The Art of Improvisation: Culinary Edition

I have long prided myself on my ability to improvise in a variety of situations.

I think it came from a combination of watching MacGyver growing up and playing in jazz bands.

I realize that that ability to improvise has also served me well in the kitchen.

Many years ago, after joining a Unitarian Universalist Church, I began to take part in an age-old UU tradition: the potluck.

I became obsessed with black beans during my time playing capoeira (and going to potlucks in that community).

When I joined the UU church, it was during the end of my first marriage, and into my divorce. Money was tight. I wanted to contribute to the potlucks but was short on resources. 

Black beans.

Nutritious, delicious, affordable.

But I'm also a foodie, and sometimes I want variety.

Out of that situation was born, Barbecue Black Beans.

In all honesty, it was a bit of a desperation move. I didn't want to be the guy that just brought regular, plain black beans all the time, so one day, the last hour of the cooking process (in a slow cooker), I added some barbecue sauce to the black beans.

A potluck or two later, people started asking me if I'd brought the barbecue black beans...and I began receiving compliments.

My improvisation had produced a hit!

I was thinking of that experience on the drive home after picking up my youngest from preschool.

We're packing up the house for a cross-country move, and so our routines have become slightly less than routine.

We realize this morning that we had forgotten to pack a lunch for him last night like we usually do (our amazing preschool does not provide vegetarian options for our vegetarian preschooler).

Our little one has recently discovered that he enjoys Ramen noodles on occasion. 

In a flash this morning, I cooked some Ramen noodles (vegetarian of course), I added some frozen mixed vegetables and some textured vegetable protein. So this crunchy Daddy came up with lunch that included protein, veggies, and was quick.

On the drive home, when we asked him what he thought about his noodles today, he said, "I ate it all. Could I have that for dinner please?"

Another hit!

Of course, all of my improv ideas don’t turn out so successfully, but I’ve discovered that these experiments in the kitchen deeply feed my need for creativity, and when there’s a win…

Like Hannibal from The A Team says, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

I guess improvisation is in my blood, whether I'm using duct tape and a Swiss Army knife, or a slow cooker and barbecue sauce.

Speaking of which, my timer's up.

Dinner is served!