How I Cooked My First Fish Soup: Secret Ingredients of Creativity

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Sea Bass
You know what’s the most important ingredient of fish soup? If you’re curious, you can peek at the end of the article. Otherwise, stick with me for a ride, because we’ll talk about creativity while preparing a nice dinner.

Last Friday I decided to make fish soup. My first fish soup, that is. I went to the local grocery store to pick up my wild caught species of the sea. By the way, you do know that farm raised salmon has an enormous amount of chemicals, don’t you?

The doors of Harris Teeter opened swiftly to offer me some great fresh fish options. My eyes met those of a lonely Sea Bass. He was lying comfortably in a pile of white shining ice, looking at the window with an open mouth and an expression of slight awe, like he could not believe that he’d even been caught.

“Is this Pacific sea bass?” I asked fish store clerk confidently. “Where exactly was it caught?”

He smiled.

“It was caught in the Pacific, but I don’t know where. It’s pretty fresh, look at this,” he pulled the fish out of ice and demonstrated its shiny armor.

“This will make a perfect dinner, my friend.”

“And what about perch?”

Hmm, maybe? Why not? Great idea – the perch is going right into my shopping basket.

The next step is to check what’s happening in the produce section. It excites me as usual. Green peppers, fresh lettuce, mushrooms. Love it.

I’m grabbing cilantro and a bunch of other herbs to make the best of my fish soup. A small bag of yellow Yukon potatoes joins bright orange carrots and all that green in my basket.

I’m out.

Fish Soup: Ingredients for Success

Sea bass – 1 (two will be better!)
Atlantic perch – 1
Potatoes – 1 bag
Carrots – 1 bag
Onions – 2 pcs.
Herbs (cilantro, bay leaves)
Salt and pepper

Color and flavor spur my creative juices.  What does this for you?

How Do You Become Creative?

Creativity is an essential part of any business project. It’s what makes your cell phone not a commodity but an iPhone phenomenon. When you use your creative sense, the stone becomes Michelangelo’s David, and an assortment of paint strokes lives forever in a Picasso masterpiece.

How do you go about creating an idea?

David Murray, the author of the bestselling book “Borrowing Brilliance,” believes that “ideas are constructed out of other ideas, there are no truly original thoughts, you can’t make something out of nothing, you have to make it out of something else.”

In fact, in his book Murray meticulously explores the subject of brilliance and ideas constructed out of existing models.

Murray coined the following six steps of brilliance:

Step 1: DEFINING – Define the problem you’re trying to solve

Step 2: BORROWING – Borrow ideas from places with a similar problem

Step 3: COMBINING – Connect and combine these borrowed ideas

Step 4: INCUBATING – Allow the combinations to incubate into a solution

Step 5: JUDGING – Identify the strength and weakness of the solution

Step 6: ENHANCING – Eliminate the weak points while enhancing the strong ones

Granted, these steps look simple and self-explanatory, but how many of us are consciously following this pattern?

And A Little Bit of American Jazz

A great deal of creativity you can find in American jazz. As Louis Armstrong, the king of improvisation, once noted, “‎We all go Do, Re, Mi, but you’ve gotta find all the other notes yourself.”

Just what exactly is improvisation, and what can you learn from jazz musicians about creativity? Amazing things, especially if you put a few dedicated brains under an MRI and ask them to improvise.

Scientific American published a video of Charles Limb, a hearing and ear surgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in which Limb experiments with jazz musicians Pat Metheny, Mike Pope and Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, while having his brain scanned.

Apparently, according to Wired Magazine, “it turns out that large areas of the brain responsible for monitoring one’s own behavior , are all but shut down, while another small region associated with organizing “self-initiated” thoughts and behavior is highly active.”

That is a very important note to your internal Self Critics. If you want to be creative, shut them down. Find your special moment to just improvise and enjoy your discovery.

Well, shall we go back to my kitchen?

Artemisia Dracunculus or the Art of Last Pinch

Let’s think and apply the Murray principles to my shopping experience.

Fish is your essential idea. You can choose from many, but eventually circle out one or two. Granted, you have the whole range of fish, but your selection criteria helps you to focus on just the right amount of your fish (ideas).

Remember, one of the tricks is to be open to suggestions. I listened to the store clerk’s opinion, and added perch to make it tastier.

When I got to the kitchen and put my beautiful ingredients on display, I had the first Murray’s principle covered. The problem is defined – I need to cook a fish soup.

How do you cook the soup when you never done it before, and my wife is at art class with my daughter?

You are exactly right, YouTube is part of the solution! That’s exactly what borrowing means. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, I was planning to stand on the shoulders of the YouTube giants.

After about 20 minutes of watching fish soup videos ranging from Archbishop’s fish soup to drunken fellows making pike soup boiled my creative juices.

I decided to go to step 3, literally combining and connecting ideas and ingredients.

I placed my sea bass into a bowl of boiling water, adding bay leaves, salt, cilantro, two onions, and a full carrot.

After an hour I sieved my rich fish broth into another bowl and set it to boil. While my ideas were combining together I added potato slices, carrots and the remaining fish into the clear broth for further incubation.

This brought me to the final two steps, judging and enhancing. I wanted to have a particular aroma for my fish soup and went back to my grocery bag to dig out that secret ingredient which made it all happen.

What I needed was a piece of Artemisia dracunculus, or simply Tarragon.

Tarragon made me happy. And the soup was fabulous. Try it yourself today.

And don’t forget to improvise.

Bon Appetit!

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