Qu'est-ce que c'est le "Bellybar"?! Got a hankering for dill pickles and peanut butter? Or does the mere scent of a saltine send you running for the door? Well hold on to your breast pump, help has arrived... Click here to find out how!
If you're a new parent, there will come a time when either you or your spouse will say these words: ''Let's take the baby to a restaurant!'' Now, to a normal, sane person, this statement is absurd. It's like saying: ''Let's take a moose to the opera!'' Click here to read the entire column.
Hi-tech developers and marketers have an inherent distrust toward each other as marketing feels that developers are overpaid with huge egos and developers feel that marketing is just a waste of money.
My friend Kendall says there are 3 sides to every story: one side, the other, and the truth somewhere in the middle so I guess there’s something to be said for both sides but an interesting dynamic none the less that I observed while working at a Huge Software Company. I fortunately landed in a group that was comprised of half development, half marketing so I could watch this human Petri dish spawn before me.
Developers at software companies are treated like demi-gods. They are after all the “assets” of a hi-tech company. They received the highest salaries, most stock options and, most disconcerting, the best offices with views of the Bay or the hills while marketing was banished to the dark inner cubes with artificial light. You might think that a ray or two of sunshine would slip through their office windows but let me remind you that it was developers occupying the offices with windows.
So?, you ask? Well let’s just say that had I not noticed the corporate ID badge on a few of these developers at above mentioned software company, I would have called the police. More than a few looked like they’d lived on the streets for years while their personal net worth could actually relieve the combined national debt of most 3rd world countries. Caveat: Now no one in my group was and not all developers are like this, so I am stereotyping, spare me the nasty emails, but more than a handful would qualify under this description.....
They are part bat working from 3pm until 3am at the earliest, personal hygiene is optional, haircuts and shaving are non-existent as that would take unnecessary time away from coding or playing Death Star, and the blinds are shut tighter than a drum lest any Vitamin D whatsoever penetrate their Star Trek t-shirt to their blindingly white skin which made any blemish resemble Rudolph’s nose. So a cross between Bart Simpson and a vampire would be relatively accurate. Ironically, they spent most of Monday lunch recapping the previous evenings’ Simpson’s episode, quoting it verbatim followed by peals of laughter.
Now what does this have to do with the funniest human being on the planet? Oh yes, that. Sorry. A rather large portion of Dave Barry's fan base (or target audience in marketing speak) are hi-tech developers who can also quote his columns verbatim, hence my introduction to Dave Barry. Their disgust of me was palpable when I asked them “Who is Dave Barry?”
Only the funniest human being on the planet, that’s who! One of the developers, bedecked in a South Park t-shirt, handed me Dave’s most recent book at the time and only a few pages into it I wholeheartedly concurred. While savoring his columns I inevitably laugh out loud, more often than not with tears rolling down my face.
His depiction of Rollerblade Barbie still makes me cry—you might remember this when he demonstrated it on Late Night with David Letterman years ago and nearly set Dave’s desk ablaze. Unfortunately Dave, Barry not Letterman, is on hiatus but I receive a weekly email with a link to a previous column and some highlights from his blog. I hope you enjoy his writings (old or new) as much as I do!
“We’re having an Epiphany dinner.” “You’re going to Tiffany’s for dinner?” “No, an EPIPHANY dinner!” “Do they have Tiffany’s in Paris?” “No, an E-PI-PHA-NY DIN-NER!” “That’s so cool! I didn’t know you could have dinner at Tiffany’s?!” “Never mind! I’ll send you an email…”
That is how my conversation went with my friend back in San Francisco the other day as I walked down rue Mouffetard garning many stares and glares. I don’t know what I did before cell phones and have become so dependent on them (like email & internet), that when they don't work I am near incapacitated (more so than usual). I guess that says more about me than the technology. Bad cell phone reception is one of my (many) pet peeves—have you tried having a conversation while driving down Hwy 280 in the Bay Area? How is it that there is no cell phone coverage in an area that is home to 90% of the world’s technology??? No wonder the bubble burst! Sorry, you got me started, back to Epiphany…
Here is the email I sent my friend in San Francisco after our above mentioned conversation. Imagine her disappointment upon realizing that she couldn’t have dinner at Tiffany’s…I won’t print what she wrote back!
There are so many wonderful traditions and customs I have learned since landing on the southern shores of France eight months ago and Epiphany is one of them. Having been raised Catholic, I vaguely remember it was a “Holy Day of Obligation” which I guess means your ‘obligated’ to go to church… something inherently wrong in that concept to begin with but anyways… As you know, my parents were C&E Catholics, Christmas & Easter Catholics—Christmas and Easter being the only time they set foot into a church other than my First Communion and Confirmation, so I didn’t have a firm grasp of all the rules of the church… and regardless of the fact that we went to Catholic schools… I never associated Epiphany with a special celebration, must less a lovely, flaky, buttery, almondy cake.
To ensure that I didn’t incur the wrath of my pastor by publishing some garish mis-information, I did a quick google search, and as it turns out it is a good thing I did, but please correct me if I am wrong anywhere along here. Epiphany celebrates the 3 Wise Men (or Magi) arriving in Bethlehem to bring gifts to baby Jesus. (I thought they arrived in Dec 25th!) Epiphany is also known as the Three Kings’ Day…makes sense so far. These Wise Men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts. Gold, I’d be psyched about, but frankincense and myrrh is nothing more than incense made from resin or tree sap mixed with spices. Good think Jesus was a baby and didn’t know any different! If I were Mary, I’d be rather annoyed. This is after all the Messiah, the Savior of the World! Now this is where Tiffany's would have come in handy as something in a little blue box with a snow white ribbon would have been much more appropriate...but I digress…
My google search also turned up a Christian web site that states: “Epiphany is the climax of the Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are counted from December 25th until January 5th.”
Two things popped into my atrophying brain: 1—I am surprised that, given the outcome of our recent presidential election and subsequent (and ongoing, unfortunately) efforts to mingle church and state, a Christian site would use the word “climax”. Perhaps “culmination” would have been more apropos? I’m sure once someone points this out to said site, it will be removed expeditiously. Where are those red state people when you need them? and 2— Forgive my abject stupidity (see above mentioned C&E parents, Catholic school and atrophying brain) but…..that is where the 12 Days of Christmas comes from?! Did you know this? And to think that all this time I thought it was just a cute Christmas carol… Oy vey! I am certainly going to hear about this when I get back…
Another wonderful aspect to this Epiphany, not Tiffany, tradition and the main reason it is such a BIG DEAL in France is the Galette des Rois, or Cake of the Kings. On a French cooking site it was translated as the Twelfth Night Cake. I am learning so much, I love it! When you buy them in a store they come with a gold paper crown, like the kind they used to give out at Burger King. I know I am dating myself again… and YES, I have eaten at Burger King. I have usually regretted it afterwards, but I have eaten there, however not since reading Fast Food Nation, thank you Eric Schlosser! Sorry, back to the Galette des Rois…
It is a flat, round “cake” made from puff pastry (pâte feuilletée ~ pat foi-TAY) and filled with almond paste or frangipane (FRON-ji-pan), kind of like an almond croissant, but I am sure that is considered blasphemy here. Carefully placed inside the frangipane is a little trinket, or "fève" (fava bean) as my roommate Pierre informed me that that was the first trinket used, and whomever gets the trinket in their slice of galette is the designated king or queen for the day and allowed to select their own queen or king.
I am living in Paris but had to read about it in the New York Times (I really must improve my French!) that there is an intense competition here for Paris’ best galette. François Vacavant, from Pain et Passion (Bread & Passion) bakery, took home the coveted prize after finishing 19th last year. I’ll have to stop by there after the crowds subside as last years’ winner said his business doubled after he won. Another little tidbit I gleaned was that people for some odd reason collect these little trinkets and one person, a former train conductor, actually admitting to having over 60,000! My my... I am at a loss for words...for once...so on that note, Happy Epiphany, not Tiffany!
Galette des Rois
1 lb (approx 500 g) puff pastry divided in half (or...buy 2 rolls of pre-made puff pastry dough!) ½ lb (approx 250 g) frangipane 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water 1 trinket or “fève” 1 gold paper crown
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF /175ºC /#5
2. roll out half of the puff pastry into a circle, or simply unroll pre-made puff pastry dough.
I know I am a disgrace to my profession but if you want to spend 2 days making puff pastry, knock yourself out. I am all about ease and fun while cooking so it’s pre-made puff pastry dough for me!
3. spread frangipane on dough leaving about 1 to 1-1/2 inches around the border.
once again, if you want to make frangipane from scratch knock yourself out…
4. roll out second half of the puff pastry into a circle (same size as the first), or simply unroll second pre-made puff pastry dough.
5. lay it on top of the dough with frangipane. trim the edges to make it even and as circular as possible (not necessary if you bought the pre-made dough!) and press down on the sides around the border to seal.
6. whisk the egg and water and brush on top of the pastry.
7. bake until golden brown. check the bottom (with a spatula, gently lift up from the edge) and if it’s not cooked and the top is getting too dark simply lay a sheet of foil loosely over the cake and continue to cook until done. Let it cool before serving.
8. place crown on head of person who finds trinket. select king or queen.
or... you can skip step 1. through 7. and buy one complete with crown, like we did! :-)
By the way, "Patisserie Pur Beurre" at the bottom of the box means 'pure butter pastry'. You don't see that too often in the US! God, I love this country!
Bonjour mes amis. It seems that my last post had an unexpected side effect. Many of you wrote that you now felt depressed with your middle-class lives. My deepest apology as that was never my intention. I was simply trying to explain the angst and frustration that tormented me. I found Herb Payson's words much more profound than the trite and tired analogy of the hamster furiously scrambling on the wheel and getting no where that came to my mind.
If nothing else, I would hope that it would give you some insight as to why I was the way I was and what in God's name stirred me to me make such a dramatic and seemingly irrational change with my life. Well now you know. It comes out of an inner turmoil that I was for years unable to describe or define or understand, nor resolve expeditiously... that and the need to, for once, do something meaningful with my life besides build websites that no one really cared about.
Another thing that came to mind... Once I was able to extricate myself and then look in, I realized that in living in the Bay Area we are bombarded daily by visions of success as we are led to believe success should be (10,000 sq ft homes, hummers, country clubs, Lear jets, IPOs, etc.). Everyone has a name followed by a title or descriptor, ie: John who took two companies public; Mary, employee #5 at Google; Tim, who's worth $x-hundred million, etc.
We are also surrounded by some of the best and brightest and wealthiest and when we compare ourselves or our lives or our possessions to this, most can't help but slot themselves in the middle (or near the bottom as I did). Anywhere else in the world our lives would dare be labeled middle-class, nor would our temperament be considered malaise. With the exception of a few cities in the world, where would near million dollar homes or a salary well into the 6-figures be considered middle class? No where, as luck would have it, except for my own backyard. Which is why I had to make a change... I was tired of doing the best I possibly could and still feeling mediocre, like that damn hamster...