All of my time watching shows like ‘Top Chef’ have unfortunately not taught me that much about cooking. My preferred creations tend to be out of a box or random items that I experimentally throw together to make some kind of ugly (albeit tasty) concoction. I will never win any points for my knife skills, artistry or presentation.
I am no expert, but I rather enjoy baking. I wouldn’t say that I am great by any means, but I have gotten multiple compliments on my baked goods, especially my chocolate chip cookie bars.
Something that surprised me on the cooking shows is that almost every chef is afraid of baking. To me, I had always thought that they were pretty much the same thing. Cooking, baking, whatever. Its all making food. But according to the experts, baking is much more difficult that cooking. With cooking, there is a lot of improvisation and approximation. But apparently when baking, you need to put all of the ingredients together in precisely the right amounts at the exact right time. And if there is anything that screams ‘Mike McKenna’, it is following directions precisely.
For as long as I can remember, reading the directions has always been my favorite part of most projects. Get a new video game? I would pour over the instructions manual for hours trying to glean every piece of information I possibly could. Purchase a new piece of do-it-yourself furniture? Guess who is grabbing the directions and sorting all of the screws, washers and nuts. Over Christmas with my family, my brothers and I were about to play a board game that none of us had ever played before. As we were sitting down to get started, one of my brothers issued the perfect quote, “How are we supposed to play when Mike hasn’t explained the rules to us yet?”
I’m not sure where my deep-seated desire to pour over instructions comes from and I don’t know why I get so much pleasure from following directions. Some people might say it comes from a longing to bringing order to a disorderly world, but I don’t see it that way. There are plenty of times when I am not so preoccupied with exactness and mind-numbing precision.
In the world of medicine, we like to talk about “Lumpers” and “Splitters”. While not any part of an official personality type or self-assessment tool, it is an interesting way to think about different ways to approach a medical problem. Splitters is shorthand for ‘splitting hairs’. They would be equivalent to the Bakers. Splitters pore over every detail and chase down every single value and result that is off kilter. The Lumpers would be the Chefs. Lumpers lump ideas together trying to join everything into a bigger picture. They are great at stepping back and seeing the forest for the trees. Despite my direction following, baker-like tendencies, I am most definitely a Lumper.
I have no idea how I became a Lumper, given my long-standing history of laborious exactness, but I think it all started in medical school when I realized that there was too much information to be able to know it all. As I mentioned in a previous post, I quickly realized that no matter how hard I was going to work or study, my efforts were not going to be rewarded with a commensurate grade. So instead of working harder, I decided to work smarter.
I think it also helps that Pediatrics, especially General Pediatrics, lends itself nicely to being a Lumper. Kids usually only have one thing wrong with them at a time and there is a wide range of normal in things like developmental milestones and growth curves. So I find that being able to step back and see the whole patient is very beneficial in my line of work.
Just as with bakers and chefs, both Lumpers and Splitters are needed to make the world of medicine go round no matter what field or specialty they focus on. But deep down inside, I still have a Splitter that needs to come out every once in awhile before he goes crazy. And it is to the benefit of those around me who want to play a game or have a sweet tooth. Plus, now he’s branching out into other family recipes besides the cookie bars. Gooey Butter Cake, Cherry Peek-a-Boo, Mint Brownies. Anybody else want to be a baker? Or maybe just a taster?