As an OB resident at the UMass, my onc chief used to walk into the patient’s room and announce “welcome to Monday (or whatever day it was).” It was so endearing and cheerful, yet practical as it also oriented us to time. I went on to adopt a similar practice. For as long as I can remember, I often announce “good morning” to babies just as they are being born. Their first words on the outside. It seems a bit more personal than happy birthday and I empathize with the burden of the sudden sensation of bright lights but the prospect of a whole, yet unrealized time.
So. Welcome to 38. Ahead for me lies six more months of pretending to be French, then comes re-assimilation to life in the US and eventually working as a laborist. This year, I decide to leave fear behind and continue to make moves to enjoy my life as deeply and fully as possible. I decide to stop explaining myself and stop asking for permission. I will use my words and ask for what I want. I refuse to be happy with good enough and maintain stasis for the sake of comfort. I choose to make biggest, scariest choices knowing that those are always the right ones.
I will re-enter the real world in a few months carrying with me the lessons of this year. The one I hold closest is how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Most of these lessons will not be realized for some time, maybe even years, and will only be recognized in retrospect.
The kitchen seems a most appropriate place to continue to abandon the dreadful, suffocating traits of perfectionism, self-doubt and evil self-talk. When I first started cooking, I learned from the Food Network: Rachel Ray, Sara Moulton, Alton Brown. I had a tiny cookbook called “Cooking for One” where I learned to make pizza dough and scrounge up toppings from the grocery store salad bar. Over time, I became more adventurous and started following Barefoot Contessa, cooking from Julia Child, and practicing on my friends. Unlike in my life, I was not afraid to aim big and fail hard. I always had that frozen pizza dough and a phone number for my favorite chinese restaurant. This year, I will cook outside the box and outside of the recipe. I will add and subtract as I see fit, sometimes differently each time. I will not follow the recipe to a T or not embark on a project simply because I am missing a single ingredient.
I encourage you to be fearless as well. Most of the time, it will go well. You could start with something that other people will think is amazing, but your secret is that it is so easy. This is my most requested recipe. Note well: Beyonce belting out Grown Woman in the background will certainly encourage you to do whatever you want. It helps me immensely.
Lemon Chicken with Croutons
Serves: 3-4 people
1 (4-5 pound) roasting chicken
1 large yellow onion, sliced thickly
ground black pepper
2 lemons, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 cups (3/4-inch bread cubes) baguette or sourdough boule
1 Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2 Take the giblets out of the chicken before rinsing it inside and out. Pat the chicken dry on a clean work surface.
3 Toss the onion slices with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan.
4 Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper, then place the lemons (and herbs if using) inside. Place the chicken on top of the onions in the roasting pan so that the legs and breasts are facing up. Brush the chicken with the melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using kitchen twine, tie the legs together.
5 Roast the chicken for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. (Remember – check on the chicken every now and then. Use a meat thermometer if you’d like. You may want to position the oven racks a little bit lower than usual.) Once cooked, cover with aluminum foil and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. (The onions may burn, but they still taste delicious.)
6 While the chicken is resting, heat a large sauté pan with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Over medium heat sauté the bread cube, tossing frequently to make sure all sides are nicely browned. This should take around 10 minutes. Work in batches if needed. Add more olive oil if needed and sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt and pepper once they’re ready to be served.
7 Place the croutons on a serving platter. Slice the chicken and place that plus pan juices over the croutons. Serve warm.