Build Your Test Kitchen

by Patrick McNerthney

My favorite thing about cooking shows is the gratuitous violence. The car chases, helicopter shootouts, fistfights, graft and corruption, and of course watching things explode. 

Actually, I’m confusing this with Dancing With The Stars. No wait, with the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie I watched last night – Kindergarten Cop – no no, it was Commando, where he plays a, well,a commando who fights/blows up bad guys. 

Okay, I admit it. I watched an episode of America’s Test Kitchen, followed by Commando, and combined the two in my dreams, which mostly involved Arnold Schwarzenegger in an apron, no shirt, baking frittatas with grenades in them and punching out various apprentice cooks/ninja assassins.

I do love America’s Test Kitchen though. It’s a cooking show featuring really nice-seeming, ego-less chefs (something hard to find on cooking shows methinks) who really downplay their chef-dom and come across as simple home cooks. Which ends up being kind of tricky because as one watches the show, one is kind of lulled into thinking one can prep all the vegetables in eight minutes just like the hosts; when in reality we don’t have nearly the same knife skills and it takes ten minutes just to dice one onion, much less cut the cucumbers “on a bias.”

(Get it? America’s Test Kitchen? That stupid muffin took me three hours to make.)

Also, all cooking shows – including this one – simply skip over how long it takes to clean everything up. So that “simple beef tenderloin with smokey potatoes and persillade relish” with a supposed start-finish time of 45 minutes (including cooking) is really a three-hour endeavor for us civilians. 

However, what’s cool is the actual idea behind the experimentation and prototyping of a test kitchen. In fact, the name “test kitchen” implies a group of cool people with a shared passion for knowledge based upon exploring the edges, blazing a trail, failing often, and otherwise doing growth mindset-type stuff. 

It rhymes with musicians referring to their studio time as “going back to the lab,” and actors and directors conducting “walk-throughs” of a script. These famous folks we hold in such high esteem know that to get better, they must show up and be students again, fumble around and mutter “I don’t know” as they try to figure things out. In fact, the posture of “I don’t know,” ironically speaks to their confidence, expertise, and determination. They’re so committed to their mission, and their goals are so important,that they’re willing to put in the sweat equity to improve, without any concern whatsoever about what anyone else thinks! (I bet they’re still scared somewhere inside though.) 

(I want to say, just once in my life, “I’m going back to the lab.” It sounds way cooler than, “I have to work on this again.”)

And this is so alluring. Have you ever watched someone you admire – famous or not – test, experiment, and practice with drive and vigor and thought, “Nah, I’m not rooting for them…” Of course not! They inspire you. You’d rather emulate them, because when the polish is off, it turns out you weren’t seeing the whole picture, and they’re just like you; imperfect, and needing to work hard to get where they’re going. And here’s the thing: they’re leaning on courage to do so.

This test kitchen mindset creates a safe space for exploration, experimentation, facing fear and making mistakes. Plus it takes the pressure off: the journey to create in a test kitchen isn’t a grim pressure-cooker, but rather a fun, almost goofy form of play.

So where’s your test kitchen? 

Fine Art Miracles is all about the intersection of courage, fun, and experimentation. Creative expression creates an expansive, safe environment for your residents and loved ones to explore the edges, blaze a trail, and grow. The biggest difference between our Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance & Movement Therapy, and (brand new) Drama Therapy programs and an actual test kitchen is that it’s impossible to fail at art. Think about that…Ask any artist – they’ll say showing up and creating equals success. Metrics like awards, popularity, or profitability are relative, but not indicators of success.  

In this environment, the elderly, children with challenges, and people with different abilities connect with their self-worth, their past,their relevance to the world, and acquire a sense of mastery. All of which are important weapons in the fight against social isolation, anxiety, and depression. Have any questions? We’re happy to help! Drop us a note or give us a call anytime. 

Well, I see there’s a new America’s Test Kitchen episode coming up. Unfortunately I’m on a diet, and the one thing I’ll say is watching this show makes me super hungry because their experimentation looks so delicious. I guess I’ll cut some cucumbers on a bias to stave my appetite – see you in three hours.



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