This is the time of year for slowing down, taking a deep breath and pondering. Webster’s Dictionary defines ponder as “to weigh in the mind; to deliberate; review; think about.”
The beginning of a new year triggers deep thoughts about all sorts of things: life, and what it’s all about; how we can manage to be better human beings for the next 300-plus days; how to organize our habits and actions to best effect; what to do to permanently lose that extra 10 (or 25) pounds.
We make resolutions. We vow to keep them this time. Sometimes, we actually do. Mostly, we go along the path of least resistance, also known as the “same old rut.” It gets a little deeper, and harder to climb out of each year.
Maybe our ruts get deeper because most of us tend to walk through life looking down, watching where we step, rather than looking up and out. We get used to our surroundings. Sometimes those who live in the mountains or near the ocean with daily access to breathtaking scenery, miss the sight because we forget to look.
City dwellers who live among historic sites, world-class museums, stores that offer unique items and restaurants and markets that sell delicious food forget to seek out the unusual from time to time. We take things familiar to us for granted.
For the rest of this year, let’s all try climbing out of our ruts from time to time – let’s experience some new things. Think about your options. If it’s too much to do all at once, at least take a few steps to the side and make a wider rut. Try something different.
The easiest place to start is with a meal. One simple meal out of three in one of your days is a step in the right direction. Take a chance with cuisine you’ve never tried. It doesn’t have to be fried grasshoppers or liver pudding.
How about a quick trip to France to try a homey, delicious Apple Charlotte?
5 pounds apples (try Golden Delicious or Pink Lady), cored, peeled and quartered
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
15 slices firm white bread (a loaf of brioche is good)
Using a vegetable peeler, cut 2 wide strips of peel from lemon. Squeeze 1 tablespoon juice. Set aside.
In a 5-quart Dutch oven, combine apples, lemon peel and 2 tablespoons butter. Cover and cook over medium high heat until apples are almost tender (about 15 minutes).
Discard peel; stir in sugar. Increase heat to high. Cook, mashing apples and stirring frequently to prevent burning, until apples are lightly caramelized and nearly all liquid has evaporated (15 to 25 minutes). Stir in lemon juice and salt.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread remaining 4 tablespoons butter over one side of bread slices. Line bottom and sides of a 9 by 5 inch metal loaf pan with some of the bread, placing buttered side against the pan and trimming bread to fit.
Spoon apple mixture into bread-lined pan. Top with remaining bread, buttered side up. Bake 20 minutes. Invert onto serving plate.
To serve, cut into slices with serrated knife while warm.
Remember, the most interesting people at your class reunions are the ones with tales to tell.