Friday, October 9, 2015

Room for Cream

If you are afraid of butter, use cream.
   —Julia Child

A. Diary-Do
I was in Denver earlier this week, enjoying an all-too-brief 44-hour rendezvous with my partner, Susan. She had flown in from Minneapolis Friday to help celebrate her daughter's birthday, and I joined the party Sunday evening after wrapping up a weekend of consulting in Colorado Springs.

Monday morning Susan and I went out hunting coffee, settling on a local caffeine emporium named Thump that was recommended by her daughter. As I like my coffee strong, the name was promising.

When we ordered our java, Susan reflexively asked the barista to "leave room for cream," into which category of consumer I likewise fall. Sipping my morning cup of courage, (which was satisfyingly thumping) I reflected on Susan's request and determined that it made an intriguing title for a blog, so I made a note.

B. Dairy-Do
Susan and I like to cook, both separately and together. While this can take many forms, it has not escaped our notice how often we find that recipes are enhanced by the judicious application of cream, especially soups, sauces, and gravies.

About a month ago Susan paused once during an email exchange we were having about our preferred approaches to preparing mashed potatoes, to express appreciation for the simple fact that we both embraced dairy in our diet—which is no certain thing in this day of increased vigilance about the potential dangers of WMDs: wheat, meat, and dairy.

Cream, to our sensibilities, is de rigueur when it comes to concocting first-rate mashed spuds, and we wouldn't be caught dead frying eggs with margarine, or adulterating coffee with a polysyllabic soy-based non-dairy creamer.

Because many adults don't care for dairy products (with the possible exceptions of ice cream and yogurt—for completely different reasons) we will gracefully accommodate those preferences when cooking for guests. However, left to our own devices not only do Susan and I like to cook with dairy, but we are apt to drink milk with sandwiches or cookies—even though we're both on Medicare. In fact, I am known to enjoy whole milk so much that I am prone to make a couple glasses of it the entirety of my midday meal.

Thus, it turns out that we are afraid of neither butter nor cream, and Susan even has a magnet on her refrigerator festooned with the opening quote from the French kitchen diva herself, Julia Child.

C.  Daring-Do
Cow products aside, there is another meaning to the phrase, room for cream, which refers to allowing yourself to excel; not being afraid of excellence. There are those who go through life with an upper limit on achievement for fear of being held accountable for a standard of replication that they are not sure they can meet. 

The idea here is that it is safer to not try too hard. Less will be expected of you and you will find yourself less often in moments where you are stretched to capacity (or beyond). In essence, these folks eschew cream because they'd rather minimize performance anxiety and are willing to except a lifetime of blander fare to avoid performing under pressure—when they are working at capacity and the stakes are high. They are willing to forego ecstasy to avoid exposure to agony.

Someone once described flying an airplane as long hours of unremitting boredom punctuated by brief moments of sheer terror. In my experience learning (or personal growth) entails putting yourself in a position where you can be exposed as a fool—often in front of many witnesses—and I have sympathy for those who find that possibility paralyzing. You can limit the moments of terror by being prudent about the chances you take (for example, never flying aircraft), yet this comes at the stultifying price of low exposure to new material.

For better or worse, I always leave room for cream, both because I'm addicted to learning and because I'm dedicated to service, and always think I can make a positive contribution no matter how dire the circumstance. (It was a peak experience for me years ago when a long-term member of a client group came up to me and said, "I hear you're fearless.")

This does not mean I always make good choices or that I am always effective in the work I do, but it does lead to an examined life and plenty of opportunities to get better.

Yes, reaching for the cream can lead to expectations that may not always be possible to meet, yet who wants to go through life settling for the mediocrity of 2% milk?

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