Searching for the Missing Ingredient

July 02, 2017

Hello everyone:

When Heide's not cooking, I get a sirloin at Ruby Tuesday or an asiago roast beef at Panera. For a step up, I'll do a restaurant on Chapel Street, but my wife calls that a climb from competence to uninspired.

Heide's a chef, and her dishes sing by comparison. Her fried chicken crackles and drips. Her steak au poivre sizzles beneath a flaming cognac reduction. Her sauses are steamy, bubbly, and pungent.

Heide chops shallots with precision, brightens flavors with sea salt, and uses only fresh vegetables: if the parsley's not green enough, it's gone. She balances flavors, carefully chooses wine pairings, and designs elegant presentations. She coordinates napkins and table cloths, sets the mood with jazz, and always lights candles.

Heide devotes herself to cooking like the best doctors devote themselves to medicine. She scours recipes for ideas, visits restaurants from Tehran to Tennessee, and coaxes other chefs to reveal their secrets. She crosses ethnic boundaries, breaks rules, invents spice combinations, and crafts new flavors. If a dish lacks inspiration, she finds the missing ingredients.

Like cooks, physicians master basic skills; but instead of prepping, mixing, and broiling, we examine, diagnose, and treat. The best physicians aim higher: they read voraciously, they coax patients to reveal their secrets, and they hear murmurs others miss. Competent physicians use words to explain; the best use words to heal.

Sometimes I worry that physicians satisfy themselves with competence when they should aspire to brilliance. Like chefs pursuing culinary bliss, we need to study, practice, and open ourselves to criticism. And if our work lacks inspiration, we need to track down the missing ingredients. Do you know what they are? Will you search with me?

Warmly,

Mark

Submitted by Mark David Siegel on July 10, 2017