…contradictions, mantras & breakfast for dinner
(Warning: this one has little to do with food.)
Since we’re already three months into 2023, I suppose it’s time to catch up. Let’s start at the beginning.
Along with holiday feasting, good cheer and general merriment, I always celebrate New Year’s Eve with an annual ritual. Once I’ve taken stock of the year’s wins, beaten myself up over the backlog of fails, and promised to fulfill an impossible list of reparations, I seek out a fresh mantra for the next 12 months. While not as technically binding as a resolution, a mantra is still a mental reference point to remind me of all the good intentions I mapped out on January 1.
Over time I’ve bounced from the inspirational be your own hero to the corrective get your s*** together to the elegantly simple nope. Choosing a mantra is like hacking a recipe – I assess the supply, identify the demand, fill in the blanks and get to work feeding the beast. In 2021, I tested a more optimistic idea with when one door closes, another door opens. It seemed appropriate at the time, but I’d nearly outgrown it by the fall. It was far too melancholy and offered no room for redemption. So I countered in 2022 with or you can just open the closed door; that’s how doors work. It was that little twist of smarty-pants empowerment that changed the way I think about mantras: clearly I was going to need a loophole.
I feel like so much of what I cook, photograph, and write about are inherently contradictory. Well they are curious and unlikely pairings at the very least. Duality is everywhere: arguments, opinions, stories, lighting, menus, ingredients, flavors, habits, cravings, skills, etc. Specifically, I am talking about duality in its most endearing form, which I call comfy polarity. Basically I’m choosing to celebrate the happy absurdity of life’s paradoxes instead of the combative incongruity. That’s a bit of a mouthful, I know, but it teed me up for 2023.
On December 31st I was pondering my next mantra when it hit me: why should I live within the confines of what is essentially a one-dimensional meme? Make it dynamic, make it intellectually challenging, and of course, make it about me. As a chronic fixer and closet optimist, that might be my life’s creed – make it work. It’s what I do. So in the spirit of duality I chose not one, but two mantras, and today I sit squarely at the intersection of this complicated duet:
You see the conflict, right? Circular reasoning – it’s a trap, a logic loop that encourages flip-flopping at my own convenience…and peril. How do I make make either an actionable mantra? Here’s my secret: selective accountability. I have one mantra for myself and another for all y’all. And I think it’s pretty obvious who gets which.
Life can be tragic and whimsical at the same time…because both things can be true. That’s my internal mantra to ensure I look at all angles. I need to be open-minded, non-reflexive and gracious because life can be absurd despite any amount of luck or effort on my part. With this mantra I get to be all my weird and contradictory things: a pragmatic dreamer, a dependable maybe, a rebellious rule-follower, an artistic technician, a lazy perfectionist, a DIY debutante, a sentimental assassin. It’s both a victory lap and a safety net.
But you external forces have to choose a lane – and I suggest you choose very, very carefully because you can’t have it both ways. Dichotomy is reserved for my own problems! It is hard enough to decipher what is going on in my head, so I should not also be required to read everyone else’s mind too. It comes down to not wanting to be toyed with, a sentiment I assume we can all get behind. And yet because I’m now committing to the whole “open-minded” thing, second chances could always be granted…because both things can true.
Yep, it’s my galaxy with my rules and here I sit in the center of my self-constructed logical fallacy. You are welcome to orbit as long as you recognize my laws of gravity and acknowledge my complicated relationship with tension. Maybe I’m the last person on the planet to connect all this, but hey, I’m the one with the blog. Per usual I find endless delight when I can identify these quirkier patterns of the human condition in myself. Sometimes sighing, sometimes seething, sometimes smiling, I’m always stumbling forward.
Lazy Girl Dutch Baby
Almost everything I made last year was at least a little quirky and ambiguous in some way. This week a 25-minute Dutch Baby was the star of breakfast for dinner, an idea which itself is a contraction. Despite the simplicity, it was beyond delicious, visually magnificent, and did not require my toiling over a hot griddle flipping for a half hour. Quick doesn’t have to mean boring or tasteless – goodbye pancakes. Forever.
- 4 Tbs butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup milk, room temp
- 3 eggs, also room temp
- 1 Tbs sugar
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 425° and in it melt the butter in a 10-12” cast iron skillet. The smaller the skillet the more dramatic the puff effect.
Mix eggs and whisk in flour, milk, sugar and nutmeg. Add to the hot skillet and bake 15 minutes. It will brown and puff, but if still jiggly you can turn off oven and let it sit 5 minutes to finish cooking. Slice into giant wedges and serve with powdered sugar.
Note: you may also omit the sugar and add 5oz of mixed shredded cheese like cheddar/parm in two layers as you pour the batter into the skillet. (I leave in the nutmeg either way.) Top with an herby arugula mix and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.
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