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Restrictive Circumstances

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Even as a huge fan of architecture, I never had a clear idea of what the work of an architect actually entailed until I had an in-depth chat on the subject with one of my architect friends, many years ago.

It seems that I only used to see half of the overall picture: admiring the grand exterior of beautiful buildings while disregarding their functionality – the interior; envying the artistic freedom of architects when in fact they have to mold their creativity into dozens of strictly defined boundaries – from client requests and the restraints of terrain and climate, to spatial and budgetary limits and practicalities like plumbing and electricity leads, let alone miles of red tape involving historical societies and city councils.

Sounds much less fun all of a sudden, doesn’t it? Not according to my architect friend. To this day, I remember her bright, youthful eyes lighting up when she told me about all the hurdles that she had to overcome before creating a passable model. These ‘restrictive circumstances’, as she called them, were what made architecture challenging, creative, and fun.

Years later, I remembered our conversation while spinning around in my tiny kitchen space, hurrying to finish a dinner in time for the return of my hungry companion. That evening, you see, I was improvising a recipe that I realised only too late that I hadn’t all the ingredients for. As I contemplated possible substitutes, trying this instead of that, adding a pinch of either rather than a smattering of the or, I realised that this was precisely what made cooking exciting.

You can make the most lavish meal in a spacious kitchen equipped with all the latest gadgets, drawing from a limitless supply of fresh produce. And I can imagine that that’s rewarding in and of itself. But using an empty wine bottle to roll out the dough for home-made ravioli, reinventing unwanted left-overs into a finger-licking treat, replacing rosemary with oregano to give a whole new dimension to a dish – in short, having to be resourceful – is what truly puts the spark into my kitchen stove plug.

Thank heavens for restrictive circumstances.

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