A few things: July/August 2021

Work with me here, because this isn’t really literally about making macarons (although there are recipe links and notes about that, at the end, if you’re macaron-curious).

Let’s say it’s one of those Saturday mornings when you wake and feel rested and have no obligations for the day, other than whatever your ordinary Saturday chores might be. You might wake, on this magic Saturday, and think to yourself, “ooh, it’s a good day to make macarons!” (just me? surely not…). You might separate 4 eggs, careful not to get any yolk in the whites, pour the whites into a mixing bowl to get things started, and store the egg yolks in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator, thinking, “ooh, I could make lemon curd!”

And you might look at that bowl of egg yolks every day, every time you open the refrigerator door, until, on the 11th day, when their usefulness for anything has long expired (also, they’re quite smelly), you’ll accept that you burned right through the “ooh, cooking!” brilliance with those macaron shells, and you’ll toss out those lovely orange eggs yolks and wish, at least for a minute or two, that you hadn’t postponed and procrastinated and frittered away the time to just make the fucking lemon curd and be done with it.

Or maybe,

You might do what I did not do on that Saturday several weeks ago, when I did wake and feel inspired to make macarons (which are easy to make, and, of course, delicious). You might look at those two bowls of separated eggs, one with egg whites and the other with egg yolks, and you might label the bowl of egg whites “want” and the bowl of yolks “should.” And had I done that, then I’d have thrown out the egg yolks without a second thought, because I’m old enough to remember that “should” is the gift that keeps on taking.

And also, if I had taken just a minute to check in with myself, I might have recognized that because I had the whole day and the whole house, all to myself, I wanted to do something that I could start and finish in one day, something that would take some time and be enjoyable in a particular way. Something that would restore my creative energy, “fill the bank,” as the saying goes. Something that would enable practicing a skill, refining a technique, trying something that might or might not turn out, free from any serious consequence of failure.

Also, to be fair and honest (and this is really the heart of the thing), I was avoiding dealing with a big project at work (writing a lengthy and detailed report) because that project felt overwhelming. I was worried I would never find the clarity to finish it, would never be proud of the end result.

Here is the gospel truth: I did not finish my big work project until I tossed out those damned egg yolks (I actually said, aloud in my kitchen, “I am never going to make anything with you, and looking at you just makes me feel bad. So out you go; I’m moving on.”

Silly, right? But true, all of it. In that whole silly story are current themes around here: Checking in before jumping in, working with clear and honest intention, and finishing what’s been started (even if “finishing” means throwing it away, not reading to the end of a terrible book, et cetera).

All of this is part of larger work I’ve been doing for the past year (with the help of a coach) to address my Saboteurs, in the Positive Intelligence lingo. Surprising no one, especially not me, my top Saboteur (that I’m trying to convert to Sage) is Restless. Work in progress, like everything (and everyone) else. But as part of it, I’m returning to more regular (and likely highly unpolished) writing. So there’s that.

(The macarons? They were delicious. I added cocoa powder (not in the recipe) and filled them with salted caramel icing. Recipes/links/notes to follow.)

Reading

Esther Perel is Fighting the “Tyranny of Positivity” (GQ) (and related, ICYMI, “This is What Happens to Couples Under Stress:” An Interview with Couples Therapist Esther Perel (The New Yorker))

Are You Allowed to Criticize Simone Biles? A Decision Tree. (McSweeny’s)

Peloton Star Cody Rigsby Says You Did Not Survive the Pandemic to do Anything But Thrive (Washington Post)

She’s Nearly 100. He’s 2 and Lives Next Door. Here’s How They Became Best Friends. (Washington Post)

The Unmaking of Biblical Womanhood (The New Yorker)

“I just learned I only have months to live. This is what I want to say.” (Jack Thomas, Boston Globe)

Australian startup raises $30m to map our brains (The Hustle)

“Making the Impossible Possible: How I’ve Dealt with My Saboteurs” (Forbes)

Dolly Parton Tried. But Tennessee is Squandering a Miracle (Margaret Renkl, The New York Times)

Although not technically “reading,” I’m still listening to the John le Carré Smiley series – books I read in the 1990s that are even better now (though that may also be because of the great Audible performance).

On my bedside table, the stack of books continues to grow. Next up, for my book group? Afterparties.

Cooking

It’s finally hot enough to make ratatouille (“hot enough” meaning all of the things that go in ratatouille are in high season and readily available). I tried Melissa Clark’s recipe (“tried” means I followed it in spirit, not exactly to the letter) and was eating directly from the baking dish, if that’s an indication of its merit. If the paywall on the NYT Cooking site keeps you from exploring that particular recipe, then here’s a good but entirely different one from Alice Waters, on Food52.

Other than ratatouille? More tomato sandwiches and summer salads.

Macaron-curious, are you, after that opening? Sally’s Baking Addiction to the rescue. (Side note: I’ve had 100% success with every recipe from her blog. Her instructions are clear, and her links lead to interesting continued exploration of any given topic.) And here’s the link to her salted caramel frosting that I used for filling.


Throwback: Here’s What I Was Writing & Cooking in 2014

(lightly edited from the original, posted in August 2014)

So, not that you need to send me presents or anything, but it’s my birthday next month, and I pledge to drink champagne and eat dark chocolate every day, mostly likely when I’m helping my children with their math homework and struggling against the denial that school has started. In this week’s food line-up you’ll see that every dinner leads with a champagne cocktail, paired with appropriate food. Why we would ever do that pairing in reverse, I just don’t know.

French 75 | Sausage, Grits & Greens

A French 75 might be my favorite cocktail, preferably made with Hendrick’s gin instead of cognac, but really I’m an equal opportunity drinker when it comes to French 75s. The easiest way to make one light enough to drink on a weeknight is this: 1 T. gin, 1 T. fresh lemon juice, 1 T. simple syrup, and champagne to the top of the glass. Vary those ingredients to suit your taste, or swap the gin for cognac if you want to feel warm and frisky. The gin version is a light, refreshing drink that can handle some sturdy food like basic grits and braised greens, with or without some grilled sausage.

Arucana Lulu

Mimosa | Poached Eggs, Sourdough Toast & Canadian Bacon

Breakfast for dinner is a popular concept in our house, and since it’s birthday breakfast for dinner, a traditional mimosa seems appropriate: just OJ and champagne, maybe with a fresh raspberry or two. Bernard is the master egg poacher in this house; I just stand back and watch. If you’ve never poached eggs, here are Jamie Oliver’s instructions, which are a good place to start. Serve with buttered sourdough toast and some grilled Canadian bacon.

Champagne Mojito | Pulled Pork Tacos

The food part of this meal is a cheater’s dinner: I’ll buy pulled pork from The BBQ Shop instead of cooking at home (birthday – hello!). I’ll then serve it family style at the table with corn tortillas, chopped onions, cilantro, tomato, sour cream, lime and some salsas. It’s as popular a meal as breakfast for dinner at our house. The cocktail is a new one, with a recipe from John Besh for champagne mojitos (how could that be anything other than tasty?).

True Vine celery

Kir Royale | Smoked Trout Lettuce Wraps

For a lighter turn, how about some smoked fish and a classic Kir RoyaleThis recipe for lettuce wraps with smoked trout is a twist on the traditional pork preparation that somehow seems more festive and summery. Smoked salmon would work in the place of the trout, if that’s easier to find.

Champagne | Linguini with Caviar

If you want an elegant and festive dinner that feels extravagant but really isn’t, this pasta dish is it. I’ve had a similar recipe from Gourmet in my cooking journal since 1989, and every time I make it I wonder why I don’t make it more often. The bonus for this week is that one of my favorite farmers at the market had beautiful fresh parsley that he’s nursed along all summer, truly a gift of our unseasonably mild summer.

Final Note

The “Naked Ladies” are in full bloom, and yesterday (July 31) was National Orgasm Day. Coincidence? Surely not….

4 thoughts on “A few things: July/August 2021

  1. We would never make macaroons. We would just go to Sucre, who supposedly makes one of the top five macaroons in the world. We would buy a dozen, a couple of espressos and take the long way home so we don’t have to share. 🙂

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