Thoughts About Improvisation

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A number of friends have felt—and I agreed—that this book should contain a chapter on improvisational cooking. But the more I have worried about it, the more impossible it seems, in the context of writing, to lend life to the spirit of the thing—to make it felt that, by knowing and accepting rules, one frees oneself of rules. It is easy enough to say, “You must bring freedom, relaxation, knowledge and imagination to the thing and, above all, do not be afraid; a failure is no disgrace and may very often be more instructive than a success . . .” (The sense of failure is, in any case, always sharper in the mind of the practitioner than in those of the guests—I know that I have often diminished my table companions’ pleasure in a meal that would otherwise have ravished them by a helpless compulsion to critically analyze each preparation.)