No. 61 (Rust and Blue)
Mark Rothko, 1953.
Take a minute here and reflect on the significant paths, experiences, changes, and people that have more or less shaped who you are today. When I do that, usually during my daydreams, my head drifts and picks out a specific point of time in my life randomly based on my feeling at the time.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I have any strong association with indigo, as I don’t think I possess any specific item in or with that color (and if I do, I obviously don’t remember – the only thing I can think of that I like in indigo are blueberries), and it’s also so “in between”. It’s stuck in the limbo between blue and purple. Some call it blue, some call it purple, but only a select few – in particular: artists, graphic designers, and filmmakers – call it by its appropriate name: indigo.
It’s an innocuous, real life example of blurred, gray lines, and sticky situations that we can all somehow relate to at some stage in our lives.
When I was a sophomore in college, I struggled with deciding what I should actually major in. I was supposed to declare a major in romance languages.
At least, that was what my parents expected from me.
After all, I started studying Spanish since middle school, and Italian for a year when I lived in Florence. They thought that it would be a pity and a waste if I didn’t continue along the track to becoming a polyglot. To be fair, it is a waste, and a part of me regrets that I didn’t study a bit harder (well, in my defense, I didn’t slack off though), because they are both beautiful languages.
I consider myself as a selectively inquisitive person. I get way too greedy and sometimes bite off more than I can chew for people and subjects that fascinate me. On the flip side, I tend to not expend any effort for issues that do not interest me. It’s simply a waste of time. Well, that, and I have an attention span of a two-year-old kid when I’m indifferent.
I’m pretty sure I can become proficient in them if I were to put in the appropriate effort, but I know me. I’d put my full energy and capacity into other matters – way too easily. The consolation prize is that I’m quite familiar with the grammatical rules for Spanish and Italian. I can read, but it takes tremendous mental effort and time for me to speak and write.
Unfortunately, and on an unrelated note: the only languages that I’ve had the burning desire to learn and master in different stages of my life were Japanese (high school) and French (probably the entirety of my life).
It took me a bit longer to realize that the most important lesson of all this was something much more obscure (well, at the time), broad, and relative to other decisions in life. The fact is knowing what I don’t want to do is just as crucial as recognizing what I do want to pursue. Remember that when you are feeling somewhat lost and down. It’s similar to seeing a dim light at an unfamiliar passageway.
My crossroad back then was what I should pursue. It was either food studies / nutrition or psychology. I could’ve done both, but there were a whole list of electives (a few including French, Spanish, special effects makeup, film photography, wine and beverages, and geopolitics of beauty) that distracted me to the point of no return. I was on a discovery phase to figure out who and what could stay permanent in my ever-changing life.
I ended up picking psychology, but not without a lot of indecisiveness and being stuck in my personal limbo in the mix. What I knew since back then was that no matter which route I chose, I’d end up disappointing my parents again, anyway. That always, and will still break a part of my heart. Maybe to them, I’m not bad, but definitely never good enough most of the time, so perhaps I’m always in that gray, or what I’d like to call now, the “indigo” area.
It’s common to say that people “grow out of” a certain phase or hobby, which is a bit redundant come to think of it, as we can just use the word “outgrow”. Or am I the only one who noticed this?
There are some interests that I’ve definitely outgrown, but there are a select few that I tend to put down and temporarily forget. It’s not that they lost their appeal to me. I was at a stage where I couldn’t grasp onto most, or everything, firmly.
In my New York days, I took a lot of cooking and baking classes. I took electives from university and booked courses from different culinary institutes as well as lessons from privately owned bakeries. I savor the moment the oven gets pulled open the most. The sudden rush of heat and aroma keeps me consistently hooked.
Cooking and baking weren’t simply a phase for me. They are a part of me.
I remember starting from the basics – from familiar tastes back home in Taiwan such as stir fry or scallion pancakes (obviously, frozen, pre-made ones) and instant noodles with the extra egg and bok choy as “garnishes” to more complex recipes such as homemade Taiwanese styled omelettes and dumplings. Then I decided to jump across cultures and add new recipes into the mix. There was the marinated honey mustard chicken covered with onions and then oven baked with a layer of cheddar cheese to homemade lasagna as well as pumpkin pies, truffle chocolates, and macarons.
It’s a bit ironic to say how much I love the entire aspect of culinary arts and the act of consumption due to my weight and image issues, but I really do. It’s a bit peculiar, but if I were to ever describe my relationship with food with a color, it’d be indigo. On the one spectrum, there’s love and fascination, and on the other, there’s some sort of resentment and distaste. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with food, the problem was my personal baggage accumulated from my upbringing, experiences, and relationships that have influenced my overall perception. Some see it and say blue, some see it and say purple. Only I can see indigo.
I think I had a lot more flexibility and spare time back in those days, but I’m trying my best to integrate cooking back into my life nowadays, especially because I’m in a much better place.
One of my particular favorite memories associated with food was during a rainy day in New York. I had nothing planned for the rest of the afternoon, so I decided to bake these stunning blueberry crumb bars.
It’s such a soothing feeling to listen to the rain pouring down outside, especially knowing that I’m in no hurry or obligation to leave indoors.
The crumb bar wasn’t hard to make in particular, especially compared to the complex French pastries. There were essentially four steps in the entire process: measure, mix, stir, and bake.
Baking, unlike cooking, thrives and perfects with precision, so it’s important to measure out all of the ingredients beforehand.
I didn’t have enough blueberries, so I decided to improvise that day and eyeball all of my required ingredients. The weather was too dreadful for me to leave, as the sun in my mind would drown if I were to go out.
It wasn’t the best dessert that I’ve made. It wasn’t inedible either. To me, it was neither.
My friends said that it was great. Perhaps it was to make me feel better, perhaps they were too kind to tell me the truth, perhaps it was actually great. Perhaps some saw blue, and some saw purple from the crumbs.
To me, it was indigo.
I don’t regret studying psychology at all, but sometimes I do wonder…how would I be if I were to pick food studies as my major?
I wouldn’t be able to know the wonders of the human brain, nor would I be so exposed to the theories, studies, and mental illness. Maybe I would possess less empathy, understanding, and compassion.
I’ll never know.
Psychology will always take up just a little bit more attention than food studies for me. I couldn’t say with confidence then, but I can right at this moment. That was precisely why I declared that major.
However, my interest in culinary arts had never wavered. Sure, there were the personal struggles added in between along with my occasional disregard, but back in my mind, I always knew that it was something that stays with me.
I stepped out of the “indigo zone” for some people and some things with the test of time. I learned a little bit more about myself, what I want and don’t want to pursue, but there are a lot of unknown territories that I have yet to pursue.
It’s possible that I associate indigo with indecision frequently. I don’t mean to relate the color to negative connotations though. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact, as it is the singular color that funnels out the crowd. The color that is able to induce controversy. The color that is completely open and acceptable to extreme polar meanings.
The lesson from indigo is: it doesn’t matter what he says, what she says, or what they say. It’s up to their own personal interpretation. In the end, the most important one is, and always will be – no matter how long it takes for you to learn this lesson – yours.
Find your indigos, whether they are the murky situations or indecisions or your unique interpretations. They are your obscure nooks and crannies that only a special few will notice and appreciate.