Monday, July 26, 2010

A Paddler's Recipe

Traveling in Europe I had the opportunity to watch many different people from all over the world paddle, live, travel, and eat.  One of the most interesting things that I have found is that a person’s paddling style is usually reflected in their cooking inspirations.  This does not mean that if a person is an amazing cook that they will be an amazing racer.  But rather that the process of cooking and eating can be strikingly similar to the training and racing process.

While everyone has their own style and personality that comes out in cooking as in paddling there are many different ways to reach the end goal of edible food and the finish line.  For some the answer is to get there as fast as possible because they are driven by the need for immediate gratification and hunger.  From personal experience, I grab the first thing in the pantry that either does not require cooking or can be quickly heated in the microwave.  I will admit that while I am no longer hungry, there was little creativity involved in the process and I probably did not eat healthy food.  In that same vein, when I am in that mode on the water getting from gate to gate on the shortest line possible is my focus, however like with food, not necessarily the best option. 

Mom and I enjoying amazing ice cream at Gerbeaud while exploring Budapest: the quintessential immediate gratification!

On the opposite end of the spectrum is cooking organically to create a fresh and unique meal.  For me this process normally involves a pile of random fresh ingredients that get combined in different ways.  I began to discover this process while in France living and cooking with Nic Borst and Caroline Queen.  On the water this style of paddling seems to manifest itself in athletes reading the water and using its natural properties to do most of the work.  This creativity has a caveat as well.  While the product is never what you originally expect, half the time it is horrible and a quarter of the time it is inedible and takes forever to create.

I spent a lot of time in France learning how to cook and worrying that my roommates wouldn’t be able to eat the food that eventually came out of the pan.  What I learned is that there is a healthy and productive medium between the two styles.  Hungry people and racers want the best results in the fastest time, but know that truly good things take time and patience.  While coaching in France I spent less time worrying about the stopwatch and focused on how the athletes were solving the gate combinations we gave them.  The fastest line was always the one that used the natural qualities of the water while keeping as close to the straight line as possible.  For me this realization means that my love of playing and learning by playing will continue for a long time to come.  But I will be looking at the water that I race on very differently.

Stop and smell the roses.  Or cook yourself a good dinner every once in a while.  I promise you will love it!

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