A scene from Brené Brown’s 2019 “The Call to Courage” (which, if you haven’t yet watched, is well worth your time – this story is at the 18:00 mark):
A guy walked up to Brené after one of her talks, and he said, “Your work changed my life.” He then told her the story of how he decided to “dare greatly,” be brave and vulnerable and be the first to say, “I love you,” to the woman he was seeing. The woman responded by saying, “I think we should date other people.” And then they left, in separate cars.
The guy went back to his apartment, cursing Brené all the way home, and relayed the story to his roommates. “I told her I loved her, and she broke up with me.”
“That was so lame!” a roommate said. “You can’t go after them! When you head toward them, they move away! When you’re always moving away, they move toward you! This is the way it works.”
“What? No,” the guy said. “Man, that’s not who I want to be.”
And his roommates, misty-eyed (at least in the story), said, “Right on, man!”
If something in that story resonates with you, then it’s likely because you’ve experienced a similar moment of truth — not necessarily about a relationship, but more broadly about a split-second in which you decided what kind of person you wanted to be. Maybe you stepped bravely into yourself in that moment; maybe you didn’t. But if you’ve ever found yourself at that particular crossroads, then you’ll recognize the feeling.
I’ve been thinking about this story while wading through the flurry of articles, essays, and podcasts about us, all of us, as we collectively prepare to walk out on the other side of the pandemic. Soon, very soon, we’ll be vaccinated and able to venture into the world somewhat freely, mixing and mingling and drawing on greaseboards in brainstorming meetings.
Who will we choose to be, when we do those things? What did we tolerate, ignore, minimize or conform to, in the before-times, and how will each of us respond when the gravitational pull toward “normalcy” tugs its tug?
A week or so ago, I combed through a Twitter thread that started with a woman’s lament over the prospects of returning to her office, of not being with her children all day, of having to “wear shoes.” Her words were met with a wave of sisterhood and solidarity. But they were also met with a wave of consternation and sharp criticism. How dare she, this privileged woman, complain about the prospect of having to wear shoes and go to an office when so many have suffered unspeakable tragedies and loss — jobs, loved ones, home, and health.
I don’t know the woman who Tweeted, but I can easily understand what I believe she meant. I don’t want to default back to the way things were, either. And the starkly visible injustice, inequities, and tragedies are at the heart of that dread.
It’s possible that, in this past year, some of us have had the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of seeing the world with new awareness. Coming out on the other side of everything we’ve witnessed and experienced, who will each of choose to be when the moments of truth present themselves?
While you let that thought simmer, a few other things…
So, a funny thing happened when I tried to record a tutorial on making a single-serving chocolate soufflé. Like, even my 17 year old daughter thought it was funny, and teenage daughters never find their mothers funny. It’s short (1:20); here goes:
F*cking dog. I do love him so. And his loud bark, too.
Want to see the actual tutorial (take 2; it’s about 8 minutes)? It’s here. Want to read the recipe instead? Here you go – just remember that I’m a home cook with no official training in cooking or recipe-writing:
Single-Serving Chocolate Soufflé
- 2 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or 4 heaping Tablespoons of semi-sweet/bittersweet chocolate chips, which is what I use, because it’s what I have on hand)
- 1-1 1/2 oz. heavy cream (2-3 Tablespoons)
- 1 egg, separated (yolk in small bowl; white in larger bowl – room enough to beat it)
- Butter to grease the dish
- Sugar (I use brown sugar) to coat the dish
- OPTIONAL: flavoring (liqueur, extract, etc.)
- 1 4 in. ramekin (or 2 smaller ones, if you want to split into two servings)
- electric mixer (or whisk, if you’re up for beating egg whites by hand like my mother always did)
- glass bowls
- small saucepan
- rubber spatula
FIRST: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Do it now.
- Butter the ramekin and coat with sugar (optional, but definitely recommended)
- Put the chocolate in a small Pyrex (or other heatproof) bowl. (I use chips because it’s easy, but baking chocolate, chopped fine, is more official and professional.)
- Pour the cream into the saucepan and heat it up. (I bring it to a boil; this is definitely not an approved approach, but it’s always worked for me.)
- Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir with spatula until the chocolate is melted.
- (ALTERNATE: Combine chocolate and cream in the top of a double boiler and stir over low/medium heat until the chocolate melts.)
- Whip the egg white until it is stiff but not dry
- Stir the yolk (using the same spatula) into the now-cooled chocolate (or stir the chocolate into the yolk – makes no difference).
- Fold together the chocolate and beaten egg white; do this gently but decisively — and yes, using the SAME spatula.
- Last job for that spatula: Scrape the soufflé into the prepared dish and put it in the oven. Turn heat down to 380 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes.
SIDE NOTE: Yes, if you want a softer texture you can bake the soufflé in a water bath (set the small ramekin in a larger dish filled with enough boiling water to halfway up the side of the small ramekin), but it will prevent that crispy sugar coating from forming and it’s just extra work and extra dishes.
While the soufflé bakes you can make yourself a nice salad or reheat some leftovers or do something else easy for dinner. The soufflé is good hot, cold, or at room temperature.
Other cooking suggestions:
- Gnocchi with sage and brown butter (bon appetit)
- One-pot asparagus/lemon risotto (Martha Stewart)
- Pasta with butter and anchovies (Serious Eats)
- Tuscan Fries (Nigella)
- Spinach and cilantro soup with tahini and lemon (Samin Nosrat – NYT Cooking)
- Wild mushroom tart (David Tanis – NYT Cooking)
My book group read the most delightful novella (92 pages – short enough that you can read it twice, which you’ll want to do): Ms. Ice Sandwich, by Mieko Kawakami.
Good enough that I saved on Pocket:
- Remembering Allan McDonald, who refused to approve the Challenger launch and then exposed the cover-up (NPR)
- The Influence of a Perfect Teacher (The New York Times)
- In 2018, Diplomats Warned of Risky Coronavirus Experiments in a Wuhan Lab. No One Listened. (POLITICO)
- Results from the City That Just Gave Away Cash (NPR)
- In Seattle, as everywhere, hope is ahead — but we haven’t hit the “post” in post-traumatic stress from COVID-19 (The Seattle Times)
- Why Older People Managed to Stay Happier Through the Pandemic (The New York Times)
- How to Write a Gratitude Letter (The New York Times)
- A Counterintuitive Way to Cheer Up When You’re Down (The Atlantic)
- Paper Source’s Bankruptcy Leaves Female Cardmakers Feeling Burned (The New York Times)
On that last note: I’ve written before about Katie Hunt, a double entrepreneur who launched a successful stationery business and then used what she learned in that process to develop and launch a very successful coaching/training/consulting practice for product-based business owners. Katie has helped hundred of business start-ups, most of which are owned by women. I first learned about the Paper Source meltdown on Katie’s Instagram feed.
This story loops back, in a way, to the beginning of this post, about what the world might be on the other side of the pandemic and how we might choose to mend it, and ourselves, if we want to be well, in every sense of the word.