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Field Study

An Unedited view of design and thought process:

work, experimental and otherwise by Keenan Cummings

There is a woman in the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam that sells broth-based soups out of a narrow canoe in the busy river markets. She has been doing it for 40+ years — long enough to earn her legendary status.A good Vietnamese broth is rich and complex, but also light. They say you can judge a broth by how clear it is. It looked almost watery but smacks your mouth with intense flavors. It is a difficult thing to master. Her path to master brothsman started with regular tastings of the fresh ingredients being sold in the market each day. She worked without a recipe, going off a bit of precedent and maybe some traditional broth best practices. From there, the process was her own. She experimented with quantities and methods. Sales were *a* guiding metric, but not *the* guiding metric. The development of her legendary broth was led by an innate sense of taste. Over and over, always slightly forward, off on occasional tangents, new flavors, adjusting the levels, balancing, getting it right. It was her own experience and sense that she trusted to perfect the final product. Now her broth is a legend. But she still hustles, rowing her tiny flat bottomed boat through the traffic of the river markets singing her offer. And despite the quality of her product, some days she merely breaks even. On a good day she might make $10. She has earned praise for perfecting her craft. And she enjoys the ultimate reward: enough people, everyday, enjoying her labor, and in return affording her the ability to return to the market, fill her pot, try something new, better her craft, and continue to make what she loves.

There is a woman in the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam that sells broth-based soups out of a narrow canoe in the busy river markets. She has been doing it for 40+ years — long enough to earn her legendary status.

A good Vietnamese broth is rich and complex, but also light. They say you can judge a broth by how clear it is. It looked almost watery but smacks your mouth with intense flavors. It is a difficult thing to master. 

Her path to master brothsman started with regular tastings of the fresh ingredients being sold in the market each day. She worked without a recipe, going off a bit of precedent and maybe some traditional broth best practices. From there, the process was her own. She experimented with quantities and methods. Sales were *a* guiding metric, but not *the* guiding metric. The development of her legendary broth was led by an innate sense of taste. Over and over, always slightly forward, off on occasional tangents, new flavors, adjusting the levels, balancing, getting it right. It was her own experience and sense that she trusted to perfect the final product. 

Now her broth is a legend. But she still hustles, rowing her tiny flat bottomed boat through the traffic of the river markets singing her offer. And despite the quality of her product, some days she merely breaks even. On a good day she might make $10. 

She has earned praise for perfecting her craft. And she enjoys the ultimate reward: enough people, everyday, enjoying her labor, and in return affording her the ability to return to the market, fill her pot, try something new, better her craft, and continue to make what she loves.

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