Loops and Chicken Stock

In performance class on Friday, I was trying to explain the heart of a loop-making assignment (and indeed, how to think about loops).

A few students had made some overly complex loops, almost with a mini-narrative within it. But the problem is, that takes all the decision making away from the place where you need it: during a performance.

Then it hit me: you're not supposed to make soup at this point. Making loops is making stock, and ingredient that will allow the soup to be the best it can be. I have to say, it's a really good metaphor.

As a case in point, check out the linked recipe for Alton Brown's chicken stock (or another stock, it doesn't matter).

It's a base. Chicken carcasses, some aromatic vegetables, some herbs, water. There are some decision here, yes? It's got onions and thyme and bay leaves, so it's generally going to be moving the final dishes in a certain direction. You can tell from experience what general direction. If there were spring onions, ginger, and anise instead of onions, thyme and bay, then you'd know the stock would move generally in a different direction.

But in either case there's no salt (or soy sauce), no cognac (or rice wine), no overly decisive spices. Those things are left for the actual recipe of the soup. This is a recipe for an ingredient. Nested ingredients. Like a nested composition in AfterEffects.

You could buy stock. Which might be ok if you're trying to whip up something fast for a sick kid on a Tuesday. And you might buy premade loops. It might be good or bad, but it's not yours, and it hasn't been thought through by you.

There's a million other ways to take the analogy too far, but you get it. So when you are making loops, you want to make some decisions (but not too many), but you want to defer others (but not too many).