Sunday, December 9, 2007


My fiancee and I made spaghetti for lunch today.

We poured some water in a pot. After a few minutes it started boiling so we put in some salt and spaghetti. It wasn't long before the noodles were soft enough that they could all fit in the pot. When 5 minutes had passed (we were very careful to double-check that's what it said on the packaging) she asked me,

"Can you check to see if this is done?"

Sifting through the remnants of my culinary knowledge from my days in university, I chanced upon (odds were pretty good, it was either this, or "food tastes good hot") this gem: pick up a noodle and fling it against a wall. If it sticks, it's done. I then obliged my adolescent urges and had a food fight with myself. The wet noodle duly adhered to the door (easier for me to clean).

We drained the pot, putting the pasta into 2 dishes and brought them to the living room. All we had for sauce was a jar of chunky tomato puree so we started pouring it over the spaghetti. A quick bite revealed that the food was far too sour for our tastes. We rummaged through our cupboards and turned up some olive oil to go with more of our salt, so to our lunch we added a little of each.

The salt turned out to be quite the big hit, though the olive oil sadly bombed out. The particular brand we used was really pungent and we had to use more salt and tomato puree to cover it up.

Making mental notes to buy real spices next time, we finished off the spaghetti and washed up. The spaghetti we used came in a clear plastic bag, so we had to keep it sealed with some plastic wrap for next time.

Around this time I thought it might make a nice blog post, so here I am.

The first part of this surprisingly long analogy is the desire to eat - the hunger to train jiu-jitsu - as well as the will to translate this thought into reality. Without this, nothing more would happen, or even be possible.

Next comes the noodles. This could be seen as the experience more than the actual food but I prefer to think of this as respresenting us - the sweaty guys rolling around on the mats. Some may say that a noodle is a noodle - it all tastes the same in the end - in some respects I disagree.

There are different grades of noodles: fine, thick, fresh, loaded with preservatives, and so on. I'm not a connoisseur of Italian food but I'm sure that I could find one who will tell you that this has a real impact on the finished product. Just like how when you look at the guys you train with, you can see that each one is a mixed bag of attributes, experiences and mindsets and that this can affect how they learn, train and interact with others.

Of course, just because one noodle has a gourmet label and another is a local supermarket brand, in the final analysis it doesn't matter as much as the way each noodle is cooked. Moving right along...

Now you have to prepare the pasta. If you follow the instructions on the label, you're at least heading in the right direction. This is akin to receiving competent, accurate and safe instruction from an experienced coach. If you don't listen, who knows what horrible injury or experience you will visit upon yourself. Maybe you slice your thumb off while trying to make a sauce from scratch, maybe you pop a friend's knee by trying that cool new heelhook setup you saw on YouTube, I don't know.

What comes next but, of course, The Test. How are you going to know if the noodles have spent enough time in the pot? Pick one up, throw it at a wall and see if it sticks. How are you going to know if what you are training in will actually work? Start rolling, try a technique against a resisting opponent and see if it works.

Of course, it doesn't end there. Some may consider it done and dusted right now, but the truth of the matter is that it's all just starting. Sure, you now have a bowl of cooked noodles. Maybe they've got that perfect not-too-wet-not-too-sticky consistency. Doesn't matter, because who's going to eat a bowl of plain noodles and then say it tastes good?

You need to add some kind of sauce, seasoning or something to go with the pasta, to enhance the taste of the noodles. Maybe to you this means drilling over and over until your game gets really smooth. Maybe it means training standup, clinch or whatever to broaden your horizons. Maybe it means doing conditioning classes to boost your stamina. Maybe it's all of the above, the point is to do something more.

As you start to get into your food, you may want to add to it, in the hopes of making it taste better. Likewise, as you get better at BJJ and tighten up your game, you'll likely want to check out as many sources of information about BJJ as you can. Books, magazines, DVDs, the internet - each and every one can be either a fantastic gold mine of knowledge, or a big, heavy chunk of lead with the words "A FOOL AND HIS MONEY" scrawled across it. Please don't ask me how I know that.

Some will help to enrich your game, others will weigh you down with false information and bad habits if you don't discard them. You'll need to make your own mind up about what does and doesn't work for you. Some will - great. Some won't - that's ok, too. It's all down to personal taste, right?

When all is said and done, you're left with a bunch of dirty pots, dishes and utensils. You have another choice ahead of you: do you do the washing-up now and get everything ready for the next meal? Or do you let it all sit for days on end, letting the sauce stuck to the fork harden, bonding the two forevermore in unnatural matrimony?

A less-disturbing way to think of it is: after your brain-overloading information dump of a class, you can either go home and take notes on everything - getting it all down so you can properly mull it over without fear of getting something mixed up, or you can let it sit - so that if you do finally decide to take notes, you get one class confused with another, one technique confused with another, until you don't know what's what.

Yes, you can do it, but the longer you wait, the harder it gets. I'm also sure that by allowing different combinations of food to fester unchecked for extended periods of time, there is the possibility that you will create a mind-blowing taste sensation. But I doubt you'd be able to do it.

So there you have it - some new food for thought. And I have just successfully killed 2 hours of my Sunday afternoon.

Now get out there and cook something!

P.S. That pun wasn't intentional, I promise.

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