Go for It!

I was speaking to a friend just a few minutes ago whom I love because we often think alike and don’t judge. And the conversation struck a chord because we were basically talking about taking a risk, to get to the life she ideally wants.

Without getting into it, she was basically debating whether to stay in the safe zone, or go for a semi- crazy adventure, which could not only be fun, but also could lead her to turn her passion into a career, in a way she had never thought of on her own.

We weighed the pros and cons together, but quickly realized that the cons were so weak that it was all a mindset problem, rather than a true negative. It was just fear. The worst case scenario was still nothing at all. And in fact, it often is the case for most of us.

Think of a similar situation for yourself… What is it that would make you truly happy? What would give your life purpose? Or what would make you excited to wake up on Monday morning? (Mind you, I am typing this at 10:14pm on a Sunday) Have you figured it out?

If you think your idea sounds crazy, don’t. Because mine is probably more unrealistic than yours. As you know, for me, I have decided that it would be to become a full time writer and talk show host/ motivational speaker.

Now let’s consider the worst case scenario for myself. What am I doing about it? I am only working on my blog here, my podcast via itunes and sound cloud , and my book, all at the same time. Although it takes a while to work on them, what is the worst possible situation?

  • That I finish my book and not find an agent or publisher willing to give it a go? Then I could self publish.
  • What if no one wants to listen to my funky podcast? Well it’s not like I have the whole city listening as it is, and the true purpose is to practice my “public” speaking if you will, and improve, and I am already learning how to improve a little more each time.
  • And what if this little blog doesn’t get further than just random thoughts, coming from frantic writing, on my laptop, in my room? The purpose of the blog is to express myself, it’s my art, and I already feel the release I need from typing this up, before even clicking “publish”.

So what have I got to lose? Nothing.

Now back to you, what have you got to lose by trying? Nothing serious. What have you got to lose by not trying? Everything.

I often hear that many people’s biggest fear is to not live to their full potential. It is mine as well. But what is that said potential? Only we get to decide what that is. You define that full potential, yet you are the same person limiting yourself to not achieving those objectives you set for yourself.

Yes we may have many limitations: Work, school, finance, time, health, and the list goes on. But if you have set an objective for yourself, you are the only one limiting yourself.

time-calendar-saturday-weekend-60032.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What can you do? So many things.

  1. Believe it. If you don’t find this goal possible, then who will? Fake it until you make it.
  2. Use an agenda, dissect the big goal into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks to make it less intimidating.
  3. Think of each project as a trial and error. You will fail, but when you do, think of the failure as a lesson, meaning that “ah, this is not the right way to get to this goal, so let me find another method”, or like a GPS, “this is not the right route to get to the airport, let me turn around”. You will get lost,  but you wouldn’t miss your flight because you took the wrong turn, would you? Try a different approach, and don’t stop looking for your yellow brick road.

Maybe I stress these things to encourage myself as well. Of course, I don’t have all of the answers because I am struggling to get to my full potential just like you. I imagine that even Oprah and Tony Robbins motivate themselves to get to where they want continuously.

But that’s what this life is all about, overcoming small,medium, and large challenges, give and take, and celebrating it all along the way.

Therefore, whatever it is that will make you happy, go for it!

 

A Helping Hand

group hand fist bump
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

When I first started college, I was referred to an alum from my area of study as a mentor, to guide me through the tough years of college life. And she was beyond sweet, such as by sending me fruit baskets during finals. Consequently, I was very thankful for her, especially when I needed perspective.

And with time, I learned to pick my own mentors, especially when I started my career. I usually would choose someone in middle or senior management, or someone who I looked up to. But more often than not, that person would not be in my age bracket, nor be as junior in their career as I was.

But why can we not reach out to fellow young professionals for mentorship, at our place of work?

I am a mentor. You are a mentor. We are all mentors to each other.

This all came to mind when this week, I met with a colleague of mine, where we have very little age difference.

She was sharing her struggles in the workplace, such as managing expectations of your boss, dealing with co-workers who block you, as well as work-life balance.

And it dawned on me, that although I am not necessarily “senior” to her in terms of hiearchy, I have experienced many of the same challenges. It was so refreshing to discuss similar issues and offer suggestions, which I hope were helpful to her. And even though it was her struggle, I shared in her pain because I could identify with it. And by just discussing it out loud, it eased both of our pains. It made us feel less alone in these challenges at work, as she confirmed.

However, it’s rare that young professionals lend a helping hand from a motivational perspective. Of course we often help each other with mundane tasks, or worse, we opt for jealousy and competition for some make belief promotion.

But I don’t often see young professionals forming an alliance, to discuss struggles, and offer tangible solutions to help.

I am not talking about gossiping, or shit talking about your coworkers to each other. We all do that.

Instead, why can we not be each other’s mentors as co-workers? Why can’t the girl who is a star in finance, give some pointers to the girl having a rough week in sales? Why can’t the strong performers across disciplines align?

Imagine if all the young professionals, who are top performers in a company, man or woman, created some sort of alliance, which was not forced by HR or their supervisors? Think of it as a business fraternity. Remember those in college?

Why can’t we have each other’s backs? It’s not a me versus him or her.

Why can’t we vet each other on how to best manage our directors and VPs, so that we meet their expectations? It’s a coalition of strong professionals, to better ourselves, and to also make each other look even better in the workplace.

Why is your win, not also a win for me? It danm sure should be.

Come to think of it, I legit want to start this “fraternity” at my current job. And you should too because it’s a win-win.

We need to live life OUR way, and although our approaches tend to be unconventional as young professionals, we have so much to bring to the table.

We should collaborate by mentoring each other, and together be better, braver, bolder.

 

Be The Change

Sunday July 8th 2018 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Riots have been happening all weekend and many of us spent our Friday evening sleeping at work because there was no way of getting home safely. Rocks are being thrown, businesses raided, cars  burnt, tires and rocks barricading the streets. A total mess.

Finally home and thinking about the situation ,amidst gunshots just across the street. The alleged reason for the riots, is a recent  increase in gas prices by over 40% which impacts food and transportation costs significantly, since we import a majority of what we consume. The local government subsidizes fuel, and this is the end of the subsidy.

But it’s strange because within 30 minutes of the announcement, the entire city was blocked. This was well organized. Of course, the population was not thrilled about the price increase, but the reaction was too sudden and too structured. This is not really about gas, but is rather a political issue.
Sure enough, after the President released a message last night, to reinstate the former gas prices, the protesters changed their objective to demand that the President leave office. Ding ding ding!

Riots are not new to Haiti , but this time the younger generation is in the majority. When you speak to Haitians between the ages of 18-35, we are upset to see our country in such a state. What’s more is that with the help of the internet, we see people like us, living decent lives in the US, Europe, or Latin America. It’s no wonder, that many of us flee to Chile, Brazil, Miami, you name it.

We want a better life. Who wouldn’t? But we are not asking for much, we only want the opportunity to learn, to work, to eat, to prosper, to love, to be happy. We aren’t even asking for a giveaway because the minute we go abroad, we aren’t afraid to be masons, cleaners, factory workers, and other manual and unsexy jobs.

We just want the chance to live.

It’s time for us to make a change. Young and old, rich and poor, men and women, we must as a people finally say no. Let us not sit home whispering our disagreement with the situation, but be bold enough to no longer accept that politics destroy our country, while falsely claiming that it is done in the name of the people. It doesn’t matter which party you favor, or if you are not political at all.

We are Haiti, and it’s up to us to fix it.

Even if we cannot economically handle price increases, what benefit is there in not being able to go to work, or in stores closing down due to vandalism resulting into further unemployment? What good is there in people being stopped in the street and being mugged while trying to go home? The people did not ask for this.

Violence is never the answer.

We have to make our country progress and not rely on government.

We, the people of Haiti, are the only ones who will save Haiti.  There will be no messiah.

Let us not rely on politicians. We cannot hope for one person to make the change for us, we must do it on our own. It starts by caring about the welfare of the community rather than our own.

We have to learn to give a shit about our country. That’s the clear mindset difference between ourselves and many other nations. We don’t love our nation.

There is no perfect nation and we are not inferior. We just do not love ourselves and our country enough. We put ourselves down, and don’t mind hurting each other for personal gain and that is not loving your country.

I am saddened, ashamed, and exhausted of the situation in Haiti this weekend. I can also see the situation from different perspectives: the protestors paid by the opposition because they desperately need the money, the uninvolved yet silent citizens who hide at home for safety reasons, the politicians in power worried of the situation they have created due to poor planning, the opposition proud of their chaos in hopes of gaining power of their own, and the international community watching the barbaric scene on television.

I choose no side. I choose Haiti’s side.

What now? Now is the time to work on a mindset change. Now is the time to develop a change management program to get every Haitian to  understand, that changing himself or herself, is the only way forward. Let us stop hoping for miracles that will not come true. Let us stop looking at each other for change.

We are each responsible. Let us be that change.

Chasing THE Dream

I keep being asked, “what do you want to do when you grow up?”

The problem is that my answer is never conventional. First of all, am I not already all grown up? I mean life is full of challenges, and adulting is not fun. In fact, I could use a refund, but it also comes with the freedom to eat what I want and travel to cool places when I can afford it, so life is also good.

Now back to THE question. My answer is usually one of the following :

  1. To be happy
  2. To eat delicious things
  3. To travel
  4. To write, out of  a cool apartment as an office, then go home to my real house
  5. To be a motivational speaker, and my favorite….
  6. To be Oprah

Yes, Oprah. I want to be a talk show host, despite the fact that I live in Haiti. Even in a time where talk shows are less popular, I want to talk and get paid for it. Writing is also fun, but I think talking takes the cake.

Unfortunately, that often doesn’t fit in the corporate org chart. But we all know that I am unrealistic, but that side of me is my strength, and I refuse to let it go. This sense of adventure is what makes life exciting, enjoyable, and thrilling. And it’s perhaps the reason why you keep reading my random thoughts.

So, I spoke about THE dream to one of my friends, and she tolerates my lack of realism and I love her for it. She encouraged me to start a podcast, and I am strongly considering it. I was in fact just googling the “how” and of course, it’s not as simple as it seems. But it also seems very exciting. I want to do all the research and be sure to commit with regular posts.

Would you be interested in listening to a podcast version of my blog? Send me comments. I’ll try to use my “sexy” voice.

I think it would also be called “Tasting It Like It is”. Food will surely be a core topic, but I was also thinking of mixing topics, from work-life balance, to motivation. But more importantly, it would be very honest.

I want to inspire, and make you realize that you don’t have to fit the mold. No matter how absurd your dream seems, chase it!

Does it Taste Good Because it Looks Good ?

 

 

Disclaimer: Ok, per my last post, I visited the Emilia Romagna region in Italy (among other cities), just to eat. So you’re going to hear a lot about it, until you can’t stand it anymore, and you’ll have to go for yourself. And it will totally be worth it, especially if you value food as much as I do.

During my time there, I was happy to find some unexpected, yet delicious desserts, particularly when it came to the presentation. Of course, the flavors of the desserts were familiar, but I was often surprised by the presentation. It’s the little things that get me going. Let’s talk about fun plated desserts in Italy, and whether it’s all in the perception (presentation) or reality (taste).

On our first evening, we ordered tiramisu, a very traditional dessert, at Savini in Milan. What wasn’t traditional however, was the the flower bouquet we received.

For starters, the contrast of a brown dessert on a matte black plate was not only atypical but also so exciting. I was expecting the generic hotel white plate. But the plating made the dessert feel exotic, before even tasting it. Next, the cream was applied via pipping, rather than layered, or should I say splattered, as I am accustomed to. The style really highlighted each ingredient so that I could visually appreciate each one, but once I stuck a spoon in it, all of the ingredients married well to the taste.

I particularly liked the thin chocolate topping, shaped like cheese with perfectly round holes punched in. But the cherry on top were the gold flakes at the center, for a true contrast on the dark dessert, and the even darker background. Very chic and appropriate for Milan.

The dessert in of itself would be a 6/10 believe it or not, nothing to write home about (though I am writing), but the visual effects gave it an 8. I think there was too much cocoa powder, which made me feel like I was choking, and I kept reaching for the water. Also, the cream was carefully applied, but it wasn’t so flavorful. Sorry.

But overall, it tasted good because it looked good. Perception is reality.

 

Speaking of flowers, how about gelato flowers? Not only in Milan, but also in Florence and Bologna, I was happy to get gelato, more so for how cute it looked than how good it was.

My most memorable scoop was also, just ok, but the fact that each flavor resembled a petal, made me want to save the ice cream, rather than eat it. Well, only for a quick second. Of course, this was Italy, so it was still delicious, but again, the presentation curved the taste grade from a 5 to a 7.

A good presentation can sometimes sway  my judgement; however,  an overly simple presentation can make me underestimate a good dish. One of my favorite desserts of the trip was in the heart of Emilia Romagna, Bologna to be exact. It was at Osteria Bottega, which was off the beaten path, but the place was packed!

We opted for a wine and cream flavored pear. Sounded totally weird, but that’s exactly what it was: a whole pear, cooked in a wine reduction, with spices, then plated over a generous bed of Italian pastry cream. Overly simple. The cream of the area is full of sugar and egg yolk, so it was of strong yellow tone, to bring out the red of the whole pear, chilling on top. The dish looked rather rustic, yet bold, but it smelled so good, that it was also inviting.

Very simple, but maybe one of the best things I ate on this trip. It was rich, sweet, and spicy, while also playing with a mix of temperatures, as the pear was warm. This time, the fun plating was maybe a 7, but the dessert was a whopping 9. Yet, it was the simplicity of the presentation which also blew me away. So unexpectedly good. I was pleasantly surprised.

IMG_7256
Credit: The Guardian- Tanya Gold

I saved the best for last, with one of our desserts at Osteria Francescana in Modena. It was Bottura’s famous “Oops, I dropped the lemon tart”. That dish is famous because allegedly, the Chef had dropped a tart, and found a creative way to plate a broken dessert.

The plating in this case absolutely blew me away because the plate in of itself looked broken, yet it wasn’t. the bumps were visible and clear to the touch, yet were matte and safe of course. It was so much more than a gastronomic experience.

The lemon in the tart was more yellow in color than I was accustomed to, but it made it fun, especially as the sauce was splattered across the plate. The crust was broken and reassembled carefully, with crumbs sprinkled around the plate.

When I finally built the courage to taste it, I realized that the portion was way too small. It was the right balance of sweet, sour, and crunch. I was scrapping the plate, and had to quickly compose myself due the loud noise my spoon created, against the bumpy plate. But again, the plating was the star at a 10, and the dessert at an 8, for a average score of a 9.

So a fun plated dessert definitely sets the stage in a positive way, but appearances can be deceiving, like in the case of the tiramisu. Perception can also be deceiving when the plating isn’t so special, but don’t be fooled by the flavors hiding behind them. Bottom line, it can taste better because it looks better, but take it with a grain of salt.

 

My Love Affair with Cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano

You already know that I love cheese, but as of April, it got a little bit more serious.

My cousin and I took a trip to the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy, which is the land of Lambrusco wine, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, mortadella, bolognese sauce, and Parmigiano-Reggiano to name a few.

As the geek that I am, I made sure to include a tour of a Parmigiano cheese factory. And no, they did not pay me to share the link, but that’s how good it was. It was so cool! So much so, that I’m still nibbling on the cheese I brought home with me, as I type this up. Don’t worry I stocked up.

First and foremost, it’s not called parmesan, and only cheese produced from the makers within the region approved by the consortium, can be called Parmigiano-Reggiano. They are all made under strict guidelines, inspected and stamped. It must be DOP approved, which means protected designation of origin.

Now enough with the lesson.

We got to see the milk boil, thicken, cut, shaped and packed into rolls. So geeky yet so fun to watch! Also, I now understand why there is writing on the rind. They use a rubber film, imprinted with the name and the DOP license number to show that it’s authentic.

My favorite was seeing the salting process. They literally put the rolls in a bath of salt water for dayssssssss. I had the chance to taste the water it was bathing in, and it was salty enough to give me high blood pressure on the spot. But that’s ok, that’s what makes it taste so good.

Next, we got to visit the room where the aging takes place, and there was more cheese in the room than people. And you know how I feel about being overwhelmed by food? I was smiling from ear to ear! Maybe that’s how shopaholics feel when they are overwhelmed by clothes at their favorite stores? I wouldn’t know.

The tour got more real when we had the chance to go to the stables, and meet the cows who produced the milk. It doesn’t get more farm to table than that. It also made me happy that the cows and their young were being treated well, fed natural grass, and allowed to go running in the field after.

At the end of the tour, I was able to purchase a few chunks to take home for family and friends. Although, I ran through my 48 month aged piece in 2 weeks, and currently snacking on the 24 month aged cheese I got my grandmother

And the highlight of the trip, was visiting Osteria Francescana by Massimo Bottura in Modena. His restaurant is rated #2 in the world, and I totally understand why. It’s based in a region with amazing ingredients, and they aren’t afraid to use them in a creative way.

My favorite memory was a dish strictly made of Parmigiano called “Five ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano in different textures and temperatures”, where all of my senses were engaged.

IMG_6133
Fives Ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano
IMG_6066
Bio Reggiani Dairy

IMG_6069

 

The plate began with a creamy sauce of Parmigiano, which I seriously wanted to lick off, as well as two soft textured cheeses similar to a ricotta, one very close to a souffle. It’s wrong of me to use the word ricotta, but I am trying to give you some imagery here, so bare with me. Next there was a foam like texture, and the final piece was a galette or crunchy cracker, as the cherry on top.

Side step- the galette would make for a great snack when I’m crashing at 3pm at work.

Each of these five stages was made of pure cheese, of different ages, and the dish was by far my favorite at Francesca. Totally worth the 4am wake up call, several months in advance, for the reservation alone. It also helped that we had passed Cheese 101 only a day  before, to give a shit about the complexity of the dish.

The entire experience at Francescana was too good to be true, and more to come on that later.

Now that I’m back home, I made cacio e pepe pasta with plain elbow macaroni, with a generous portion of the 48 month aged Parmigiano. It was so good, that I scraped the pan, and licked the leftover cheese on the spoon I cooked it with. We also made mac and cheese, and it was so much better than usual!

I have realized that Parmigiano-Reggiano is officially my magic potion. Though realistically it could also be nostalgia after eating it everyday for a week back in April. I have to check myself sometimes, sorry.

I promise however, that it was very very good.

But the moral of the story is that, we tend to  undervalue Parmigiano and have been seriously missing out. Next time you go to pick up cheese at the store, don’t be afraid to pick up Parmigiano-Reggiano and eat it alone, or with crackers. It doesn’t have to be something to top your pasta with, as long as it’s the real DOP deal.

But also, don’t buy cheese which is just called “parmesan” because that means it’s not as good and that you’re honestly selling yourself short. And we are not in the business of living a partly fulfilling life! Even worst, never buy boxed cheese from the counter, to top your pasta with because let’s face it, it’s not even cheese.

The experience opened up my eyes to the value of cheese, to the importance of proper sourcing, and to the endless possibilities in transforming cheese. It made me fall in love with cheese all over again.