Yes, when I'm not lazily repeating the past, or following blindly in the footsteps of others, I'm definitely pioneering. How do I know? It's a feeling--a sense that I'm stretching the envelope, finding yet another expression, widening the world I exist in as an artist. And that thrills me. Sometimes I discover later that someone somewhere has come up with basically the same invention, but this doesn't detract from the experience of blazing a new trail and making my imagination into a tangible reality.
I actually made the central part of this salad a couple of days ago, as part of a multi-course dinner for a guest. It didn't quite measure up to the other dishes--we all agreed--and I'd been thinking of possible ways to make it work. It had plenty of flavor, but it lacked richness and depth. The slaw consisted of grated beet and carrot, and thinly sliced red pepper, Tuscan kale and red onion, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.
Today I decided to, you might say, finish this salad. I packed the slaw into a ring mold, set it on a plate, and then lifted the ring away. I knew it needed some richness and a contrasting texture, so I cut some very thin strips of avocado and used them to wrap the molded slaw. Then I covered the top with sunflower sprouts, allowing some to drop around the perimeter. For a final touch, I placed a few drops of 18-year-old balsamic around the plate and scattered pumpkin seeds over the dish.
You don't realize sometimes, just how needy a dish is until you've taken the necessary steps to complete it in a fashion befitting its potential. This salad was a world apart in flavor, textural interest, visual appeal, and sheer pleasure, from the acceptable but non-spectacular slaw it had been just two days before.
Lesson for me: Never ignore the food's subtly whispered messages. Pay attention, and take it all the way to completion. Don't stop until it sings clearly, unabashedly.