Monday, October 16, 2017

The Neglected Mandoline

Kitchen mandolins always frightened me. That exposed blade? After the incident with the immersion blender . . . 

But the exalted Jacques uses them all the time. I've watched him casually whip his hand back and forth, and as the veggie shrinks, he merely presses his palm against it, lifting the fingers out of the way. 

I was faced with neglected cucumbers, and so desired to pickle them. Rummaging about in the cabinet, I discovered a Kuhn Rikon mandoline, which has dual blades. 

I was curious. At worst, the slices would be thick, like the ones from the food processor. I slid the cucumber back and forth. In seconds, I was presented with a magnificent pile of ethereal wisps—better than if done painstakingly by knife, and at a fraction of the time.  
http://bebeloveokazu.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/img_2647.jpg
Via Bebe love Okazu
Oh, Lordie! 

Cucumber salad used to be an hour-long, laborious process; now it took minutes. 

Giggling over my newfound toy, I decided to try káposztás tészta. I was strapped for time before yuntif, so I didn't want to wrestle with the food processor.  I first shredded the onion (stunning!) and then moved on to the cabbage. 
https://www.thetastesf.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/onions-L1008696.jpg
Via The Taste SF
To quote from The Princess Bride, "a dweam within a dweam."

I love it when a kitchen doohickey works out. What else have I been needlessly resisting?

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Coils of Humblebrag

When did humility get so cocky and vainglorious? I remember the first time, around 15 years ago, that I heard someone describe herself as “blessed.” An old friend of my boyfriend’s came to visit and spent the evening regaling us with stories of her many blessings. She wasn’t especially religious, which somehow made her choice of words worse. Every good thing in her life — friends, job, apartment, decent parking space — was a blessing: i.e., something deliberate, something thoughtfully picked out for her by a higher power. It took a while to put a finger on why it got on my nerves. The problem was that she couldn’t just let herself be lucky, because luck was random, meaningless, undeserved. Luck was a roll of the dice. She had to be chosen.—Carina Chocano
https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1061/1924/products/Angel_Halo_Emoji_Icon_0ff75c27-5416-4ac6-bf1a-2a2d44b0a32b_large.png?v=1485573404
This connects to a previous post—about those who simper at their good fortune while claiming humility.  The above is from a series that analyzes current jargon ("First Words"). 
To be humbled is to be brought low or somehow diminished in standing or stature. Sometimes we’re humbled by humiliation or failure or some other calamity. And sometimes we’re humbled by encountering something so grand, meaningful or sublime that our own small selves are thrown into stark contrast — things like history, or the cosmos, or the divine. . . “Humility in a higher and ethical sense is that by which a man has a modest estimate of his own worth and submits himself to others.” “Others” being God, say, or a grand movement or mission, or just the majesty of your own corporate or celebrity overlords.
I never particularly liked those maselach about downtrodden janitors in freezing Eastern Europe who turn out to be the most brilliant mind and spiritual soul of his generation. "Oh, no, I'm just the lowly shammes" grates. Because that's not what anivus is—the same way "humility" isn't what it is now. It's like the above: Compared to the knee-knocking glory of God, yes, we're nothing. But amongst our own brethren, we must recognize our talents and share them.
In the present-day vernacular, people are most humbled by the things that make them look good. They are humbled by the sublimity of their own achievements. The “humblebrag” — a boast couched in a self-deprecating comment — has migrated from subtext to text, leaving self-awareness passed out in the bathroom behind the potted plant. . . . none of these people sound very “humbled” at all. On the contrary: They all seem exceedingly proud of themselves, hashtagging their humility to advertise their own status, success, sprightliness, generosity, moral superiority and luck.
Humility takes another turns in this article, which is albeit heavily Christian in context: 
Humility is a sign of self-confidence; it means we’re secure enough to alter our views based on new information and new circumstances. This would be a far more common occurrence for many of us if our goal was to achieve a greater understanding of truth rather than to confirm what we already believe — if we went into debates wanting to learn rather than wanting to win. . . 
There are those, ahem, who are insecure in their faith yet put up a front of "knowing." But if one had some anivus, they would also be accepting. 
Certitude can easily become an enemy of tolerance but also of inquiry, since if you believe you have all the answers, there’s no point in searching out further information or making an effort to understand the values and assumptions of those with whom you disagree. 
If we had all the answers early on, what would be our purpose here? We're here to advance, and that can only be done if we are willing to hear and learn. 
Humility believes there is such a thing as collective wisdom and that we’re better off if we have within our orbit people who see the world somewhat differently than we do. “As iron sharpens iron,” the book of Proverbs says, “so one person sharpens another.” But this requires us to actually engage with, and carefully listen to, people who understand things in ways dissimilar to how we do. It means we have to venture out of our philosophical and theological cul-de-sacs from time to time. . . The wiser we become, the more we see how much we don’t know and how much we need others to help us know.
He quoted one of our sources, so it's legit. "Two heads are better than one," Ma always said. Not everything one hears is useful. But one must be willing to hear in the first place. We have to be a little humble.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Be Flexible, Not Fixed

This week is all about going back from the wrong path and starting again. I'm surprised how many (frum!) Jews aren't willing to acknowledge how they have the power to alter much—not by trying to save the world, but by tackling their own minds and actions. 

Studies are showing that "DNA is not destiny"—in terms of heart disease, for instance, a good lifestyle makes up for bad genes, while a bad lifestyle negates good genes. And one didn't have to be an angel, either; "It looks as if the biggest protective effect by far came from going from a terrible lifestyle to one that was at least moderately good."

Dr. Jane Brody profiled Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, who completely reversed his lifestyle and successfully handled his diabetes diagnosis in the span of three months. 
Rather than proselytize, Mr. Adams prefers to teach by example, introducing people to healthy foods and providing helpful information. “I don’t want to become an annoying vegan,” he said. “My hope is that by having people focus on adding healthy things to their plates, rather than unhealthy things, they’ll eventually only have room for the healthy ones.”
Sur mei'ra, v'asei tov.   
Balsamic Chicken and Veggie Sheet Pan Dinner | Cooking Classy
Via cookingclassy
Very often, we create limiting beliefs and we stubbornly cling to them. Like Aya Cash: "The First Time I Ate a Vegetable (I Was 22)." 
For years, I had been telling everyone that I didn’t eat vegetables. I believed I hated them. I even took pride in the fact that I could fill my body with junk and not gain weight. I secretly, ridiculously, bizarrely thought my anti-vegetable stance made me intriguing. Unique. Idiosyncratic.
But sometimes we tell stories about ourselves that aren’t true. Sometimes stories we think are fixed are actually flexible. . .
I realized that I had determined a defining characteristic based on who I was at 6. I had not tried again for 16 years.
What else had I decided about myself that might not be true anymore? What had I decided about other people? That piece of lettuce was my first recognition that my identity was not set, but malleable.
I used to think belly button piercings were cool. I used to date men who didn’t like me. I used to smoke. I had never wanted to get married; I thought it wasn’t “who I was.” But a few years ago, I found myself feeling otherwise. This didn’t mean I was a different person. But the narrative I had about myself had changed.
Would I have learned this in other ways? Probably. But that bite opened me up to the possibility that change can happen even when you’re not trying; you just have to stay curious.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Thankful Year

Rabbi Glatstein said in a Rosh Hashana shiur that we cannot ask for a good year until we have thanked Hashem for the past one. 
 https://goodmotherdiet.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/apple-honey-challah20.jpg?w=625
In that theme of gratitude, I can link a Thanksgiving article, I think: Frank Bruni's "One Holiday, and Countless Ways to Say Thanks." 
Someone, usually my Uncle Jim, says a grace of greater length and intensity than the ones at other holidays. He speaks of God and gratitude, demonstrating that if we look at our lives through the right lens, we see blessings everywhere, and they outnumber obstacles.
Gratitude is a feat of perspective. When I talked with other people recently about their ways and whys of giving thanks, I was most struck by how often their rituals arose from travails, not triumphs. Hardship was handmaiden to an examination of all that remained good, all that they should cling tight to.
I'm speaking from experience here: One can find hakoras hatov even when everything goes to hell in a handbasket. It can be done when one sees the Hand of Hashem in all things. Hashgocha pratis, not hashgocha klalis. The Eibishter is in your life as much as you allow Him in.   

Monday, September 18, 2017

Give Them CASH

I have um, a bit of a backlog of fascinating articles. So, er, bear with me as I link, um, holiday-themed pieces. 
 
The subject of these two are regarding gift-giving, that thankless job. It's sort of like shidduch dating; the majority of results are "Gee, thanks for thinking of me, but—" 
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/11/09/18/2E46C33400000578-0-image-a-37_1447095231318.jpg
Sridhar Puppu's article about the misery males experience trying to select gifts for their significant others ("Why Are Some Men Such Awkward Gift Givers") is quite entertaining. Even when their spouses are fine with it, they still feel the pressure. 
 
John Tierney went to the experts, as in actual research ("The Perfect Gift? It's the One They Asked For"). Often, gift-givers get so worked up over how amazed the receivers will be, they don't take into consideration that the receivers would rather have something that's useful, instead of something awesome that becomes irritating clutter. 
 
If buying for a lot of people at once (although, is that an issue for non-Christmas observers?), don't make a point of getting something different for everyone, especially if they wouldn't know anyway. My aunt throws a Chanuka party every year, and she sticks to the same gift for a specific age group. She has to keep her sanity too. 
 
And it's cool to regift, apparently. Also, people know what they want. ASK. They'll tell you. If not opting for deliciously welcome cash, don't give a restrictive gift card, like to a candle shop. That's not fair. 

Last but not least: The thought does not count. I'm speaking from experience, here: If I am stuck with something I have to pretend to love and takes up space, I am annoyed, not touched. In Judaism, "the ends don't justify the means." So if you shvitzed to get me what you thought I would like and I didn't like it, I'm not really going to care about the effort. According to research.

Friday, September 15, 2017

TGIF

  • Behind every crazy woman is a man sitting very quietly, saying, "What? I'm not doing anything."—Jade Sharma;
  • Brené has a new book! Here's a CBS interview; and 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Age Like Iris?

I learned, a long long time ago, to never say, "Well, I would never—!" 

A number of women have that about-face when skin starts to sag. In one's bouncy youth, the idea of surgical intervention for shallow reasons is repulsive; yet, perhaps, when actually confronting the signs in the mirror, the concept becomes less abhorrent.

Who knows what I will be tempted by if my neck goes all turkey despite my nightly creams? 

Debora Spar mulls over the issue in "Aging, and My Beauty Dilemma." 
Then my friend Elise pushed me toward the exit, where our husbands were waiting. Elise is about a decade younger than me; she is also Nordic, smooth-skinned and built like a ballerina. “Did you see that room?” she asked, smiling and rolling her eyes. “Every other woman there was over 60 and yet there wasn’t a wrinkle to be found. They all looked great,” she acknowledged, “but so similar!”
We ducked into the car and started heading back to the West Side. In the darkness, she grabbed my arm. “Promise me that we’ll never do that,” she said.
“Do what?” I asked, pulling my own black dress more tightly around me.
“That plastic surgery thing,” she said. “Fillers, Botox, all that stuff.”
I demurred, mumbling quietly, “Come back and see me when you’re 50.”
That's why we can't judge. If we haven't been in those identical shoes, who knows what we would do?

As for dressing, Julia Baird proclaims, "Don't Dress Your Age." I find it awesome when I see older women in bright, colorful, patterned attire. If anything, I think such garb is probably more age-appropriate than it is on the young. There is a fabulous octogenarian that I know who is my inspiration for my golden years, God willing. Now, I rarely wear patterns, and have difficulty finding festive hues that also suit my frame. But when I've aged out, what's figure-flattering will no longer be a concern.  
All this nonsense is why I adore the funky grandmothers you can find on Instagram who dance about in baubles and proudly sport turbans. They refuse to fade, hide or match their attire to the wallpaper.
But my greatest mutton-fantasy is just to wear and do what I want. To not have such preoccupations even cross my mind. Isn’t there a point when one can simply be a dowager, a grand old dame, or just a merry old boiler? When we can refuse to kowtow to prescriptions and permissions, but just march on in the shoes we fancy wearing?
http://www.closetonthego.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/iris-apfel-01.jpg

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Lonely Subway

Metropolitan Diary, Beth Bengualid:

Dear Diary:

I witnessed a verbal altercation between two women on the subway today. One was about 60 years old; the other was probably in her early 30s.

The younger woman had a big bag around her shoulder and was holding onto a pole as the older woman entered the car.

“Don’t you dare push me,” the older woman yelled.

“That is your perception,” the younger woman replied. “I did no such thing. You bumped into my bag.”

The older woman insisted that the younger woman was wrong and escalated the argument. I tried to make eye contact with her to encourage her to calm down because I could sense that the situation was getting out of control.

Then, to my surprise, the younger woman did something remarkable while she trying to keep her cool: She asked the older woman: “Do you need a hug?”

“Why yes I do,” the older woman said.

The two women embraced and forgave each other.

My motto for surviving working in New York City is: "Do not engage and escalate." Well, that's sort of my motto in general. We come across, in our daily lives, all sorts of overly chatty, boundary-less individuals who frankly don't care that you have to be elsewhere. 

Therefore, RBF can be a girl's best friend. When frozen in android mode, subway-riding wackos leave you be. 
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No one wants to tangle with that.
The above story, however, reflected another concept: those who pick fights in a desperate attempt at connection. Sort of like a tantruming toddler willing to take bad attention over no attention.

People are lonely. Some people are so lonely they're willing to be a subway-riding wacko. 

I learned this recently, that while in my naive, childish mind the only way to forge a human relationship is with kindness and affection, there are those out there who will actively insult others in an attempt to connect. Sad, but true. 

Perhaps if we learned to take people's words not always at face value, but attempt to peer into the wounded souls beneath, we'd be a lot more tolerant. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

By Work, Not By Word

"And R' Yitzchak said: If someone tells you, 'I labored but did not succeed,' don't believe him. If he tells you, 'I have not labored, yet I have succeeded,' don't believe him. If, however, he tells you, 'I have labored, and I have succeeded,' you may believe him" (Megillah 6B).  

There are a number of people who made it big with the assistance of the internet. Makeup artists (i.e. Michelle Phan), singers (i.e. Bieber), and those of other dubious talents (i.e. Kardashians) have found fame and fortune via those opportunities. But people forget there was work involved (even for the Kardashians), not just hashtagging self-promotion. 
https://storage.googleapis.com/twg-content/images/michelle-phan_lg.width-1200.jpg
"Good News for Young Strivers" by Adam Grant is a reminder that in the end, results count, not horn-tooting. Achievements lead to successful networking, not vice versa. Beneficial networking doesn't mean chasing after prey; it's about bringing the prey to you. For that, you need to draw them close with something other than a blank "Look at me!" 
In life, it certainly helps to know the right people. But how hard they go to bat for you, how far they stick their necks out for you, depends on what you have to offer. Building a powerful network doesn’t require you to be an expert at networking. It just requires you to be an expert at something.
Yes, there are businesses that take off by "happening to bump into the right person." But if one doesn't have anything for the other to remember them by, fuhgeddabouit. 
 
Cal Newport goes further ("Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It") that the hashtagging is not merely a neutral influence, but a malignant one to a career. He claims that since social media is addictive, and robs one of focus that should be applied to one's work, it actually negatively impacts the performance that must speak for itself. 
If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.  
This same premise applies, I believe, to Rosh Hashana and repentance. It's our actions that is our greatest proof of remorse, not merely "so sorry." Biting one's tongue, giving to tzedakah, flashing a smile to a stranger—you can take that to God, no status update needed.