Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Trust Bank

Never trust anyone who wants what you've got.  Friend or no, envy is an overwhelming emotion.
(Eubie Blake)

 A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend, one human soul whom we can trust utterly, who knows the best and worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults.
(Charles Kingsley)

The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.
(Rene Descartes)

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.


Monday, February 10, 2014

On Being Alone (with Update)

It seems to me that we do the toughest stuff alone.

Think about it.  We're born alone.  We die alone.  We go to the first day of school alone.  And then there are all those things in between that we do alone.  We get ill, we take standardized tests, we decide.  We may get some input along the way, but we do it all alone.

And being alone isn't all bad. It's not all great.  But it's not all bad either.

In fact, there's a great word for being alone. Solitude.

Most of my life, I've chosen solitude.

That statement will surprise some people.  I sure do like people and I sure do talk a lot.

But the real me, the one hidden beneath the layers of daughter and sister and wife and mother and friend and employer and employee... that me savors solitude. 

I remember a great line in Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper: "Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner,  no matter what they tell you, it's not because they enjoy solitude. It's because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them."

I find solitude even in the midst of people.  I like to think Aldous Huxley is right when he says, "The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”

And I'll leave it at that.

Update February 11, 2014:

The Noise Can Be Too Much

Posted: Updated:
"For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much."
- From Jim Carrey's Tweet honoring Philip Seymour Hoffman

I have not been able to get Jim Carrey's tweet on the occasion of Philip Seymour Hoffman's sudden death out of my head. That line has been running through my thoughts pretty much constantly since Hoffman's death on Sunday, February 2.

No. I am no Philip Seymour Hoffman, that's not what I am saying. And I am not saying I know anything about his private demons or struggles. But I do know what Jim Carrey's talking about, and I've written about it before. The loneliness that is curled at the core of my human experience. The quiet, jagged seed of desolation and sorrow that is buried deep inside of me. The emptiness that I wrote to Grace about, warning her of the behaviors that so many people indulge in to fill the echoing void.

I'm convinced that this gnawing loneliness is a universal aspect of being human, but I'm equally certain that people are aware of it to varying degrees. And there are many ways that people try to distract themselves from feeling it, and some of these behaviors are more socially acceptable than others. Some of them are also riskier, as Seymour Hoffman's story vividly demonstrates. It's the socially acceptable avoidance tactics that have always been my personal favorites. This can, and does, lead into a trap: Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote about the dangerous complexity that is born when the ways you hide from your own life are applauded by the world.

I'm learning to stop avoiding my own life by focusing on external achievement and beginning to let authentic goals replace brass rings. There is no question I'm making progress. But the thing is, as I get quieter and more in touch with the whisper of my own voice, somehow, the world gets noisier. Maybe that's what happens, as paradoxical as it is: We shut out the noises, the coping techniques that blur the pain, and in so doing we expose ourselves to the real noise. Does that make sense?

The world's noise has always affected me in a deep way. I am an extremely porous person, and the world seeps through my membranes quickly, powerfully and often, overwhelmingly. In the simplest terms, I like silence. I was a cross-country runner in high school. Is there a sport more designed for someone who likes to be alone, likes to be outside, likes to admire the seasons as they ripple across nature? I don't think so.

And yet, the silence holds so much music. It's the same way that I now see how the darkness is full of stars almost blinding in their brilliance.

As I turn towards quiet and tune into my own internal world, I am by turns dazzled by the symphony of sounds and disoriented by their startling cacophony. You can't have one without the other, I don't think. This is a line that each of us walks alone and we all make choices about how to cope with how open and exposed to the world's noise we naturally are. I am deeply saddened by Philip Seymour Hoffman's death. It's a bone-deep reminder that the world's noise can be destabilizing and terrifying for some, and that we all need to find a way to manage our porosity to the world.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hugging in the Hamptons

I love Ina.  You know her, right??  The Barefoot Contessa?

There's just so much good food. More good living. Even better friends. And, for Ina, it's all so effortless.  "How easy is that?" she queries in most episodes.

Aside from some kick-ass recipes, two things about her show make me happier that a pug with a pretzel:  all the hugging and the Ina-Jeffrey love affair.  In my favorite episodes, Ina mixes both and we get a few shots of Ina hugging Jeffrey.

Danggggg.  Hugging in the Hamptons.  Isn't it adorable??

I'm in the midst of loving two recipes.  These are happening this week at the Kounkel home.  I'd love to make an invite for people to share it with us, but I know the Kounkel boys and their chicken.  After all, the pugs had to learn their pretzel-inhale technique somewhere, right?

Check out this chickie!

It's so gorgeous!  It's so juicy!  It's so nauseating to watch her chop that chickie!

Every fried chicken lover needs to make this chicken.  I speak from experience.  I made it out of the cookbook years ago, and forgot about it (deliberately) until I saw an episode of my favorite Contessa.  There are reasons to forget it:  it's messy (you'll have flour everywhere) and it's a multi-step process I generally try to avoid.  But delicious?  Oh, yeah, baby.


2 chickens (3 pounds each), cut in 8 serving pieces
1 quart buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening


Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360 degrees F on a thermometer.

Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don't crowd the pieces. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/oven-fried-chicken-recipe.html?oc=linkback.

I also found a granola recipe I'm dying to sample.  I accidentally asked Joe to pick up a few ingredients like dried cranberries and pitted dates, so I'm pretty sure he will decline a sample or two.  Pals, line up. This one's a winner.


2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

And so, in closing, another Ina-ism:  "Have fun."