Vanilla rice pudding with stewed plums. Almost perfect.
I read once that Mark Zuckerberg has “Done is better than perfect” painted on the wall of the Facebook HQ. That stopped me in my tracks and I have revisited the statement and point behind it more than a few times.
Done is better than perfect.
Does he really want people to write imperfect code? Not double check their work? Promote the product incorrectly? What good could possibly come from allowing, or encouraging, people to finish a project before being sure, double sure, triple sure it is perfect? Tons, as it happens. The quest for perfection rarely leads to perfection but it can be cited in codes never being written, work never being published and projects never being completed.
I’ve struggled with perfect v. done for a few months now and it has crippled my output. My writing has suffered. I’ve lost collaboration opportunities with talented photographers and great publications. I am so terrified of the horrible first draft that I won’t even take pen to paper. “It was a dark and rainy night…” I type and then go make a cup of tea, pay some old bills, reorganize my sock drawer and make a meal plan for the week. Oh well, I’m out of time, I tell myself and go pick the kids up from school leaving nothing done. Imperfect as possible.
In the beginning, I took on food writing and blogging as a way of keeping a foot in the culinary world. My real passion is restaurants; running them, working in them, promoting them, opening them, discovering them. I put myself through college waiting tables and bartending and I moved up and up and up until finally my dream job landed on the table: Opening restaurants all around the world for a joint venture between a hotel company and a fantastic global chef. The job offer came in with the caveat that it would start in 6 months and that I could live anywhere in the world that I wanted. Safe in that knowledge I quit my job, fell in love, travelled and got pregnant. When the call came for that dream job to start, I had to decline it. And that was the end of my career in restaurants 9 years ago.
So now I am a blogger.
I did not come to this world through a love of prose. I am not a natural born photographer. I don’t have a fantastic niche and I will never be hosting my family from a tiny kitchen in Manhattan or an enormous ranch in Oklahoma. I am never going to be an award winning blogger. I am never going to be an award winning photographer. I am unlikely to ever again attend the James Beard awards or see my website on Saveur.com. I even arrived to food blogging a decade too late, and I know that too. And every day I wonder why I am still going.
But I cook. I eat. I travel. I love food and all that comes with it. The nourishment, the stories, the entertainment, the collaboration.
I may have to squeeze cooking in-between planning and travelling with three children, dinners, playdates, house moves and visa applications. There are only two hours each day that are quiet and I try to squeeze in a week’s worth of cooking, shooting, shopping and planning in that time. It is so imperfect, but each day, at the end of the day, it is also done.
And what I am good at is telling stories and I have an interesting life. I grew up in a world much different than the one I inhabit and every single day that goes by leaves me in appreciation for how my life has turned out and the world my children inhabit. So I will keep telling my story. I will keep sharing my recipes and my minuscule insights. They keep me going and I hope that they will offer you some insight. And if not, I hope they will at least offer you ideas for dinner.
They may not be perfect, but they sure are good.
Although I have to drop in that this rice pudding recipe is damn near perfect, so there’s that.
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup vanilla sugar (or 1/2 cup granulated sugar + 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 12 small (or 6 large) Plums
- 1 bottle (750ml) heavy red wine
- two handfuls of ripe plums
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large orange
- First make the plum reduction. In a large pot empty entire bottle of red wine and add 1/2 cup sugar and the juice of 1 orange. Add large strips of zest from about half of the orange. Simmer for 45 minutes or so until the liquid reduces by half.
- While the wine is reducing, de-seed the plums and slice into chunks. Discard the seeds and add the plums to the liquid after it has reduced to cook for about 30 minutes. The liquid will reduce more at this point and the plums will be rich red throughout and falling apart.
- Combine the arborio rice, milk, vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract + granulated sugar), cinnamon sticks and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is soft. (If it is running out of liquid before it gets soft just add more milk or water and continue to stir). Remove from heat and stir the heavy cream throughout.
- Either serve immediately with the rice pudding in a bowl topped with the plums or set aside for serving after dinner. If it sits for a while the rice will dry up a bit so just warm up a bit more cream (1/2 cup or more) and then stir that through the rice to soften it up for serving.