Saturday, September 5, 2009

Today's Moment - A Good Mistake

Today I participated in a full day mindfulness retreat at a little castle not too far from Lyon. I had planned on bringing a vegan chocolate cake for the lunchtime potluck, but as I started to cut the cake this morning to transfer it from it's baking dish to a tupperware container, I discovered to my dismay that the cake wasn't cooked underneath. A quick glance at the stove revealed the source of the problem: I had toasted garlic bread a few days before, and had never changed the stove's grill setting. So my cake only got cooked on top and was impossible to cut into pieces, leaving me with a big container of mush to deal with.

Unfortunately I realized the mistake only minutes before I had to leave, so my options were limited. No time to make a replacement dish or stop by the store, and showing up empty-handed didn't feel like an option for someone who loves potlucks as much as I do (they're actually quite rare in France, so I relish the opportunity to share food with Frenchies). In desperation I concocted a raspberry sauce by mixing a friend's delicious homemade jelly with a bit of rice milk, and I
covered the bits of cake bits and goop with it. I then patted the mixture down into a relatively smooth yet unidentifiable mass. "It's a gloubi-boulga," I complained to Kevin, using a French term to describe something strange, mushy and/or unappetizing. The expression comes from a 70s kid's show in France in which a dinosaur named Casimir made called gloubi-boulga that was repulsive to everyone but him, with ingredients such as chocolate and jelly, but also mustard and sausage. And it felt like that's what I had on my hands: a cake only a fictional dinosaur would eat!

Luckily uncooked batter isn't a problem in a vegan cake, and it tasted allright, but it was far from what I had envisioined. I felt a keen sense of diasppointment, particularly because I enjoy exposing french people to vegan baking since it's so out of left field for most folks here. In the country of buttery croissants and over 300 cheeses, it's impossible for most people to imagine life without dairy. And I was pretty sure that this vegan muck was not going to impress anyone. But I clipped my traitorous tupperware onto my bike and trudged dejectedly off to the castle.

Once potluck-time arrived, I laid my dish out with an explanatory note, since it looked so strange I imagined people avoiding it entirely. I warned that it was a ruined vegan cake that I turned into a pudding to be eaten with a spoon - but it was all organic, I wrote encouragingly!

I watched nervously as people went up to the dessert table, but much to my amazement, everyone tried some. And the folks who had seen me write the note came by to tell me how delicious it was! Little by little word spread that I had made this unusual dessert, and a number of different people came by to ask me questions about the ingredients, wanting to know how I had made it vegan - a good advertisement for vegan baking after all! Everyone insisted that it was too good to be a mistake, or that it was a mistake to be repeated. In the end, the tupperware was scraped completely clean, and I had many requests for the recipe. As it turns out, it worked out well (in the magic way that things often do at potlucks) that my dessert turned out more like a pudding, because someone else had brought a perfectly-baked chocolate cake. So my mystery mush was different and interesting and generated quite a lot of discussion.

I was completely blown away, because what had felt just a few hours earlier like a complete catastrophe had turned into a source of delight and discovery for a the retreat's participants - a very good mistake, as it turned out. And a very good lesson for me about letting go of expectations of how things are supposed to turn out, and accepting things as they are. Because that's how life is after all - a bit messy at times, but full of delicious surprises. And what may seem like a disaster at first can actually turn into something quite wonderful.


Elizabeth said...

I'm so happy to know someone who lives such a cool life!

Diana said...

Thanks Elizabeth, though my life doesn't always feel particularly 'cool.' :)

Elizabeth said...

That's because you don't live mine! Haha!

Danielle said...

Hi Diana,

I have been looking for a Mindfulness training here in Lyon. Could you please let me know where I can find some information on the training you are doing.

Thank you so much

Diana said...

Hi Danielle,

This is just to respond to your question, so many months later! Sorry I didn't respond sooner, sometimes if I don't do something right away it completely slips my mind. Anyway, if you're still reading and want the information about my mindfulness group, the easiest thing is for me to send you the flyer with all the info. So send me an e-mail to thismomentinfance(at) and I'll e-mail you what you need. I also know of a couple of other places to meditate in Lyon if you want some other options as well. Again sorry for the delay, and take care!