Friday, January 28, 2011


via flickr

"We're not high-maintenance or difficult, we're just not scripted like other people." - anonymous but wise sage

Most of us are pretty good at adapting to changing situations. We've learned how to shift our moods, adjust our attitudes, and even rethink previous notions in order to accommodate the social climate of our current environment. In fact, these days adaptability and flexibility aren't just desirable traits but mandatory prerequisites if you're going to play with others. This applies both in the workplace and in our personal lives. In our constantly evolving but expendable world being able to adapt and change is a survival skill. But at what point are we being asked to change who we are, including the core beliefs that make up our moral fiber? Integrity, accountability, and fairness are qualities I believe are non-negotiable in every day living. Yet we're led to believe that sometimes sacrifice is for the greater good of the team. Or that bending the rules is what it takes to get the job done. Or being creative with the truth is not necessarily a lie. But any way you want to bend it, flip it, or turn it inside out we all recognize the truth from the lie, the right from the wrong, the good from the bad. Granted not all situations are decidedly black and white, but I think people fall back on the gray scale too often to excuse or justify their own behaviors. Most of us have an internal barometer of what's right and wrong; it's that twinge of guilt, an internal cringe, that flicker of conscience. What would happen if we all followed the Golden Rule to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated? After all, it is our ability to put ourselves in another's shoes that makes us human. Then how is it so easily discarded when it interferes with the bottom line or personal agenda?

In life we're given roles as child, parent, friend, lover, colleague, employee, etc - constantly evolving roles where we may not always know the characters we're expected to play, never mind the scenes we're acting in. Improvisation doesn't always go over well when it deviates from the script and other people's carefully rehearsed lines. But life is a crap shoot no matter how much you try to prepare for it, because the unpredictable factor is always us. Our reactions to the external world based on our own experiences or perceptions. Perception is a funny thing because it means something different to the eye of the beholder. It sets us up to be misinterpreted, misconstrued, and misunderstood. And no matter how much you've rehearsed it could all go a different way, or even completely fall apart. One of the things I've always had difficulty with is that there seems to be a set of guidelines as to how we should behave. I'm not necessarily speaking of code of conduct, proper etiquette, or even social graces. I'm referring to the rules of engagement as if there's only one way to interact or react to any given situation. When you don't behave in the way that's expected vis-a-vis some unspoken agreement in which we dance around each other and therefore the real issue is never addressed, then you're criticized. But we're not machines, we can't always control how we feel though we can try to temper how we channel those feelings. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. We all over react from time to time.

People generally feel uncomfortable with unexpected bursts of emotion, or even the display of too much emotion. Little outbursts are frowned upon, as if we're expected to show restraint at all times. But what is restraint but a means of restricting our emotions or thoughts? As children we're constantly reprimanded for our abandoned and uninhibited behavior, told time and again that children should be seen and not heard. We learn to hold back, bite our tongue, and consequently walk on eggshells to avoid punishment, rejection, or abandonment. But as we all know, biting your tongue is extremely painful. It's as awkward as tying your own hands, or forcing yourself to walk backwards, going counterclockwise, moving against the grain, or even pulling a rubber band too taut. At some point, it snaps back. I think it's infinitely better to just be yourself, to follow your own nature, and consequences be damned. So what if your excitement and passion are misconstrued as volatile or irrational, or your serious attention to work as rigid and strict, or your refusal to compromise your sense of fairness as difficult or high-maintenance. You would think that honesty, loyalty, and sincerity would be considered admiral traits to possess, qualities we'd look for in a friend or colleague. But I think sometimes people find this more threatening than their willing to admit to. Maybe because it becomes a yardstick by which they're forced to measure their own moral fiber, a mirror in which their own true characters are revealed. These are the same people who make you feel like you're not playing by the rules when in fact you're adhering to them to the letter. It's impossible to please everyone all the time, and some times anyone at all. And if we look to others for approval for what we intrinsically know to be good about us, then we'll sadly be disappointed. But do we really need a reward for behaving well? Maybe. After all, how many times have we witnessed someone being rewarded for behaving badly?

'Banana skin' is a British idiom which refers to something that is an embarrassment or causes problems. Something we don't have to worry about when it comes to this next dessert. The recipe doesn't call for any banana skins. Banana Foster is a dessert made from bananas and vanilla ice cream a sauce made from butter, brown sugar and dark rum. Often the alcohol is added and ignited into a Flambé table-side as a visual presentation. The dish was created in 1951 by Chef Paul Blangé at Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans. It was named after the owner's good friend and regular customer, Richard Foster, then the New Orleans Crime Commission chairman. I found this amazing recipe for Banana Foster Creme Pie from evilshenanigans.

Banana Foster Creme Pie
recipe via evilshenanigans

For Crust:
1 1/4 c graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c light brown sugar
1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
For Caramel Sauce:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 c light brown sugar, loosely packed
2 tbsp cream
2 tbsp dark rum

For Filling:
2 to 3 bananas sliced
2 1/2 c milk
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all-spice
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp unsalted butter

For Topping:
2 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp dry gelatin
1 tbsp water, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp sugar
Cinnamon for dusting
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a bowl mix the brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until well mixed. pour into a 9" pie plate and press evenly into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow crust to cool while you prepare the caramel.
  2. In a small skillet melt the butter and brown sugar over medium low heat. Allow it to come to a boil, turn the heat down to low and cook for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream and rum. Allow to cool slightly.
  3. Slice bananas and layer the slices on the bottom of the pie crust. Pour the caramel evenly over the bananas. Allow to cool at room temperature while you prepare the custard.
  4. In a heavy saucepan combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt, vanilla bean paste, and spices. Pour over the milk and mix well. In a separate bowl mix the eggs and egg yolk well. Pour into the milk mixture and whisk until well combined. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Cook for 30 seconds then remove from heat. Strain the mixture into a large bowl, then whisk in the butter.
  5. Pour the custard over the bananas and caramel. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure it is pressed directly against the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for at least 4 hours, but overnight is preferable.
  6. To finish the pie mix the dry gelatin with the water in a small microwave safe bowl. Allow to bloom for two minutes. Once bloomed, heat in the microwave for 10 seconds. Stir and allow to come to room temperature. In a large bowl add the cream. Mix on medium speed until it begins to develop large bubbles. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium high. Add the sugar and the cooled gelatin. Increase the speed to high and beat until it thickens and holds soft peaks. Spread the cream over the cooled pie and dust with cinnamon. Chill for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

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