“This is the joy for me. I love bread!”
I am many things, but I have never been mistaken for being a petite and delicate flower. I have loud and large passion…especially when rushing the tennis net like a Viking does a village. That said, I’ll just say it. I love bread. Too.
With a new level of empathy for my opponents on the court, Oprah scares me when she stares into the camera and tells us, in no uncertain terms, how she feels about bread. It may just be a commercial, but there is something primal in her eyes that conjures up images for me of a small group of her staffers, huddled together in a worried conversation just off-camera as the commercial wraps:
”You take it away from her, I did it last week”
“No way. You do it. She likes you. You got a car”.
A third staffer weighs in, “I’m not doing it. This is a commercial. Let’s get Mikey to do it. He’ll take bread away from anybody.”
I understand it. The woman is passionate about what she loves and that scares people. Some things, like really good bread, just matter to her and she’s not afraid to say so. For that, Amen and Amen.
Each and every one of us have something that drives us to a point of impassioned frenzy. Why do we hide it?
Besides being a bargain hunter, there are plenty of bits that constitute ‘me’ and some of then may be slightly crazed. But they’re mine. Case in point?
I love paper plates. Foam or plastic just won’t do and we were out of them. So the other day I trucked on over to our local Aldi and they were out of them too. Really? ‘But it’s my joy. They’re paper plates for goodness sake!’ But there they weren’t.
Seeing the concerned looks on the faces of other shoppers, it dawned on me I may have thinking with my outside voice a little longer than I should have. I already knew my frugal side wasn’t going to spend the time and fuel shopping four more stores so…I begrudgingly bit the bullet, bought a 50-count of the foam pretenders and sulked back to the car. Mission Accomplished…sort of.
Being a sore loser when I lose to myself, I confess I grumbled under my breath every time I used one of the ‘bad plates’. Nothing robs my joy faster than knowing I hadn’t followed through on my own standards. The bitter blade of it all was knowing that at the end of the day, I was the reason there were impostors snickering in our kitchen cupboard. I had not been true to my passion.
For days, I obsessively kept an eye out for the kind of paper plates I wanted. No one had them. Did Mulder know? Were we being attacked by some kind of fringe foam dinnerware conspiracy? In the meantime, my frugality forced me to use what I had bought. I was reminded of it every time I walked to the microwave, but I’m cheap frugal and wasn’t going to throw the ‘less than’ plates away. The only way to get rid of the rabid foam discs was to keep using them till they were gone.
And I did. I did not mourn their passing. There were no tears for having to fill the sink and do more dishes.
Speaking of dishes, I have made reference in past scribblings to the Love of my Life being a culinary wunderkind. At one time or another, I’ve called him the King of the Sauces and the High Priest of Potato Pancakes. He is America’s Test Kitchen Incarnate, forever tweaking this and testing for that. For that, I am a very lucky man. Did I mention we had Pork Tenderloin Marsala the other night?
There was a knock on our door. It was Jackie, our downstairs neighbor standing there with a wily look in her eye and a plastic bag in her hand. I like paper bags better than plastic. Canvas bags are best and I’m a very good driver, but I digress…
“Hi Jackie. What’s in the bag?”
“5-Dozen eggs. I bought these for Rick. He said he was making Eclairs and I want in.”
A little startled by her news bulletin and the determined set to her 70-year old eyes, my heart was filled as it skipped a happy beat. “Eclairs!” It had been quite awhile since he’d done his award worthy pastry treat. Life was about to get very, very good. Joy!
But not yet.
As I closed the door, Rick asked, “Who was that?”
“Jackie. I hear you’re making Eclairs? She brought eggs.”
A little at a loss himself as he watched me take one dozen after another out of the bag, he brought me up-to-speed. Yes, he’d been thinking about the pastry treat and yes, he may have mentioned it to Jackie in passing which may have prompted Jackie to rob the hen house. You think?
To hear him tell it, the last time the treat hadn’t been perfect. He was bothered. It had been nagging him that his last bout with the choco-glazed bits of pastry bliss could have been better.
Not being the culinare of the family, I’m thinking (inside voice): “A) The last time you made them was almost two-years ago and B) I’m not sure how it is even humanly possible the light pastry (my equivalent to foreplay) could have been any better than what I remembered?” But I’ve been here before. Sharing a moment with Oprah’s people, I know better than to inject myself when he has that look in his eye, so I withdrew from the field and let him run.
With plenty of eggs now in the house, my Mad Scientist launched into his latest quest for the perfect Eclair. [Spoiler alert. There are reasons many mortals reportedly buy theirs at a store or bakery.]
First the pâte à choux (Noun: pad-a-shoe).
Until recently, I hadn’t even known how to spell it. But having been held hostage watching hours of Food Network, I knew what it was. A fundamental element of French pastry, I knew it had to be light as air; puffed up and vacuous on the inside; golden tan with the slightest hint of crust on the outside, the perfect catcher’s mitt for the creamy filling destined to go inside.
One after another, I watched him make small test batches of the temperamental pastry all afternoon. Soon he had his research assistant (me) pulling other recipes so he could compare them with the one he’d historically relied on. I swear Martha, Alton and Ina were all arguing in our kitchen. “Not ribbony enough…too stiff. I need to sift…different flour…hold out an egg next time…no, add one more”
On and on it went. Between the multiple tastings and his interrogation of me as to what I thought of each new test batch, I was feeling the same discomfort as I had when Oprah looked me in the eye and said what she said the way she said it.
We were so far from even being done and I’d yet to taste any finished product. But unlike I had standing in the Aldi aisle, I tried something new and kept my mouth shut.
Pushing the heretical thought of ‘maybe I should just go buy some’ out of my mind, I witnessed my culinary hunter move on to the next challenge.
“Wait a minute! What? There’s a ‘next challenge’?”
That’s right mon ami. Here I had been thinking he was only fixated on the pastry, but having finally claimed the pastry as his own, ‘we’ were now moving on to the creamy filling.
Like he had with the pastry, one small bowl after another of the silky cream was created, then tossed. Being the taster, I was already in fear of my intestinal patterns changing course forever. I knew he was getting to the end of his rope when he caught me dumping a test batch into the sink without running the hot water as I did. You would think I’d robbed a bank while slapping someones’ mom. In the face of such an unanticipated rebuke, I heard myself sputtering, “It’s just filling…”
I am now neck deep in Fear Swamp. After 30+ years together I know he is relentless when he’s on a mission. When a passionate person is in their zone, they aren’t to be reasoned with so I did what I often do in those moments. I didn’t say anything. I clammed up, mentally adopting the fetal position while I waited for the baking tornado to pass.
“Just filling? Don’t you care what I’m trying to do here?”
With that, I knew I was screwed. I’m walking on eggs. I know how much I don’t know about pastry. To me, if I have to wash my hands AND face after licking the bowl of chocolate ganache, it’s been a good day. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
This went on for 2-days.
It may not have been the Seventh Day, but whoo-wee. I felt like Jed Clampett. They were finished and they were good!
Each and every eclair looked insanely delicious. Further confirmation came in the form of no one caring that neither Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig were anywhere in the room. It just didn’t matter.
“You do me a favor? Would you take some down to Jackie?”
Already to dive in myself, I flashed back to my own to-do list.
As much as I wanted to get freaky with the newly minted delicacies, logistics dictated a disposable delivery platform that didn’t need to be washed or returned like prodigal Tupperware. True, I hadn’t created the glistening eclairs resting on the baking trays, but Jackie was waiting. I still had a part to play in closing out the joy.
I got dressed, went out to the store and paid full-price for paper plates…the heavier kind…the kind that I like. Shortly after my return, I was making my way down the back stairs and knocking on her door.
Her eyes lit up. Her eclairs had come in!
There was something magical as I watched her take the first bite out of her allotment. Joy spread across her face like chocolate had mine. No words, but all Rick’s work was validated beyond measure. His passion for his craft needed no announcement. It was as clear as the cream dripping from the side of Jackie’s mouth. Joy.
It is my belief that each of us has been blessed with something we can be crazy about. I would further assert the natural world requires Joy or it wouldn’t keep reinventing ways to reintroduce itself in as many ways as there are people.
You know what brings you Joy. At the very least, you remember what used to bring you Joy before school, kids, love, loss, death and disease wreaked havoc on your Joy. I know. We’re told to be responsible, to do the right thing; set down your selfish wishes and take care of everyone else. Joy is for the shallow. It is nice, but not necessary. But here’s the secret filling inside. Joy is necessary. Why else do we so often go to such lengths to hide it? We remember our childhoods. If no one sees our Joy, no one will compel us to give it up.
There are many pretenders running for office or just selling us soup that want us to believe their passion or conviction is the same as Joy’s and to vote for their version of what our Joy ought to look like.
Don’t you believe it. It’s not the same.
When I’m doubting the origin of something that makes me feel good, I have magic words. I ask myself one simple question: Does this serve Love? Whether it’s the big-picture kind of Joy or the kind coming down on a paper plate, is it Love?
If it is, it will hold many things for you. One of the pre-eminent among them is Joy. If something given in Lord Love’s Service gives you Joy, get out of its way. Quit being a hypnotized grown-up. If you have Joy, let it slosh over me. I need your Joy to fuel my own. I know it to be true because I’ve seen mine help fuel someone else. It wasn’t what I planned. I didn’t intend to slosh. It just happens. That’s how you know it’s Joy.
Sometime in the coming week or two, someone is going to tell you they LOVE bread; or paper plates; or eclairs or something. And when they do? Don’t flinch. Don’t be that grown-up and try to take their bread away. Instead, ask yourself, “Can I be their paper plate?”
Like anything of genuine value, Love takes work and constant attention. Do the work and you’ll find your Joy inside. It’s supposed to be messy and yes, it gets everywhere, but isn’t that what makes it worth it?
A little like you.
This week, I pause to remember Tony Dyson, Bud Collins and Nancy Reagan.
For Tony Dyson, creator of R2D2, go to:
http://www.people.com/article/tony-dyson-man-who-created-r2-d2-dies-68; photo by Tony Dyson, sourced from http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-35724496
For Bud Collins, teacher, mentor and tennis commentator, go to:
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/03/04/469254216/tennis-writer-and-commentator-bud-collins-dies: Bud Collins pic: http://www.boston.com/sports/other_sports/tennis/articles/2007/08/07/espn_collins_a_match_for_tennis_coverage/
For Nancy Reagan, 1st Lady, go to:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/07/us/nancy-reagan-a-stylish-and-influential-first-lady-dies-at-94.html?_r=0, Nancy Reagan pic and jump story: http://komonews.com/news/nation-world/former-first-lady-nancy-reagan-94-dies
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Oprah Loves Bread (tekkie.co): http://www.technobezz.com/oprah-winfrey-tweets-about-bread-and-gains-12-5-million/; Paper Plates – Fun blog (Sorry, not WordPress) at ‘A Fat Girl Ate Me’ about alternative uses for one of my favorite paper products: http://a-fat-girl-ate-me.blogspot.com/2011/11/working-out-with-paper-plates.html; Cook Books: http://www.mylusciouslife.com/wp-content/uploads/galleries/post-6296/thumbnails/Kitchens%20-%20myLusciousLife.com%20-%20vintage%20cookbooks.jpg; Eclairs with chocolate icing at Cafe Blue Hills by georgie_grd under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eclairs_with_chocolate_icing_at_Cafe_Blue_Hills.jpg; The Swedish Chef (Muppets): http://www.fruitlesspursuits.com/2011/11/movember-day-24-top-5-muppet-moustaches.html; The Eclairs are Done by dan4kent @ makeameme.org; Chocolate Eclair Sole Survivor and Apple Walnut Cake with Caramel Glaze JOY by dan4kent – all rights as protected under this license. With attribution, non-profit use or share is permitted.
Rick’s take on Apple Walnut Cake with Caramel Glaze
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