Thursday, January 1, 2015

One Little Word, 2015

Sometime in the last week or so, it occurred to me that the new year was creeping nearer. As the talk of One Little Word simmered, I started a list of possible contenders in my writer's notebook and would daily add a word or two that would be deserving of my attention in 2015. Everything on that list appealed to me for it's own reason--from feelings they tapped to the challenge they issued. In the end, the word that I've picked is not a feel-good, glitsy word, but the very first word that came to mind when I started listing.

Last night, the last night of 2014, I made Tarte au Sucre. 

For those not on the up and up with French-Canadian cuisine, Tarte au Sucre is a one-crust sugar pie, made with brown sugar filling. Despite growing up in Madawaska, a small Maine mill town on the Canadian border, I had never attempted this sickly sweet Acadian treat. I hadn't even "helped" anyone to make it. But, my father was determined to see me use the new Acadian cookbook he gave me for Christmas, and he has a bit of a sweet tooth, too. When he asked for Tarte au Sucre for New Year's Eve, I headed to the kitchen.

Tarte au Sucre filling on the stove. On medium-low heat.
The recipe itself is pretty simple. In fact, I think I know it by heart already. All of the ingredients go into a pot at the same time, and the mixture is brought to a boil over medium-low heat. 

I imagine if there is a way to mess up this recipe, it's right there: medium-low heat.

Because, you see, the filling sat on the stove-top and and needed to be tended to. I had to continuously stir and stir and stir. If I didn't, the bottom would congeal, and once it did, the lumps wouldn't dissolve again into the desired smoothness. There was no stopping or looking away or multi-tasking. I had to keep the spatula moving, sometimes scraping, over that medium-low burner.

It took a long time.

Ok, it probably didn't, really. But it felt like it did. I was tempted to turn up the heat to expedite the cooking. I was teased by the conversations being had without me in the other room. I was happy to prepare this pie, but I wanted it to happen quickly, too.

There, in the kitchen stirring the brown sugar filling round and round and round over...yup, medium-low One Little Word choice was starkly clear.


Because this scenario with the sugar pie is emblematic of so many less tangible things for me. Too often I am impatient. I'm not short-tempered (usually), and I'm typically patient with other people. But I am horribly impatient with myself.

I cause myself undue pressure by expecting things to happen quickly. I beat myself up when I don't seem to move fast enough or make enough progress on an unrealistic timeline. I have a half-million wonders, but I don't like to wait for answers. I don't want to wait to know or see or discover...I want to arrive quickly. I coax others--students, colleagues, friends--to be patient with themselves, to embrace their journeys, to allow themselves room to practice, grow, evolve...I teach, for goodness sake! But I apply a harder, less forgiving standard to myself.
My first-ever Tarte au Sucre

Being patient will mean accepting my abilities and my limitations, trusting time will help me "be." Patience will prompt me to slow down and curb the pressure. Giving less attention to the destination will heighten the path to "getting there."

In 2015, I want to be more comfortable with the need to stir the filling steadily, continuously. I want to embrace the time spent heating the filling as part of the process to the sweetness to come.

And the pie?
It got good reviews. 
I'll save you a piece.


  1. Great word Melissa! Hoping you all very best in the new year!

    1. Thanks, Gigi. It's fitting, I think. And it really is harder than it might seem!

      Happy New Year to you and your family. See you in a couple weeks!