I've been musing on the path that leads from talent to skill via effort this afternoon. Kelly has grown tired of paying for a certain kind of fruit and nut bar at the store, so she decided to figure out how to make them herself. She started with a search of the interwebs, of course, and she found some excellent recipes to use for a start. Over the past few weeks she's practiced the recipes and even tweaked them a bit. The results have been delicious, and much appreciated here in the Benton Compound.

There's a reason why most folks buy these bars instead of making them from scratch.

Make no mistake: my wife is a talented cook, so she's at least working with some raw ability. Over the years she hasn't been content to simply be a talented cook, though. She's put in the effort to learn how to bake. Baking from scratch is more science than art, especially for gluten-free bakers like her. Trust me when I say that you don't want to just eyeball your xanthan gum. All the talent for cooking in the world won't make your unglutenated scones or cookies or breads come out worth anything if you don't put in the effort to convert latent talent into actual skills. I've eaten many of Kelly's "mistakes" and thought them delicious, only to taste her next batch and discover how much better she could do.

Kelly's new fruit and nut bar adventure is actually more candy making than baking, since the real trick is using a small amount of syrup to harden and hold the dry ingredients together into a bar while providing that hint of sweetness humans so enjoy. Fortunately for her bar-related ambitions, Kelly's done a smidgen of candy making before. She even has an old candy thermometer, which is required to manipulate the chemistry of sugar into the proper consistency.

As she would explain the process of making her fruit and nut bars, "all" Kelly has to do is prepare her fruit and nuts and other dry ingredients, precisely measure her sugary ingredients (honey and brown rice syrup, mostly), carefully heat the sugary stuff to 260 degrees Fahrenheit, quickly but completely mix the little bit of hot candy syrup over the lot of dry ingredients, thoroughly press the mixture into a well-greased pan before it all sets up, and then slide the mixture out of the pan and cut it into bars at the correct time.

Kelly doesn't find any of those steps particularly hard, but that's just because she's talented enough to have learned those techniques after putting in the years of effort to hone her skills. Lacking the talent and having neglected to put in the effort in this arena my wife has, my insufficient skills will never permit me to produce the delicious results Kelly does. That's okay; my talents and efforts have been focused elsewhere, and Kelly and I are a team.