Cut to fit the shape of our lives

This week a friend brought in brownies. She had a new pan, she explained, that was designed in zig-zags so that it guaranteed every brownie would come out with edges. Ingenious. Really. And the brownies were delicious.

I looked it up and this pan really exists. Here’s the photographical evidence:

Zig-zag brownie pan

(Photo courtesy CutleryandMore.com : Baker’s Edge Nonstick All Edges Brownie Pan)

This reminded me of the Mio Fit commercial with Tracy Morgan, which I seem to find hilarious every time I see it: “We didn’t like the shape of chickens, so we changed them to nuggets!”

In a way, all this is simply innovation, right? Things need improving, so we make them better. After all, as Tracy shouts, “Change, America!”

But for me there’s another way to view all this as well. Instead of accepting things as they are, we tend to try to morph them into something else in order to fit our lives better.

We do that all the time, don’t we? With people, too, especially the ones in our families. It’s hard for us to accept their quirks. So we try to change them to fit what we want them to be.

The other night I was watching Chopped, and the contestant had to use wheat grass in the dessert round. So she made wheat grass pancakes. The batter was too thin (I blame the wheat grass) and the pancakes spread out into these crazy shapes. I thought they were kind of cool, but of course she needed to serve perfectly round pancakes to the judges (or, at least, she thought she did), so she took one of those little metal round things that I don’t know the name of and cut the center of each pancake out into an exactly round shape. In the process, she lost 75% of every pancake she made.

But that’s all right, I’m sure someone came along and threw those unnecessary bits out. At least the brownie pan doesn’t waste anything.

Digression 1: Speaking of wheat grass, have you ever gone to Whole Foods and tried the wheat grass juice they make there? Don’t. Just, no. It tastes like you imagine it will. Worse. Seriously, I really don’t think humans were meant to drink grass juice. In fact, for parents out there, it should probably be added to your list of rules: 1) Don’t do drugs, 2) Don’t start a land war in Asia and 3) Don’t drink grass. That should cover it.

Digression 2: Once I went to a Whole Foods to get one of those fancy juices (not the wheat grass one, something else. Hey, it was a phase. Don’t judge). The guy working behind the counter looked like a vegan version of Dexter. He had this white apron spattered with all sorts of vegetable juices and residue. I ordered the same juice I’d had before. This guy, though, didn’t cut the fruits and vegetables up very well. He just started jamming them into the juicer, like the guy at the end of Fargo with the leg in the wood chipper. He had these wild eyes and started talking about his time in the military.

So of course by not cutting things up well enough, he broke the machine and had to take it completely apart, but not before swearing up a blue streak that made me wonder if the part of the military he’d been in was the navy. Taking that machine apart looked like it was going to take a long time. But it was my juice that broke it, so I felt required to stand there and watch him fix the thing, all the while taking deep breaths. I did eventually get my juice.

And on the plus side, if I ever end in a MacGyver-type situation where I have to build something using only the parts of a juicer, three red potatoes and a nine-volt battery, I might be able to do it now, because I’ve seen a juicer taken apart and put back together again.

Back to Chopped. That show is so much like life, isn’t it? The contestants are given a basket of ingredients and don’t know what they’ll find inside. They have to make do with what they’re given. They have to be as creative as possible.

So what’s this all mean? I’m not totally sure. It’s possible I’m off message.

I guess I wonder if there’s a way to appreciate innovation without throwing away nature. I mean, I’m glad we’re so ingenious to invent these things all the time, but I wonder if some of the things we’re changing need to be changed. Maybe it’s us who should change. Maybe we should be able to look into the basket of ingredients we’re given and do the best we can with it.

I don’t know. Decide for yourself. I’m cutting this post short now. It fits the shape of my life better that way. Besides, I have some parallelogram-shaped pancakes waiting for me in the next room.

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