes that I almost always want to try. There is a category for everyone and you are definitely best in yours.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist too, so can definitely relate to how you feel. Hope you can let go of the "must" feelings cause it is good to see you back, keep it up!

Melissa said...

Hey Zarah, nice to see you back! I just wanted to say that I think your blog is wonderful just the way it is - so much of your personality and zest and humor shine through in every sentence you write. These self-imposed standards are sometimes the hardest to overcome, I know, but just keep in mind that there are crowds of people out here who enjoy reading whatever you have to say, 'perfect' or not!

Stephanie said...

And hey...what's prettier than pomegranate seeds??

Welcome back...we've missed you!

linda said...

I have missed your posts ~ it is nice to see you back. Like the others said ~ perfection isn't everything ~ heart, humour, warmth and just a general down to earth atitude is what makes reading your blog so enjoyable.

Melissa CookingDiva said...

Very nice post Zarah Maria! Beautiful shot too. Happy New Year from Panama :)

Cathy said...

Dear Zarah - boy have you hit the nail on the head! I don't consider myself a perfectionist, but I recognize that pattern of procrastination in so much of my life (including my blog). As others have said, you have a perfect blog - perfectly you and a joy to read - and that is all that is needed!

Shauna said...

Oh, it's so good to see you back. Please don't be afraid of your imperfections. Those are what make us interesting. Without them, we'd all be exactly the same. Besides, you're lovely and wonderful. We just want to read more posts!

Nic said...

Welcome back Zarah. I know I'm not alone when I say that I missed Food & Thoughts. Beautiful post, too. It reminds me of a post I wrote a little while back, when I was having similar thoughts myself.

Ivonne said...

Hello Zarah,

I only recently discovered your blog and I would like to compliment you. It's very entertaining.

Your post today makes some really good points. At the end of the day it really is about our enjoyment of the food.

As for the recipe ... pomegranates and panna cotta ... two of my most favourite things!

Thank you for sharing.

Melissa said... much in common!

Barbara Fisher said...

Oh, Zarah--a woman after my own heart!

A blog does not need perfection so much as it needs heart.

Yours has heart--your personality is quite apparent in your posts, and that is why people like to read your words.

Do not worry. Just blog. And we will read.

Happy New Year! (And keep those pomegranate goodies coming! Tis the season, after all!)

gemma said...

Hi Zarah, thanks for your email and happy new year's to you and Martin! We have three weeks left before we head home. We leave St. Petersburg for Beijing by train tomorrow. Should be exciting (and long!).

My blog has decided to make people use word verification to comment. . I don't know why but it is confusing. I will have to try to remove that.

Luisa said...

Phew - you're back! Since when is blogging about perfection? It's not, or shouldn't be. I've missed your posts about baking so much! Can't wait to read more, again.

Christina said...

Beautiful photo! It looks delicious.

And I must admit I can relate to what you say about perfectionism, I've come to the same conclusion recently. Here's to having more fun on our blogs in 2006! :-)

Zarah Maria said...

And there you have it, all of my fears, pulverized - thank you for all of your kind words.

Carin - Thank you. I'm trying to replace the "must" with "I want to", and I think it's working... Now, let's start addressing the "time"-issue... yikes!

Melissa - I'm happy to be back!

Stephanie - not many things are as pretty as pomegranate seeds, that's for sure! And thank you!

Linda - Thank you. If my blog manages to capture just a tiny bit of everything you mentioned, then "perfect" can go hide somewhere else - the others will do!:-)

Melissa - thank you! And a happy new year to you too!

Cathy - Procrastination indeed! (I had to go look up that word, but yes, yes that's exactly what it is!) And perfectionist or not, I suppose there really is nothing wrong with wanting to do ones best - it just shouldn't stop you from trying at all. 'nuff of procrastinating, that's what I say! (I think I've found a new favorite word!:-))

Shauna - when I started medical school, I met an awful lot of new people. One of them has become a friend of the sort I thought you'd have to grow up with for them to get so close to you like she is to me. Anyways, what she said to me, after I'd known her for a while, is exactly what you said: if a person doesn't have imperfections, they're likely to be so dull you'll want to run away, screaming. And they're terribly hard to love. I like being loved an awful lot - you think the more imperfections, the more love?;-)

Nic - I remember reading your post and thinking "Darn, she beat me to it!" - but you did it so well, so it was okay :-). That's another thing, adding to the pattern of procrastination (yay, I'm using my new word!) - there are so many people doing this now, that sometimes you think you've come up with a perfectly original idea to blog about, then five minutes before you sit down to write about it, you find someone else has just done a post about it. Ugh. I guess that's just one thing I have to get over, too - afterall, we all speak with different voices, so who cares if the subject is the same. In fact, it probably makes it all more interesting. I loved your post - this really is a community unlike anything I've ever been a part of - and I treasure it.

Ivonne - thank you for stopping by! I checked out your blog and immediately added it to my BlogLines - I'll get you in my blog roll as soon as I have a minute!

Melissa - I'm happy I'm not all alone! Tell me, is it the vacuuming before guests arrive? I can't be all alone on that one folks!:-)

Barbara - Happy new year to you too! I'm telling you, there's personality all over the place, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon - you'll just have to learn to live with it, tee-hee! And thank you - it warms.

Gemma - Beijing - schmejing - I'm SO not jealous. At all. Almost. WHY AREN'T I IN BEIJING!?!?

Luisa - There'll be plenty o'baking - soon. Darn exam!

Christina - thank you! An official toast: to having more fun on our blogs in 2006! *clinking glasses*;-)

plum said...

I've been coming back Zarah Maria and checking for a post now and then. Because I've missed your words - the imprint of your personality, not necessarily the food described and photographed.

Sometimes when I take a break from blogging for a while, I wonder about continuing. But when I clear my head of all the other stuff (events I miss, favourite blogs I never get to read, other blogs I think perhaps I should aspire to) I realise that I do it because I enjoy it for me. Photographing and writing. Even my cooking sometimes improves as a result because I think I'd better make something a bit more exciting than beans on toast! And it's a record for me to keep, of what I was doing and cooking. The other night I went to cook crab and thought "oh, the recipe I used will be on my blog". It wasn't and I had to make it from memory, but it reminded me of the other uses for it!

Anyway, enough rambling. I really enjoy your site. Let the fun times roll!