We were preparing for a large demonstration workshop. We started with the idea of pickled beets. Then we omitted the acidity. Instead we used an aggressive amount of pickling spice. We put the beets, the spice, and a bunch of concord grapes into a large pot. The beets were covered with two inches of water and hidden beneath the raft of pickling spices. We simmered the beets for an hour and a half and then let them cool in the cooking liquid for another hour. We then removed them from the bath, and let them cool enough to handle. FInally they were peeled and shaved with a mandoline.
The aromas of the pickling spice permeated the beets. The concord grapes added a bit of sweetness and appeared to deepen the color of the beets. The flavor and texture were quite impressive, and yet, they were lacking something. Then I caught the aroma of cooking guanciale. Another chef was rendering some nearby. I asked if he had a plan for the fat. He said he needed some but not all of it. I took as much as he could spare.
I dragged thinly sliced beets through the fat drippings. The two elements together were incredible. A light sprinkling of coarse salt finished it off. Aromatic shaved beets and guanciale fat. I would not have thought to put them together before. By being open to the inspirations and environment around me allowed me to connect the dots.