Tuesday, December 16, 2008 by Dave Blum

My mom’s kitchen was off limits when I was growing up.  Mom viewed the kitchen as her private domain; she did all the cooking for our family and yes, all the cleaning, too. A pretty good deal for me, my brother and my dad, you say?  Yeah, mostly.  But looking back, it would’ve been nice to have had cooking experience when I was young, rather than having to teach myself how to do it as an adult.  But that’s all hindsight, right?  At the time, I was happy to have extra play time — and fortunately, I also really liked my mom’s cooking (still do).

One of the things I recall in particular from Mom’s cooking is the way she had with eggs.  Scrambled, to be exact.  Mom’s eggs always came out firm, but never over cooked, with a slight fluffiness.  Besides salt and pepper, her eggs always carried a taste of something else…some mystery spice.  Now, of course, when I ask her about it, Mom says, “Oh, I don’t know, I just played with them until they tasted right.”  Well let me tell you, as an adult, I spent years trying to recreate Mom’s eggs in my own kitchen!  I’d try butter; I’d try margarine.  I’d try cooking on high heat; I’d try saute-ing on low heat.  I’d try adding salt and pepper in advance; I’d try adding the spices at the end. I’d try adding a dollop of milk; I’d try adding a teaspoon of water.  And you know what? I was never get able to get my eggs just right, the way Mom made them.  How frustrating!

It’s funny how our experiences from childhood shape our ideas of what is “correct” and “right” — to the point where we can dismiss the beauty of what might be happening in the present.  The fact is, my scrambled eggs these days are pretty darn good!  Different from my mom’s, to be sure, but equally tasty.  I cook ’em slowly with olive oil, add a bit of milk, and inject a variety of spices that would likely shock my mother, including thyme, dill, garlic and onion powder, oregano and even a touch of cinnamon.  They taste nothing like the eggs I grew up with, but they’re mine — and even my wife likes them (or so she tells me).

It’s all about expectations.  When leading my corporate team building activities, I find it helpful to remember that people come in with a variety of pre-conceived notions.  Perhaps they recall with fondness the particular type of scavenger hunts they did as children; perhaps they are expecting a familiar brand of treasure hunt clues, a customary level of competitiveness, or a remembered quality in the prizes.  I think our job as facilitators of team building exercises is to remind participants to have an open mind to what’s happening in the present.  Our programs are bound to be slightly different from what people are expecting, but who knows?  The new experience could just present a mighty tasty new plate of eggs!