Dumb Asses, Please Order Sirloin—Not Rib Eye

Anthony Bourdain
Photo: Melanie Dunea

The entrecôte, or rib eye, and its big bone-in brother, the côte de boeuf, have perhaps the perfect balance of fat, lean, and marblingthe best mix of flavor and texture.

Dismayingly, all too many restaurant customers complain that it’s “too fatty,” as they are just too dumb to appreciate the best steak on the steer. They should probably stick to the leaner but very flavorful sirloin, which is what their dumb asses were probably thinking of when they put in their order.

Anthony Bourdain

Les Halles Cookbook
Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking
page 121-122


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I’m Not a Perfectionist

I like attention to detail more than the pursuit of perfection. 

Pierre Hermé

My Best: Pierre Hermé
“What is your motto?”
page 5


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To Do the Impossible, Start With the Necessary

St. Francis of Assisi (Study for “St Francis of Assisi Adoring the Cross” by Bernardo Strozzi, circa 1615 | Art Gallery of South Australia)

Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible,
and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.

~ St. Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226)
Catholic friar, founder of the Franciscan order, and the patron saint of animals


Musings and Impressions
I came across this quote from Elephant Journal, a recent addition to my Instagram follow. The Elephant Journal is a tireless, relentless provider of ideas on how to live better lives, with quotes and wisdom from famous folks, not-so-familiar folks, their words winking at you and tickling your mind into fancy new terrains of smarter, better, and wiser living.

Visit Elephant, and you could well be sucked into your distraction du jour, the kind of phenomenon we like to blame social media for, but with Elephant, I like to think it’s not so much distraction, but a friend who urges you to snap out of it. And what could “it” be? Anything! A stupid streak of inertia, a phase of fear, a little bump in life that’s making you go all blah or boo hoo.

Now, about St. Francis. I think he’s an angel. Which person who loves and cares for animals is not? If you have any men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,” he once said, “you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

I admire people with gentle hearts, largely because I’m working hard in this department. While I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, my fondest memories of my childhood were the early Sunday mornings of taking some triple-digit feeder bus to a hole-in-the-wall church in a Boon Lay public housing estate with my mother. The memory is so faded now but I remember the old, worn-out pews and how this little church seemed to be immediate neighbors with the ground floor shops in a housing board flat.

That church would eventually become the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, still at Boon Lay today. When we moved to the churchy church, the masses took on a different tenor. It felt bigger and more real, but less intimate. What I remembered most too, throughout the years going to Church in my teens and early twenties, is that beautiful hymn fashioned after the prayer St. Francis composed: Make me a channel of your peace

In this prayer, all gentleness is brought to life in words. My favorite of favorite lines is this: For it is in giving that we receive / it is in pardoning that we are pardoned. So beautiful, all the more so because it’s humanly difficult to achieve, especially the pardoning part.

And so, when I hear some Christians speak ill of saints, oh, just because they see them as idols, cast into statues or depicted in murals as sheer objects of absurd adulation, it just feels so wrong. I used to be angry, but now I’m just sad. What if St. Francis of Assisi weren’t called Saint, and we dropped the St. from his name? This is what we’d get: Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone. Now, he sounds more like an artist I’d find at the Uffizi or the Louvre or the Met. Should I really care about his sainthood or his life’s works?

A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

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Feeling Insecure? It Could Be Your Secret Sauce.

Barbara Corcoran (Image: entrepreneur.com)

My secret sauce is my insecurity.

~ Barbara Corcoran (1949 – )
American businesswoman, real estate tycoon,
and founder of the Corcoran Group


Musings and Impressions
Last June, I stuck this little entry in my Evernote, which I don’t use anymore, I’m now using Bear. I saved the excerpt, taken from the Wall Street Journal, to remind myself about keeping the “light”, which was Barbara Corcoran’s way of describing people with a positive attitude:

When I hire people, I just look for the light in the person, to see what’s good about them. I can spot it a mile away. And I never read a résumé until after the interview because you never know who wrote it, and you can be fooled by it.

If you read a résumé, the interview is nothing but a business small-talk session confirming stuff you just read. So I’ll just ask: “What do you like? Tell me about your mom. Where did you grow up? What’s your hobby? What was your favorite job? Why?”

I’m also trying to figure out if they’re happy, because unhappy people don’t accomplish a lot. I’m also looking for their energy, and if they’re going to be able to see the possibility in anything I propose. Those are the major cards. They cover 90 percent of successful people in the workplace.

Today, while reading about Ursula Le Guin in the Journal, a podcast ad popped up and called out to me. I dropped the great Ms. Le Guin altogether, and got sucked into this interview with Ms. Corcoran instead.

I walked away with lessons on following your gut instinct, not letting the whole gender thing make you feel any inferior. But the best piece of insight in this 23-minute podcast was this: Ms. Corcoran’s secret sauce. I’ve transcribed it here so that we can all see the words come alive in print, rather than hear them running and flying away, not least since they come from an ultra-confident, ultra-fast-talking lady with a thick New Yawk accent:

Q: How did you become so confident?

A. I’m not confident at all. Nobody’s really confident, [it’s] just some of us have a better game, and I learned that my secret sauce is my insecurity. Because I’m insecure about going into anything new, I grossly over-prepare. I over-prepare and over-prepare because I’ll tell you what’s a great alternative to real confidence is over-preparation. … After you start talking with the confidence knowing you’ve over-prepared, guess what, you actually start to almost feel confident. 

Barbara Corcoran: The Secret to Swimming With the Sharks
Wall Street Journal, October 31, 2017
Fast forward to the 7th minute for your secret sauce, but why do that, when everything else is good?

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Make Time To Be Creative

Wylie Dufresne (Image: Food & Wine Magazine)

You have to allocate time to be creative.
You can’t decide to be creative; you have to be ready when it happens.

~ Wylie Dufresne (1970 – )
American chef and a leading proponent of molecular gastronomy


Musings and Impressions
Can you buy creativity? Where and how can you soak it all up?

As a writing teacher, I’m expected to deliver lessons in creative writing to my students. Most times, they expect creativity to resemble what they are being taught at school, which tends to boil down to this one big requirement: they must get the kind of lines and phrases every other kid is being fed with at this tuition center or that other one—those very places that ring up loud and proud ka-chings in their register, thanks to the happy, eager troops of creativity-seeking birds who flock to them.

I don’t, for a moment, believe that creativity, in writing or any other pursuit, is as simple as merely digesting some motif or maneuver and then spitting it out as it is, verbatim as it were, without rendering some thought or effort at adapting it, or giving it a personal touch.

There’s something farcical about revering lines like this: the boy’s heart was beating like an African congo drum, even more farcical—tragic, even—when a kid, or a parent, raves at its sheer beauty, just because some Judge of Creativity deems it to be so wonderful, so delightful, and just perfect! Can’t we all just feel this poor boy’s anxiety? What an apt imagery, the drum going ka-boom, ka-boom, ka-tom-tom-tom—a drum, I must confess, whose sound or timbre or look I can only half-guess at because I’ve never had a chance to touch it or feel it or play it.

But I digress. Let’s get back to Chef Wylie. The point he’s trying to make is that creativity is not something we can merely summon at the snap of a finger. You can’t just “decide to be creative,” which is why when you hear a teacher at school urge the kids to “Be creative!” they’re really only delivering a cool-sounding tip that rings hollow. No student can truly be creative, as far as writing goes, if they do the memorize-and-regurgitate thing.

Chef Wylie’s quote was shared in an On the Table episode, hosted by Michelin-star chef, Eric Ripert, who asked him three questions:

When are you creative?
Do you dedicate time to be creative?
Do you work in collaboration with your team?

Fast forward to 15”15’ on your play bar, and you’ll find both chefs talking about their lightbulb moments, those grand moments when creativity greets them with a surprise hello.

Such glorious moments come because we feed and nourish our minds with ideas, and we open our eyes and minds to fresh, new things, or even simple, day-to-day things with wider, more alert eyes.

So when the majority of our kids are being taught from a menu of prescribed lines, phrases, scenarios, clichés, a menu enriched from age and proven efficacy and our devoted worship, our poor kids really aren’t walking down the path of creativity. They’re just endearing themselves to the path most-travelled, a path I’m not sure their IQs would wholly appreciate.

I think my IQ has been questionable all my life, until I learned to laugh a little and accept our education system for what it is. Earnest, no-nonsense, wholesome, and just delightful!

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