Starting from scratch

I know I’ve often said there are no wrong answers, but that does not mean there are no rules; that is to say, sometimes there is only one right answer, and that is: from scratch.

It is fall; Thanksgiving is approaching. You have so many choices in this world, so remember—a constraint is a beautiful thing. Here is your constraint: do it from scratch

How do I make an apple pie?

From scratch.

How do I make a pumpkin bisque?

From scratch.

How do I put gratitude in my life?

Start from scratch. 

Sometimes the simplest answer is the most satisfying. 

Two funny beliefs regarding lettuce

One part of the world believes that lettuce is a thing you eat raw, in a salad, to satisfy a hankering for crunch, to be refreshed. 

Another part of the world believes that lettuce is a thing you eat steamed or boiled, in broth, wilted. 

The people in the first hemisphere generally agree that the idea of steamed lettuce or boiled lettuce is, well, weird

The people in the second hemisphere generally agree that the idea of eating raw lettuce is, well, unheard of. (The risk of e. coli all but vanishes when you boil it, for instance. Too soon?)

There are no wrong answers. You can eat a salad. And you can make lettuce soup. The possibilities are endless. You are in charge. 

Two thirds up the Eiffel Tower

Paris, 1999.

I am climbing the Eiffel Tower with my friends. We are 18, and this may be our first trip on our own. Safe to say that besides them, I know no one else for miles.

We climb up the metal grating of one of the enormous legs of the tower until we get to where they join and we continue climbing as the platforms get smaller and smaller.

From a distance away I hear my name called. Again, louder this time. Then louder still.

Continue reading “Two thirds up the Eiffel Tower”

It’s never as good the second time

The perfect treat. In my case it was a perfect cheese danish. The kind it took 32 years to find. The kind where you don’t know where the dough ends or where cheese begins. 

It’s warm, and squishy. You don’t know where it’s been your whole life, but it wasn’t here, like it is, right now. 

So fucking good you’ll be thinking about it all day. 

Continue reading “It’s never as good the second time”

Ask for what you want

Sometimes it’s good to ask for what you want. Like when my friend subtly hinted that he wanted a surprise party when he said, “I want a surprise party, damn it!”

And sometimes it’s really not that difficult to give someone what they ask for. Throwing a spontaneous party is easy if you have the right approach. Pick a date, pick a time, decide who to invite, decide on a menu and a theme if you need one, and on the day of… do what you always do: make people happy.

Whether it’s a dinner, brunch, or holiday celebration, inviting some folks to be present and participate in a unique meal is an act of love. Not every party needs to be extravagant. Not every dinner needs to be a seven course meal with table linens. Sometimes, you can make people quite happy with making a big ole pot of chili or serving up coffee and biscuits.

But what every meal and every gathering deserves? Love and intention. You get to set the mood. You are the director. You get to ask for support. And sometimes, it is you who gets to ask for what you want.

The difference between a cook and a baker

A cook is an improv artist. A baker is a chemist.

A cook works without a blueprint. She feels her craft come from inside of her. It is a response to her environment, the people she will feed, the ingredients presented forth by nature or by circumstance.

A baker needs her implements. She is precise and exact. She uses recipes, measurements, and rules. Every ingredient needs to be accounted for, ready, just so.

High Holy Days – Part II – Ten Days of Reconciliation

For ten days after Rosh HaShana we have a period known in Hebrew as עשרת ימי תשובה and means ten days of reconciliation, sometimes also translated as ten days of repentance. These days are intended for doing deep emotional work and taking spiritual inventory in our lives and in our relationships. It’s a bit like making New Year’s Resolutions, and perhaps a bit more like closing the books on an accounting period in an organization. We take stock. Who(m) have we hurt? How have we disappointed ourselves? What opportunities and experiences have we denied ourselves because we were too busy or too afraid? And what do we want to change? In a way, when I was going through Seth Godin’s altMBA, I was forced to do a lot of this, but harder. Deeper, more honest work. Harder intention setting. More rigorous assessment of am I taking the steps to achieve those intentions. It was all somehow familiar. And yet oh, so scary.

Dance with fear.

Seth Godin, creator of the altMBA

Arab Israeli Salad

I asked my cousin about her favorite food and she immediately told me how much she loves salad. Salad is the food she loves to make with her mom, it’s the food that makes her feel great anytime and brings her the most joy.

To be clear, we’re not talking about no ordinary salad. And we’re not talking about iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing (not that there’s anything wrong with that). No, this is rainbow salad, fucking birthday salad, salad-for-breakfast salad. This is salad with tomatoes and cucumbers and lemon and parsley and sprigs of thyme. This is salad with the protein power of chopped walnuts and pepitas and the anti-inflammatory wonders of raw onion and minced ginger. This salad is not afraid of nobody. This salad is boss.

“It also makes my poops great.” And a good poop changes everything.

The inspiration for this salad comes from the Mediterranean, where one can find many variations of an all day staple interchangeably known as Israeli salad, Lebanese salad, Arab salad, Greek salad… you get the idea. Every locale has its own signature twist, but the elements are consistent: there is always tomato, cucumber, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and olive oil. That is the core of what we know as salad in these regions. We’ve taken this beautiful tradition and we’ve added to it: nuts and seeds, herbs, cheeses, sometimes fish. There’s a Lebanese delicacy; pickled labneh, that will turn this from a side dish to a show stopper. Play around with the variations and don’t worry: there are no wrong answers.

Update: People were asking for an actual recipe, so I posted an Arab Israeli Salad Recipe.