The fire in my chest reignited - who had ever heard of boiling meat? Maybe hot dogs? But they are pre-cooked! So with hesitation I placed a single ball into the boil. I felt the wrinkles mark my forehead as I stared into the steam and watched it’s colour change from flamingo pink to concrete gray. It held. Twirled and turned, seemed overly moist perhaps, yet edible.
With a bit of confidence, I added more balls.
This was a mistake. Either because of the increase in volume of water, or because they bounced against each other, my meatballs began to disintegrate. They were dissolving into floating pieces of onion and bits of pale gray ground, an oil rising to the surface and hovering there, skewing my view of the chaos below. Meat soup.
As I looked at what was to be Saturday night’s dinner, I had the opening lines from that Yeats poem in my head:
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,”
I turned the stove off and the sobs washed over me. I had wanted to do something nice, had wanted to try something new. But the result, disastrous. By this point it was close to 5:30, and my internal pressure to have our meal on the table by 6 added to the buzzing in my head of fear and failure. I considered retreat. Pictured the chicken shop ‘round the corner that I haven’t tasted since my pre-PETA days, with it’s red and white bucket dominating the airspace and it’s smell lingering for days.
I am lucky that I have a partner who is not one for pity nor pep talks. He stood in the doorway of our tiny kitchen and after a bit of consoling said in a calm and affirming manner, “So, just fry them.” Then returned to his perch by the computer.
I returned to the kitchen with a cool determination, pushed the soggy swill out of my way and filled the sink with dishes. I located our largest frying pan, set about heating oil.
As I began to brown and crisp the 20 or so remaining meatballs, a new wave of calm flowed over me. This felt good, seemed familiar. My confidence in the kitchen re-emerged and I reflected on this act of stepping outside my comfort zone. I was trying something new, doing something for the very first time, using my hands to bring about a thing that hadn’t existed before - my version of Danish meatballs.
Following a new recipe wasn’t the bravest thing I’d ever done, but it was a small act of fearlessness. That fearlessness is a keystone of my creativity. The will to just try it out and see how it goes. A willingness to fuck up. (Even though it turned out disastrous and I wound up with meat soup.) For me, being an artist means being willing to make mistakes, to look the fool. I am sure I looked like a fool as I stood blubbering about dinner in that steam box of a kitchen.
On that note, breaking down wasn’t a sign that I couldn’t hack it, it was a part of the process. Calling oneself a “crybaby” is incredibly trendy these days, so I’ll refrain from doing it. But being tearful has always been a way that I’ve managed feeling overwhelmed. I sob, get it out, dry my eyes and get back to it. It’s not the end, I don’t have to quit.
I also realized, as I was whisking curry powder into the sauce, that the final product pictured in my mind was never going to be replicated in real life. This needs to be accepted as fact. I don’t know what I was imagining when I was daydreaming about Boller i Karry, but I am sure I hadn’t pictured myself this sweaty with red, puffy eyes. The way an idea emerges into the world is a part of the artistic process, it’s an inherent part of the art making, letting your creation take its own form depending on the circumstances it was born into. The recipe said boiled, I ended up with fried. This is how my Danish meatballs were meant to be.
Our dinner ended up being okay, it wasn’t even the worst meal I’ve ever created, and as I set about washing the mountain of dishes the next morning, all I could do was laugh.