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Poaching Chicken and Code

Mark Mzyk | April 20, 2010

I’m an avid cook. I love the opportunity to try out new recipes, especially those from another culture. Sometimes my wife is pleasantly surprised by the results, other times, she’s just surprised. For Christmas, I recieved Rick Bayless‘ cookbook Authentic Mexican. My first foray using a recipe from the book involved making chicken enchiladas. To prepare the chicken, Rick instructed that it should be poached.  I had never poached a chicken before.

Poaching isn’t difficult.  You bring water to a boil, drop in chicken, add spices, ignore. After the chicken is cooked, pull it out, continue with dish. I was disappointed in that the spices didn’t add much, if any, flavor to the chicken; however, they smelled spectacular while the chicken cooked. The chicken was amazingly tender. It almost shredded itself for the enchiladas.  It is difficult to get chicken this tender using other cooking techniques; it would takes a watchful eye and careful hand.

From this experience I added a new skill to my cooking repertoire. I now know poaching’s strengths and weaknesses.  Had I not been venturous, I wouldn’t have grown as a cook. In coding, it’s the same.  If I never leave my comfort zone, I never learn new techniques. I can keep writing code using the same methods and same tools, but it’s akin to frying chicken every night. It’s good at first, but eventually you get tired of it and it might kill you.

Spice is the variety of life. Try a new technique and see what it teaches you. By knowing how to use an array of tools you have the skills to program in any situation. It’s the same as knowing multiple ways to cook chicken:  you can always prepare the chicken, no matter what kitchen you find yourself in, so you never go hungry and never tire of practicing your trade.