In looking for connections and unifying links in cooking sometimes association leads to confusion. I am the first to get hung up with the connection of ingredients or perhaps with an underlying theme, which I let drive and dictate the development of a dish and the assemblage of ingredients. Recently we started working with lettuce trunks or stems. In seeing these often discarded pieces as a central element it led me to look at other stems. We had mushrooms and basil on hand and I looked to utilize their stems in a dish with the lettuce cores. A compilation of all kinds of stems. Sounds neat, could be fun. Though sounding out a dish and then executing the pieces are often two quite different processes. What I did learn is that mushroom stems may have a purpose on their own, as do minced basil stems. However not all stems need to be served together. In looking more closely at my associative tendencies, I see a fair amount of time spent examining the connections and the paths they create. While it is essential to look at these connections, it is equally important to realize that associations do not always lead to an ideal pairing; rather it may just open new thoughts and approaches.