Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Perfection Principle

Last night, I had friends over, so I made some Thai curry seafood stew.  I used too much curry paste and had to doctor like crazy to make sure my guests' kids didn't run crying from the room after their first bite.

I also tried out a new Parmesan cheese spread recipe, which was slightly underwhelming. People seemed to like it well enough; they just didn't love it.

I did, however, make some Thai spring rolls that had my guests fighting over each piece and wishing out loud that I'd made more (I'm sorry!!!).

And then, I decided to take my shiny new blowtorch out for a test drive and see what that baby could do, so I unearthed a recipe for classic creme brûlée. Unfortunately, the cooking times stated in the recipe were way off and since I didn't know any better, I put underdone custards in my fridge and just assumed they would magically set.

They looked pretty good, too, when I was done torching them, and I was feeling like a badass. Until I cracked the perfectly caramelized sugar crust and the cream bubbled forth like nonsense from a plagiarist senator's lips.

"Your flavors are perfect," said Rod,* who also happened to be a pastry chef. "You just need to bake them for a little longer next time.

"In fact," he added, as he reached over to pour his creme brûlée over a slice of chocolate cake, "now, it's a perfect creme anglaise."

Over wine, Cheetos (What? It was for the kids!) and okay-but-not-perfect Parmesan cheese spread, Camille*, Clark*, Rod and I talked about movies, ghosts and told "We put the 'fun' in dysfunctional" family stories as the kids discovered my cats and proceeded to smother them with love.

Over curry and spring rolls, we talked about boys (past and present), children and work, while the kids surfed the Net, watched videos and chased Gatsby and Misha around with toys, treats and threats of hugs.

Over dessert, we all talked about food (also past and present), then Clark and Rod talked about sports while Camille and I talked about life and love.

Meanwhile,  my poor, exhausted cats surrendered to their small but indefatigable tormentors and collapsed wearily, unwilling or unable to so much as lift their heads off the bed. "If you're my fairy godmother, then they're my fairy godkitties, right?" said my beautiful goddaughter Bernadette* as she promptly laid on top of them.

And as the evening drew to an end, we found ourselves nourished by good food, good wine, and good conversation with comfortingly familiar old friends who had known each other since we were even younger than Bernadette and wondering why we didn't do this more often.

I read somewhere that the enemy of good is perfection. Too many times, we wait until the timing/the circumstances/ the alignment of Mercury, Venus and Mars are absolutely perfect before we take the plunge and do the things we've been meaning to do, or always wanted to do.  Too many times, we think my body/my lover/my kid/my creme brûlée/my life isn't perfect, which must mean my (insert your own word here) must suck and we must, therefore, wait for whatever it is we're waiting for to get better.

As I get older, however, I'm finding myself slowly letting go of the perfection principle. I'm realizing that those wise sages in Aerosmith were right when they said, "Life's a journey, not a destination." And yes, I know I found out when I Googled Emerson said it first.

These days, I find myself obsessing less about doing things perfectly and focusing more on just doing them, period.  Because it's so much more fun than waiting for Mercury, Venus, and that new planet they just discovered to perfectly align.  And also because I've learned that when life hands you a runny creme brûlée, you turn it into a badass creme anglaise.  And then you have an absolutely perfect evening.

So, tell me. What have you been meaning to do?

*Names have been changed to protect the perfectly delightful.

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