By Bonnie Fishman
I had a blissful couple of hours today sitting under an umbrella on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif.. There was an intense sea air smell, beautiful cresting waves, and a nice breeze. I was unapologetically being. In 2009, when I retired after 30 years of owning and running a bakery/restaurant/catering business in suburban Detroit, for the first time in my entire life I was unencumbered with work responsibilities. I even threw myself a “celebration of life” party. True “being,” not “doing”–what a big difference! What does that look like? I would run into old customers of mine, still do, who would ask what do you DO now? Do you teach cooking classes? NO. Do you cater a little? NO. Do you cook for anyone? NO. What do you DO then? My pat response has been “I’m living my life.”
Again, you ask, what does that look like? The day is mine. I wake up when I want, sit on my porch with coffee and write, and communicate with the outside world. I may take Chester, my 10-month-old Springer Spaniel, out to the neighboring fields to chase birds and play with his BFF, Elsa May. I swim laps, maybe go to the grocery store, come home and fix a nice lunch. Hang. Be. Present. Try it some time. It’s quite thrilling really if you can come to grips that your life purpose at any given moment may be being instead of doing.
I have done plenty in my nearly 70 years on earth. From the age of 15 until I was 57, when I was forced into retirement (a story for another column!), I had filed W-2 forms each year except in 1971 when my mom died. That year, I spent the summer up in West Branch, MIch. with my family. We didn’t work, we mourned.
The food business is a physically hard business with many stresses coming at you from all angles. I loved it anyway. I had a long run of 42 years. During that time I also went to college, studied at the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in London, got married, raised two children, bought and sold real estate, lived in three different residences, maintained a cabin in northern Michigan, and traveled. Just “being” wasn’t in the cards. I didn’t even know what that meant. I could never picture myself NOT working, until my unexpected retirement. If it weren’t for that, I would still be slaving in a hot kitchen. What an eye-opener! I could be or do whatever I wanted on any given day. I effortlessly transitioned to a state of being. Forget that doing! I had done enough.
What I have noticed lately is that out of that being comes doing. Hey, is that spontaneity knocking on my door? Perfect example: I was down in L.A. visiting my son and his family. Ben and I, as per usual, head to the farmer’s market, one of our favorite bonding activities, as we both love to cook. We’re browsing down the first aisle and I spot treviso. Now there’s a vegetable that I don’t see much, nor have ever eaten or cooked it. Treviso is a mild variety of radicchio that ranges from the size of a small Belgian endive to a large head of Romaine lettuce. Wouldn’t that look great grilled and placed on our holiday table? So I buy it, all $24 worth. You gotta love these farmer’s market prices. The vegetables are pampered and live better than most people in America!
Back to Ben’s chef’s kitchen and we collaborate on how to deal with these beauties. We don’t want to do a disservice to this swanky lettuce, especially at that price. The end product was a success at our feast. I have recreated the recipe below. However, in talking about it, we allowed our imaginations to run wild and came up with a few riffs on the basic recipe:
1) Put the finished treviso in a casserole, cut side up, sprinkle with bread crumbs and Parmesan, then run it under the broiler for a couple of minutes.
2) Sprinkle the finished product with crumbled bacon, chopped tomatoes or chopped hard-boiled eggs. Drizzle on some bleu cheese dressing, thinned out with lemon juice. Voila, you have a take on a wedge salad.
3) Serve with a poached egg on top. Pass the hot sauce.
4) Consider these cooking techniques for radicchio, baby boy choy, Belgian endive or small heads of Romaine hearts.
In your own state of being, your mind has an opportunity to create. Lettuce hear your own ideas for grilling this healthy treat!
Yield: 8 servings
4 small, tightly packed treviso
1/4 c. olive oil
fresh ground black pepper
juice of 1 small lemon
Trim the very bottom of the treviso, being careful not to severe the leaves. Remove any blemished outer leaves. Cut the lettuce in half lengthwise. Place on a cookie sheet cut side up. Brush the treviso with the olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Turn over and repeat
on the other side.
Heat a grill to high. Char the treviso, cut side down for 1-2 minutes. Turn over and cook 1-2 minutes more. Turn heat down to low, cover the grill and cook for 3 minutes a side.
Place the treviso on a decorative platter without stacking one on top of the other. Squeeze on the lemon juice. Drizzle on the balsamic glaze in a zigzag pattern crosswise. Serve at room temperature.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.