I was finishing up an assignment for my Purchasing course a few days ago and I had a surprising realization: my method for coming up with dishes to cook may just be very similar to the way I come up with stories.
My Purchasing course is an accelerated five and a half week course, and the final assignment of each week builds on the concept of an imaginary business. I decided to have fun with it and get a bit pie-in-the-sky, so I developed a catering concept meant for Virginia wine country that features dishes that highlight or pair with local vintages.
Step back a week or two to my Baking and Pastry lab class, where I had a bizarre amount of difficulty mastering crepes, so I asked the chef for some other ideas of fillings I could make. One of the things she said was, "curry" and I thought ... wow, that's a really neat pairing. So when I started to compose my imaginary menu for Purchasing, I put down Chicken Korma Crepes. All right, but two problems: 1) they need to be served with something; and 2) there's no wine element.
Indian dishes like this are usually served with pilaf. What's a rice dish that incorporates wine? Risotto, of course. So the first "draft" of the dish was Chicken Korma Crepes with Viognier Risotto. Assignment #2 was to actually write out and calculate the cost of the recipe, so I went hunting in my files for a korma. I stumbled across Green Chicken Biryani and noticed that the pilaf it served with had a lot of flavor profile very similar to classic cuisine, so I tweaked the menu item.
So what I ended up with was a blended dish for two or three very disparate sources that fused together into a (hopefully) harmonious whole. And ... wait a second, that's one of my favorite strategies for concocting fiction. I enjoy taking two elements that seem to be part of completely different worlds and fusing them together so they make sense.
Maybe the kitchen and the keyboard aren't as far apart as I'd thought ...