Witty Inventions (Encouragement for Creators)

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Ever wonder at all the cool stuff that’s been invented totally by accident? When a great idea suddenly falls in your lap, grab it! It’s a gift from heaven. Stuff happens, and sometimes you just need to go with the flow. That’s what Fred Morrison did. One day in 1938, he and his future wife Lucille were having fun on a beach in Santa Monica, California, tossing a cake pan back and forth. Apparently they appeared to be having so much fun — and the cake pan was spinning through the air so smoothly — that someone offered to purchase Fred’s “flying disc” for 25 cents. The inventor, who’d always been fascinated with aerodynamics, later stated, “That got the wheels turning, because you could buy a cake pan for five cents, and if people on the beach were willing to pay a quarter for it, well … there was a business”!

It would have been easy to laugh off the whole incident, chalking it up as one of the many whimsies of our whacky world. Instead, the couple embraced the weird, and started selling 5-cent cake pans on the beach, at a quarter each! They continued their side business, collecting quite a few quarters, until the U.S. entered World War II. Fred Morrison signed up with the Army Air Force, and flew a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane until he was shot down and taken a prisoner of war. He spent 90 days as a POW, possibly thinking about how to improve the aerodynamic design of his cake pan.

After the war, He designed an improved flying disc, made of plastic, which he called the Whirlo-Way. In 1948, Morrison and a business partner began producing the discs, but following a wave of UFO sightings, they decided to market the toy as the “Flyin-Saucer.”

The two men demonstrated the flying disc at fairs across the country, selling thousands at a buck apiece, to people who were amazed at the toy’s ability to “hover.” Morrison eventually went solo again, and in 1955 he designed a new model, the Pluto Platter, which was essentially the archetype of what we call a frisbee. Morrison patented his design and sold the rights to the Wham-O Company in 1957. It was Wham-O  co-founder Richard Knerr who decided to give the toy the official brand name Frisbee. The name was inspired by the Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and harkens back to the flying disc’s origins as nothing more than a cake plate. Morrison hated the name, but in 1982, after receiving over $2 million in royalties, He told Forbes magazine, “I wouldn’t change the name of it for the world.”

So when a crazy idea comes sailing your way, seemingly out of nowhere, be bold and latch onto it. It might be nothing. Then again, it could be what you’ve been hoping for!

“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.” (Psalm 8:12 KJV)

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Bon Appétit! (Encouragement for Creators)

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Innovative people have always had their fair share of critics: “It’ll NEVER work!”; “It’ll never FLY!”; “It’ll never FLOAT!”; “It’ll never stay SUBMERGED!” Anyone who knows their history, has learned to NEVER say “Never”! Still, many of us, as creators, are on the receiving end of the “No can do” attitudes and criticisms of certain agents, editors, publishers, financiers, and other assorted people who choose to see all the obstacles to any given project or goal. For your encouragement, we’ll now share the story of a creator and her naysayers. And since we’ve been discussing cookbooks in our Angel in the Kitchen series, we’ve chosen as our subject, the late Julia Child, who wrote one of the most influential cookbooks of the 20th Century.

Julia Child was born in Pasadena, California, on August 15, 1912. Although she’s Internationally recognized as a multiple award-winning chef, author and television personality — as well as THE person who introduced and popularized French cooking in America — she attained none of this notoriety until she’d reached the ripe age of 51. Late bloomer? Some things are worth waiting for.

Many of us remember Julia Child as the elderly and unassuming French chef with the unusual voice that seemed to warble. It’s interesting to learn that as a teenager, the six-foot, two-inch-tall Julia participated in sports while attending Smith College, and was an avid basketball player. She graduated from Smith in 1934 with a BA in English. Her career in cooking was still decades away. Long before she was “The French Chef,” she moved to New York City and worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of a firm that marketed upscale home furnishings. She returned to California
in 1937 and spent the next four years writing for local publications.

During World War II, Child tried to enlist, in both the WACs (Women’s Army Corp) and the U.S. Navy’s WAVES, but was rejected for being “too tall”! So, Child joined the famed OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and worked her way up from typist, to a top secret researcher. While working in the Secret Intelligence division, Child had a variety of jobs that took her to Washington, D.C., Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and eventually to China. But her most interesting assignment may have been as the assistant to a research team developing shark repellent! The foul-tasting stuff was needed to keep sharks from exploding mines intended for German U-boats. So how in the world did Julia Child end up as the last word on French cuisine?

While in Ceylon, she met fellow OSS employee and New Jersey native Paul Cushing Child. The two were married in 1946, and moved to Paris, two years later, when Paul was given an assignment there by the US State Department. Julia’s hubby was an artist, a poet, and a gourmet, and he introduced her to fine French cuisine — which she repeatedly described as a culinary revelation: “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.”

While in Paris, Julia attended the famous cooking school Le Cordon Bleu, and later studied with several master chefs. She also met Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, two French women who were trying to write a French cookbook for American readers. They quickly convinced Julia “the English major” to collaborate with them. That was around 1951, and the three cookbook creators spent the next decade researching and repeatedly testing recipes. Child translated the French into English, and worked to make the recipes detailed and interesting to American cooks. Finally, their book was finished. All they needed to do was find a New York publisher. Piece of cake?

The three authors were told repeatedly that their 726-page manuscript was “too long”! Other objections included: “No one’s interested in preparing gourmet food”; “No one’s buying cookbooks these days”; “If someone wants a recipe, they’ll just tear it out of a magazine”! When a door finally opened, and Houghton-Mifflin signed them to a contract, the editors then rejected the manuscript because it seemed too much like an encyclopedia.

Alfred A. Knopf Company ultimately published Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 1961. It was a critically-acclaimed bestseller, and it’s still in print to this day. More books followed, as well as a long-running television show. And would you believe, the kitchen set, where for years Julia Child cooked up special dishes for her legions of viewers, is now permanently exhibited in the Smithsonian.

So, all her naysayers had to eat crow — and at the end of each episode of The French Chef, Julia would say, “Bon appétit!”

“And the LORD answered me: Write the vision; make it plain…. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; …If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come.” (Habakkuk 2:2-3 ESV)

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