How far can one idea take you? Where will the casual comment of another person lead you?
I learned a lesson on the power of ideas about a year and a half ago. I was in Mexico City for the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. It’s the top food awards event for the region, when spectacular chefs gather together to celebrate their past achievements and their future goals. The whole week, not just the night of the awards, is a thrilling experience; as a food writer I get to attend numerous dinners and parties in glittering settings and try the best food in the city.
At one of those parties I renewed my acquaintance with Tom Le Mesurier, a fellow food writer. Tom’s from England and has been living in Brazil for years. Standing on an enormous balcony overlooking Mexico City with thin-stemmed wine glasses in hand, we talked about food writing and chefs and culinary trends. But when we got to the subject of work, he surprised me.
“I do food tours.”
“What?” I asked, surprised by his career choice.
“I do food tours. It’s fabulous. I love my work, have three employees, and make more money than I ever have.”
It took a few minutes to sink in. Organizing food tours could be a career?
Tom grinned at me and leaned closer. “You should do food tours in Bogota.”
The rest of the week was a blur of chefs and fried grasshoppers served over blue tortillas, of ant eggs delicately placed on our asparagus and those shockingly addictive Nopal cactus tacos from a taco joint at midnight.
But Tom’s words stuck in my head. Food tours.
One morning I was sitting in a narrow subway car heading towards a Mexican food market, and I mentioned the idea to Peter (my husband). “I could do food tours.”
He looked at me as if I’d served him fried crickets on a dinner plate. Ah, no, he liked that. Ok, he looked at me as if I was crazy.
“I mean, not food – there are so many food tours already in Bogota. I could do coffee tours.”
He grimaced. The thought was plainly written on his face: Who would be interested in coffee tours?
Back home in Bogota, the idea stuck with me. I began to interview coffee shop owners and managers and I hung out with baristas. Almost all my reading revolved around a brown roasted bean. And slowly I began to realize what coffee in Colombia was about.
I organized my tours and made them available on Flavors of Bogota. They’ve been a huge hit, and have sent me down a caffeinated path I never thought I’d take.
That path, as the best paths do, led me to somewhere unexpected. It led to a book.
A twist in the path: a coffee book
Over the last year I wrote a coffee book. I compiled it slowly as I researched and sampled and learned. That book, Permission to Slurp, launces tomorrow on Amazon as an ebook.
Tom doesn’t know that his rather casual comment led me down this path to a book. Well, I guess he’s read this post by now and has figured it out. So thanks, Tom.
I’m grateful for that casual idea he threw out to me. I could have ignored it. But I didn’t. An idea can be an opportunity that can lead to other new roads that open up to irresistible places. In my case, it was a road to coffee farms and roasters and specialty cafés.
Who has touched your life in a similar way? Where did it lead you?
And perhaps just as important, how will you change someone’s life today? What idea do you have that can lead someone down a new path? We don’t know how we can influence someone’s life just by sharing an innovative idea. A casual moment of encouragement. Heartfelt words of support. Even just a smile and a thank you.
The coffee book
And it is true that Permission to Slurp is just a coffee book. But even a simple concept – teaching others how to taste coffee – can become important to some.
As Suzie Hoban, Lecturer in Cacao and Coffee at the University of La Sabana, wrote, “Permission to Slurp is a tribute to the many Colombians who earn their living from this marvelous bean.”
A simple coffee book becomes a tribute to hard-working farmers. Simple becomes complex and opens a new world. I like that.
Share with me how simple ideas have changed your life – add them to the comments section below.
Oh, and if you’re going to be in Rio, don’t miss Tom’s food tours at Eat Rio. Maybe he’ll inspire you with a fantastic idea.