swimming upstream

2 July 2011

Who knew July would get here so soon. It’s blowing my mind.

Update: the parental units (also known as mom & dad) are in town!

They’re visiting for a friend’s wedding slash seeing if I’m alive. I haven’t been home since December so their arrival is really grounding. After an afternoon of filming for Socola’s Sriracha Chili telenovela, I was grinning like crazy when I saw them chilling at a table at the Peruvian small plates restaurant called Limon (more on that later).

We had a great conversation for 3+ hours (aka when they kicked us out) – the flow just never stopped. I couldn’t say enough, nor could my Dad or Mom. Obviously expected, as I haven’t seen these guys since February.

I think conversation is an element of creativity. Sometimes it seems hella awkward when it’s impossible to get past “How are you”; sometimes it feels scripted; sometimes it’s very “catch-up”-esque: let me give you a play by play of my life but any more than an hour we’d regress into looking like lost alpacas. Then there are those moments where it just flows.

You could talk for hours, days even (hi caffeine, my bestie). It’s so intrinsically pleasing to be immersed in the conversation – you don’t care about the future result, or what the other person thinks about you, or what the next thing you’re going to talk about is. You’re lost in the moment and time is flying by.

Oh hey, you’ve gotten yourself into the stream brainset.


So I’m finally done reading Shelley Carson’s book (which really only should have taken me a day tops). In addition to absorb and connect, the third brainset that she mentions involving a relatively deactivated executive prefrontal cortex (the guy who likes to be all judgmental about your fat intake) is stream.

In my first weekly hour meditation with Susan at the Spiritual Learning Center, I met a guy who was an avid violinist. When I brought up how hard it was to define the creative pathways for my research, he told me he believed creativity develops in those moments when he loses himself in his music: when he doesn’t have to even think about what he’s doing and he improvises without hesitation. Awareness and action are one. Self-consciousness disappears and time distorts.

That’s stream for you.

Athletes find stream. Pilots find stream. Engineers find stream. Bookworms find stream. Someone doing the dishes can find stream. Videogamers find stream. When I am cooking, I find stream (which is where I can get my crazy ideas like making taro gnocchi [WIP] or dark chocolate lemon zucchini cookies brushed with cacao nibs). “Kelly get the basics down first before you go ape on us.” – Susan Lieu

My baby creation.

It’s all about doing something that a) is challenging enough b) have appropriate expertise (implicit memory) c) intrinsically motivates you.

What’s going on in the brain? Think of it as sister to the absorb brainset: both are interacting with the environment in the same relaxed manner, but absorb is an nonjudgemental intake of information, whereas stream is a nonjudgemental interaction with the environment.

Copyright Shelley Carson 2011 (Your Creative Brain)

Things to note: 1. The left prefrontal center is deactivated 2. The reward center is continuously, mildly activated (because the task you are doing is rewarding all along – whether someone else recognizes you are doing it right or you feel that you are doing it right) 3. The automatic premotor programs are activated

Carson brings up an interesting question: How come in moments when sophisticated and complex behavior is desired, we would want our executive center (the most recently evolved brain part) to be deactivated? Think Captain “Sulley” Sullenberger, who heroically landed the plane in the Hudson River a couple years ago. He technically didn’t have “time to think”. He had to improvise instinctually. Our explicit memory can only hold up to four chunks of information at once, and can really process one thing at a time. When using implicit memory systems, we are free to improvise and can process many ideas in parallel.

With any activity you do, you can use this information to make what you’re doing intrinsically motivating. The activity should be an end in itself. You should develop a passion for it. Try tricking your brain into activating its reward center. Break down your task into separate parts and reward yourself mentally for completing each part within a certain time frame. Or just enjoy what you’re doing. Get creative!

One thing that always surprises me is how quickly time flies when I’m doing production. There are many times when we’re speechless, dipping chocolates in time to my Ipod music. We’ll look up four hours later and all say: “Whoa, that was four hours?” I failed to mention that I totaled 30+ hours in the kitchen a couple weekends ago. Friday: five hours for the ganache (although we did reward ourselves with some Johnnie Walker Blue Label shots). We were making truffles for the Father’s Day B-Box: Stout Beer, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, BBQ, and Bacon.

What we took our shots in to celebrate.


 Saturday: 9 am – 2 am pure standing.

Sunday: Six hours of cutting and cupping (that sounds slightly illegal)

Monday: I’ve lost track but we did packaging and shipping for some amount of time – HELLO DELIRIUM

I guess this is pretty relevant to my recent departure from my swim team. It’s all about doing what you’re passionate about, because that’s when your best work develops. I was a good, talented swimmer sure; but I had so much more potential and could have gone even further had I loved the sport. But with an attitude of “I want to finish this practice and get the hell out of here” – I wasn’t going to develop myself fully.

I’ve met many people who are involved in their work not because they love it or find meaning from it. They want the reputation, or the cha-ching and bling that comes in the end. But that’s not what stream is about. In stream, the activity is an end within itself. Hopefully you find value from this brainset, and can integrate it into your life. I feel like there was a reason Carson subtly sneaked it into the end of her book. Save the best for last, perhaps?

Daily Nutrition Report [for Thursday]

  • delicious Pho noodles from Pho King. May or may not have involved a scene from Lady & the Tramp, Vietnamese style.
  • Limon Restaurant: a lush restaurant serving fusion small plates. Good but not jaw-dropping, especially for its prices. Here is the line-up of the night:Ceviche mixto: fish, calamari, shrimp. I thought was pretty good, although I’ve never had ceviche before.
  • Ensalada rusa: traditional Peruvian salad with root veggies, chloco, peans & green beans tossed with a zesty creamy mustard dressing. The beets with the dressing were bomb.
  • Paella: I do not lie – nowhere near as spiceful, fresh, savory, & delicious as this kid.
  • Cicharron de Pollo: This was a WIN. Chicken marinated in soy sauce, garlic, aji amarillo. So, so good.
  • Delicious coconut, passionfruit, and raspberry sorbet.
  • Barrow 10 yr Tawny Port – fruity, rich, yet lighter on the palette than most ports.
  • THIS was also delicious: real cream puffs dusted with sugar powder and shaved almonds. Also known as Profiteroles.

Lesson of the Day

Find that stream in everything, baby.


Inspired by alcoholEDU, I have decided to start a section address the more important needs of our nation’s college students: appreciation for good chocolate.

From Neococoa [with an infusion of bad humor]: “Have you ever wondered where chocolate comes from or how it’s grown? [All the time, sometimes when I sleep too. It’s scary.] Believe it or not, it actually does grow on trees. A small tropical tree called, Theobroma cacao, know as, “cacao.” (ka-KOW) Theobroma is Greek and means, “food of the gods.” [Can I get a hells yeah?] The Cacao tree is native to central and South America, but is grown commercially throughout the tropic region [Hong Kong, where you at?]. Africa is the largest producer of the world’s cacao at 70%.[next holiday = done]

Neococoa is another chocolatier in the Bay Area. Christine Doerr, Miss CEO, decided to start the company with the help of the brilliant La Cocina program in Frisco (a program that helps low income [minority, female] food entrepreneurs). She goes for the more European-style truffle (Socola is more American, because of the hard chocolate shell): only ganache, old-school style. Here are her main flavors:

My personal fav? Definitely the almond butter & smoked salt. Roasted almond butter, applewood smoked sea salt, bittersweet chocolate ganache, cocoa powder. The almond gives your bite a smooth, nutty aftertaste that melts in your mouth. Although I could have done with a tad bit more sea salt, overall a very satisfying dirty deed.

Leave a comment

Filed under alcohol, chocolate, cooking, creativity, food, neuroscience

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s