A Lesson from Mr. Salt, Mrs. Pepper, and Paprika

Contributors
Publication Date
November 4, 2020

Blue’s Clues was a hit educational children’s show that aired between 1996-2006, following the adventures of the eponymously named protagonist, a dog who left his trademark blue paw prints as clues for young viewers. The episodes’ plots typically revolved around the home, a setting animated by a wide cast of talking everyday objects. Among these was Paprika, the child of Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper. Over recent quarantine months that have grounded me in a domestic setting, I’ve reflected on the enigma that Paprika first presented to me as a first grader, a time where I was not familiar with possibilities beyond salt and pepper for seasoning. The process of learning relationships amongst ingredients and flavors is one I see reflected in other endeavors, finding the best way to integrate my talents in a coordinated manner.

With more time in the kitchen, I’ve found a moment here for existential yearning and questions tied to work and its desired outcome, all things that come to mind seeking to combine ingredients in a pleasing sequence of flavors. Learning new recipes have focused on the essentials, respecting the nature of the ingredients and bringing out the flavor they hold within. Seasoning is paramount to this end and can elevate what for some becomes a mundane activity.

However, the very selection of spices to choose from is a foreboding challenge. Salt and pepper are accounted for but there are immense possibilities awaiting the right dash of a little something else. The key lies in the elusive balance that only subtly emerges through the act of experimentation. Even then, a recipe may not always be followed to the letter. Success here is not only arriving at the winning combination, but being able to adjust quantities and ingredients when necessary.

In the same manner that we should not be restricted to the blueprint dictated by cookbooks, so too should our aspirations in work and other domains go beyond a checklist of achievement prompted by others. More than validation by external bodies, success should be framed in relation to an individual measure, one in line with our unique characteristics. The relative nature of our senses means that our experiences will inevitably have some degree of variance. What I think to be just fine with salt, may not necessarily be properly seasoned for someone else. In the role of chef, one has to ultimately own the craft and presentation of their work, trusting one’s judgment but also knowing how to receive criticism when offered. For one reason or another, paprika is a flavor that continues to elude me, but I now embrace the process of experimentation needed to find the best way to bring ingredients together.

Publication Date
November 4, 2020
Volume
6
Number
05
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