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OT: thoughts on music and cooking

In addition to creating music, I also like to cook.  I especially like to making (or rather, attempting to make) sauces.

A few years ago I set out to make the perfect salsa.  It took me a few tries, but pretty quickly I came up with a recipe that embodied what I think salsa should taste like.  All my friends love it too.  I usually make it a little thinner and milder than I would personally prefer, but I'm still happy with the flavor, and I feel like it has something unique about it; a little bit of myself expressed in a sauce.

This year I decided that my previous recipe was too complicated, so I set out to create a new recipe with half the ingredients.  I nailed it on my first try, and honestly I think the simpler recipe tastes better (though a couple of my friends would argue with me).

However, I've also been trying to come up with a barbecue sauce recipe that embodies all I love about barbecue for a few years now, and after dozens of tries, I'm about ready to give up.  Everything I make sucks, and while a couple of my friends are nice enough to eat my experiments, I know it's never very good.

I think there are several reasons for the difference in success rates, but perhaps the most important is this:  I have an exact idea of the way I think salsa should taste, and I'm familiar enough with the ingredients to make that happen pretty much every time I make it (a few flops excepted).  But when it comes to barbecue sauce, I've tasted so many different influential sauces that I loved, from thin and vinegary to thick and sweet, spicy, brassy, smokey, tart, etc. that it's nearly impossible for me to envision a sauce that captures my favorite things about each.  Furthermore, there are so many possibilities for different ingredients that I'm just not as familiar with, that when I taste a half-finished sauce and think "hmm... it needs a little of that sweet flavor from Sharon's house sauce," I'm left guessing at how to make that happen.


All of that to say, I look at a lot of you guys (and groups like The Books, Sigur Ros, etc.), and it at least appears that your efforts at making music flow the way salsa-making does for me.  You know exactly what you're going for, and you stick with it.  Even when it takes a surprising turn, it still turns out great.  And I've watched with envy as several of you have sold-off gear and simplified your sets (stripped out half of the ingredients) and come up with a new recipe that's even more profound and satisfying that what you did at first.

But lately, making music has felt like trying to make the perfect barbecue sauce to me.  I have so many diverse influences and sounds in my head that I want to combine, and I have all this technology at my fingertips that I'm just not as familiar with as I would like to be, that I feel overwhelmed by the endeavor.  And everything I have come up with so far is just not satisfying to me.

And I'd like at least a few people to think it's good too, but right now the artists I'm hearing who come closest (check out http://www.myspace.com/sonlux for one example) are too much of a stretch for even my most musically inclined friends.

Has anyone else been here, or am I even making sense?  Any words of wisdom?