The Smarty-Pants Challenge

There’s nothing quite like a smarty-pants e-mail.

What I mean by that is: when somebody sends you a message that seems innocent enough at a glance, but beyond the surface niceties, there’s an underlying smarty-pants attitude that can’t be denied. The reason I even bring this topic up is because I got one of those SP messages the other day. It was from our dear friend Scott who happens to be one of the best cooks I know. Yet, that doesn’t give him the right to parade his gifts in front of those of us less fortunate!

Excerpts from their SP messages

That day when the e-mail arrived, he was clearly flaunting the virtues of culinary delight and thereby, covertly, showcasing his innate kitchen skills. Without going into great detail, Cheryl then joined in the rather blatant SP display by responding with detailed descriptions of her own exquisite kitchen creations. (by the way, I guess it’s important to know that Cheryl was in California at the time of this egoic exchange). Sauteed this, diced that, all the while throwing around fancy words like confit and sprinkled. For someone like me, they could have been speaking Italian for all I knew.

My jug of everyday sfuzo wine

My only response was to make it clear that I wasn’t participating in their snooty little food-fest. I then retaliated somewhat childishly by over-describing my own very ordinary meal complete with a jug of wine rather than a bottle. And, furthermore, I was totally satisfied with my level of sophistication in a foodal sense. I thought the contrast would do them some good and bring them back down to earth. It turns out, their responses were kind, thoughtful and they were open to my humor, which took me aback. It was then that I started to seriously reconsider my position. Was I closed? Unable to learn new skills? averse to change, jealous of their superior civility, or what?

Later that week, my insecurities got the best of me when I somewhat reluctantly agreed with Scott on a skype call, that perhaps it would do me good to get outside of myself and loosen up some of those stubborn routines that may be holding me back. Why not try life from a little different slant? That’s when the refrigerator talk started.

Scott said that I needed to imagine opening the refrigerator as something fun and happy. That cold box needs to become a place where you find scrumptious surprises and taste treats galore. He said “the sight of exotic and luscious ingredients awaiting your creative input is quite simply, one of life’s joys.” Okay. I over simplified his idea so I could relate to it better by calling it the “happy refrigerator”.

The temple of culinary delight

My commitment was to go to the Caldine market down the hill where I would only buy items that I normally wouldn’t buy. Oh yeah . . .  and I also decided on my own, to choose the higher priced offerings with really attractive labels. So that’s what I did. My assignment was to report back the next day on the experience to see if it had changed my life measurably. Right!

To my surprise, I found myself really looking forward to lunch even more than I normally do. There was an undercurrent of excitement as midday approached. In addition, the act of opening the il porto di frigorifero, fridge door was pretty cool (pardon the pun). There before me, just as Scott had promised was a veritable panoply of flavors—all awaiting my creative impulse.

Tuscan Whole Foods

That was perhaps the best lunch I have ever made for myself. I’m still reeling from the overwhelming wholeness of the experience. First, there was the pita filled with salame, bresaola, thinly sliced tacchino arrosto, roasted turkey and scamorza affumicata, smoked provalone, all grilled to perfection. Then came the carciofi, artichoke hearts lightly sauteed with a drizzle of olive oil. All was accompanied by fresh schiacciatta, Italian flat bread dipped in Genovese pesto. Then, a crisp and beautiful stark apple alongside fresh ciliegie, cherries from the market. Top that with a desert of lemon yogurt from the Alto Adige region in the Italian alps. Then wash it all down with a bottle of La Rossa, the amber Moretti birra, beer that’s incomparable. Nothing to it.

So I issued my report the next day to the so-called panel of judges (which by now included Marti). Compliments came from everyone involved and I really did feel good about what had just happened.

That thin ray of hope

I don’t have any illusions that I’m going to wake up tomorrow as some born again chef with the taste buds of a pro. No. But, I do think that something in me has shifted a bit. There’s an opening in my rigid patterns—a crack where a thin ray of light shines through. Maybe there are some follow-up things I can do to build on my newly acquired sensitivity and skills. But even if that never happens, and I go back to my boring and repetitive ways, I can rest easy knowing that at least I have brought a little joy into life by making our refrigerator HAPPY!

Note: Here’s a link so you can see the original “smarty pants” in action.


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