By Brian Lucas
This one is dedicated to the quintessentially irrepressible Cassandra, the quietly resolute and creative Emilia, the charmingly sociable and persistent Lynette and of course the unusually thoughtful, dryly humorous, chocoholic runner Nicole. One day soon they will conquer the world and we shall be conquered willingly.
“Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation– experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way.” ― Paul Theroux
I can just hear someone saying, “Really Brian, Cooking? Agile? You cannot be serious! You are supposed to be writing a business blog!” The fact is, cooking has many parallels to projects and business initiatives. Both require a vision, demand resources, consume materials, are subject to schedules and deadlines and produce an end product that hopefully will be consumed. The similarities do not end there however.
In our hustle and bustle world of microtime, hypertasking, hurry and adaptation, the following is often true:
- We find at times amazing variations between the original vision and what was achieved in the end.
- We started to build a management information system and it ended up being a process control system.
- Our Eggs Benedict ended up being an omelet.
- We find that we never have all the resources we wanted or were promised.
- We asked for 6 experienced developers and we were given 4 interns.
- Just try and find someone to peel potatoes or cut up some onions for you when you are in a rush.
- We are never given all the materials we need.
- You were promised an Android tablet that you can test compatibility on… right that’s going to happen.
- Of course someone used all the Parmesan cheese and didn’t mention it.
- Schedules change and deadlines are missed.
- Second quarter current fiscal year became third quarter next fiscal year.
- Dinner was planned for 6 and ended up being supper at 8.
- We missed the boat on that one and clearly did not get it right.
- 10,000 electric toothpaste tube squeezers are sitting in our Arizona warehouse and no one is buying.
- Spaghetti with salsa sounded like a good idea until the first bite.
I have been preaching that if you think agile in your personal life it will help you be agile in your business life and vice versa. Agile thinking can become quite natural if you apply it regularly and just like solving math problems, singing opera or hitting a baseball, practice improves performance. So here is a little vignette on Agile cooking to help you roll with the changes in and out of the kitchen. This post is doubly agile since I am writing at least half of it during my weekly writers club meeting, over food, wine and conversation followed by brandy, cigars and more conversation. My fellow writers challenged me to prove I was truly agile and do 4 things at the same time.
The other night I had the pleasant opportunity of cooking dinner at the home of a very good friend of mine. Pat is a warm, vivacious, feisty Italian, 5 foot nothing and one of the best people this world has ever turned out. I had promised to make my famous oranged tomato sauced Salmon patties with Parmesan garlic smashed new potatoes. I normally like to serve a spinach and arugula salad with glazed pecans along with it, and of course compliment the meal with a bottle of wine. Unfortunately Pat is allergic to nuts (she must use up a lot of diphenhydramine when I am around) so the nuts (except me) were out. Pat has a notorious sweet tooth, so I was looking for a sweeter Shiraz to stand up to the meal and was anxious to pick up a bottle of 2011 Jam Jar, which is reputed to have subdued berry and honey aromas that reveals strawberry with a hint of spice. While sweet, it is said to be smooth and balanced and ends with good finish and a bit of dark chocolate.
Just last week I held a webinar on Agile’s Evolution and continued to run a Google hangout for it this week. That unfortunately, bit into my shopping time and I had to run out from work over lunch to pick up the wine at a small liquor store. They did not have the desired fruit of the vine, so I ended up with a standby from one of my go to in an emergency vineyard’s Clos du Bois. I picked up a bottle of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Reserve, which I hoped in vain Pat would like. To add “spice” to my disappointment the supermarket that I was shopping for the ingredients at did not have the fresh dill I always use for a garnish on top of the grilled patties, so I ended up doing without.
Since the preparation can take some time, and I would be tied up at work all day before our planned dinner; I decided to be agile and start the preparations at my home first, the night before. I took the small, new red potatoes and scrubbed them thoroughly with the skin on; then microwaved them wrapped in a wet paper towel. I also baked the wild caught Alaskan Salmon until it was almost done, basting it in lemon and fresh garlic juice. While that was happening, I chopped the chives, celery, red onion, parsley and more garlic.
I also started on the oranged tomato sauce. I like to use Brandywine Yellow tomatoes for their marvelous color and sweet taste. The sauce is simple; I just blanched the tomatoes to remove the skin and simmered them in a pot on low heat. When they had liquefied, I strained out the seeds and put the mixture back on the heat to reduce. I added a spoonful of brown sugar, some fresh ground pepper and a splash of sweet wine vinegar. When it was almost a sauce, I add fresh basil, chopped very fine. Lastly, just as it is coming off the heat, I added some fresh squeezed orange juice and orange zest.
When the Salmon was almost done, I mince it up fine and put it in a large stainless steel mixing bowl. I added the chopped celery, some minced celery leaves, red onion, crushed red pepper, fresh minced garlic, several organic, omega intensified, cage free eggs, Parmesan cheese and organic stone ground oatmeal. I mixed it really well (if you added too much oatmeal and it is dry just add another egg and/or a little extra virgin organic olive oil).
When the potatoes were done, I put them in a stainless steel pot and smash them down with a potato masher (pretending it was a non-agile manager I know – just kidding, I never cook in anger). I added a heaping amount of Smart Balance with flax seed and a small splash of fat free cream. I mixed it thoroughly and then added the chives, parsley, some Parmesan cheese and white pepper. Now the hardest part of your meal was done.
I popped everything in covered foil containers and in the morning plunked it in one of my big coolers in the back of my vehicle along with the white wine. I left the loaf of honey sunflower bread on my front seat that day where it would stay pleasantly warm. After work, I slipped over to Pat’s house and we began the unloading. It took all of two minutes.
Pat was making the baby spinach and arugula salad with dried cranberries, raisins and red delicious apple wedges. We sliced the bread, set out the blue cheese stuffed olives and began making the patties and grilling them. It doesn’t take long to grill them, since they are already mostly cooked. We just browned them lightly on each side. I made extra patties, since I had promised my friends, who I have dedicated this post to, a meal at work to celebrate another successful webinar I had given.
Because the hard parts of the meal were already done, we were able to have a very pleasant dinner and conversation, without being stressed out. The Salmon patties topped with oranged tomato sauce and grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses (sans dill garnish) were served with the garlic smashed potatoes with chives, bleu cheese stuffed olives and honey sunflower seed bread. The spinach and arugula salad on the side was a wonderfully light meal complement. Pat sadly did not like my wine and resorted to a sweet red she had waiting in the wings. For desert we had ice cold lemon sorbet.
By making extra potatoes and salmon, I had the makings of the celebratory lunch at work for the next day. All I had to do was pick up the making for the salad and quickly whip it up before the lunch. I also grabbed a German chocolate Bundt cake for our resident chocoholic Nicole. The gang got together and printed up a celebratory certificate for the webinar and they all signed it. We had a great time. There you have it two great meals where most of the work was done a one time. I adapted to the changing situations and lack of perfect resources, environment and materials and still produced a high quality product and received 100% customer satisfaction.
So what are you serving for your next agile meal? Remember till next time to Keep Agile!