Expert Advice

May 22, 2015

 

Last night I watched an episode of a Netflix series Chef’s Table. It had been recommended by a few friends but, as per usual, I was disappointed; an Italian guy who sets out to be a rock star chef becomes a rock star chef. 

 

I wished it had been about the old woman who rolled out the pasta, or the dairy farmers with ear hair. Or even about the chef’s relationship with his handicapped son.

 

***

This week as I was sitting in a rustic neighbourhood joint in Montreal I was thinking about our adulatory relationships. An hour with The New York Times Magazine, I find myself furrow-browed trying to understand what this article was about. 

 

It features a woman with a disconcerting face whose name was Kris. After an unspeakable amount of time I get it: this is one of our celebrated cultural heroes, Mrs. Kardashian.  Living the monastic life that I do, at first I didn’t even recognize the name.

 

“Famous for being famous”, but don’t understand what that means. 

 

Obviously I wouldn’t know a Kardashian if I had one in my living room. 

 

I move on to an advice column: 

What to Do if your Nanny is a Drunk? 

 

As a parent I wonder; how out of synch with our own power do you have to be to consult an advice column before protecting your kids?

 

Deferring to would-be-experts is what we do. I knew a woman who was considering surveying everyone she knew about what they honestly thought of her. She planned to re-design her personality with that information. 

 

Ouch.

 

I deeply understand making everyone else the authority. From about the age of twelve I used interview other people; what is the right thing to do? When did you first have sex? What are the right life decisions? 

 

***

There comes a point in painting where suddenly I have to put down my paintbrush and fry cumin seeds. Possibly with onions with celery. 

 

I don’t even know what it is I am making.

 

I turn the soup to simmer and head back into the studio to 12 mixed up paintings.  My eye hones in on a particular area that needs a higher tonal contrast, a wider brush stroke or a warmer grey. The answer is suddenly obvious. 

 

Cumin is the path.

 

I slowly realize that this isn’t about a food obsession, but about tenderly giving the painting a break from me. 

 

Hopefully I wouldn’t seek to fortify someone’s art career by insisting that they fry cumin seeds at regular intervals. 

 

 

 

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