So, I’m in a bit of a quandary with some friends.
Well, okay, the issue is not between the friends and I, but rather, it’s my issues with my friends. You know the type (or rather, you will when I finish describing the type): you dread picking up the phone when they call because you know that for the next hour, they only thing they are going to do is talk about themselves and how great their life is and how many amazing things they have done. I know those are things that would annoying anybody, but it’s not that I even have issues with that.
No, my issues lie with my own failure to be impressed by all the wonderful things happening in my friends’ lives (I’m speaking in plural here, but it’s, uh, actually just one friend, but go with my on the intrigue of this, okay?). I find myself listening to the laundry list of accomplishments my friends boast about and thinking, “These things aren’t really that spectacular, but I am trying to be happy that they are happy about them, even if I don’t think selling your novel to an e-book publisher whose web site looks like it was created by a fourth-grader armed with free stock photos and MS Paint is something to be proud of.”
It’s a terrible thing to think, more terrible to feel, and then on the heels of that comes the guilt for thinking and feeling those things. I realize this may be a trait I’ve inherited from my mother, as prominent as my round face, dark hair, and dark eyes, who stereotypically always questioned why my A’s were never A+’s (“They got rid of A+’s in our school’s grading system five years ago, Mom.”) or never seemed to be all that impressed with any of my accomplishments unless they met some personal threshold for greatness. Not that I blame my mother for my own actions, but she raised me to set a very high (sometimes unrealistically high) bar for myself and I often catch myself unfairly setting that bar just as high for others. I rarely meet the bar I set for myself — what gives me the right to expect that others will?
I don’t know. I just know that I want to stop thinking these things, to become a better, more patient, more tolerant, but above all, a more genuine person. I want to genuinely feel happiness for these people and not focus on only the potential downsides. I want to encourage and share hope with and be a person that makes others feel good. I don’t, however, want to lose my firmly planted stance on the ground, of course. I like to keep it real, on the level, but I need to constantly check myself and shove those automatic critical thoughts away while concentrating on how good my friends feel.
What I am most envious of is how happy and satisfied they are with their lives and accomplishments, which is a thousand times more valuable than winning the lottery or an Oscar or getting on the New York Times bestseller list.
I am not that happy nor satisfied with my own life and accomplishments.
It’s a constant commitment to always remind myself to stop being critical (and I am lousy at commitment), but there is one thing happening in my life that is without a trace of cynicism:
The new nephew, born this past week, happy and healthy and adorable with the trademark Too Much Hair that has cursed me and his mother, my sister. Hello, little dragon. You are an amazing creature and you will do many great things in life. I hope there will always be someone in your life who will genuinely encourage, support, and be happy for you.
And here’s another thing I can’t seem to dredge up any cynicism for: these scones. These wonderful scones that are chock full of flavor.
Not gonna lie: when I saw that my local Whole Foods had Meyer lemons, I may have gone a little insane. I nearly cleaned out the entire box and gleefully made my way home with lemony possibilities dancing around in my head.
A few days latter, they all went bad, covered in fuzzy green fur, whole sides caved in under the rot. As it turns out, Meyer lemons go bad really fast if your air is remotely humid.
A bit miffed at the amount of money I basically threw away, I went to Whole Foods again and purchased even more newly restocked Meyer lemons, this time storing them in the refrigerator to preserve them as long as possible until I could actually make use of them. This worked out just fine.
Lesson learned: unless using your Meyer lemons fairly soon, store them in the fridge.
I don’t know what it is about Meyer lemons that pleases me so greatly. Maybe it’s their almost spherical shape or how their color falls somewhere between orange and yellow. Maybe it’s their less sharp bite when compared to regular lemons. In any case, Meyer lemons are the perfect lemons for baking. And they play nicely with sweet medjool dates.
These scones are moist and dense with dates and lemon zest. The dates create a natural sweetness. Pecans add a hint of sweetness and that crunch that I can’t help but have in 90% of my food. They are absolutely wonderful with the usual scone condiments and just divine on their own.
Lemon Date Scones
Yield: Approximately 10-12 scones
2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c heavy cream, cold
1/3 c granulated sugar
1/2 tsp coarse salt
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
juice of 2 Meyer lemon (produces about 1/2 c)
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
2 c of medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
2 c pecans, chopped (optional, but I like the crunch)
(Best trick to getting buttery, flakiness in your baked goods: make sure your butter is cold and that you handle it as little as possible. I like to cut my stick(s) of butter into tablespoons, then I cube each tablespoon. I remove any remaining paper wrapping if need be, then I wrap them all up in plastic wrap, and toss them into the freezer for an hour.)
In a bowl, combine lemon zest, flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add your cold cubes of butter and use a wide spoon to cut the butter into your flour mixture until it forms pea-sized clumps. Toss in dates and pecans and mix in.
In another bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and heavy cream. Add this to the dry ingredients and, with a fork, lightly mix together until the dough just comes together. The mixture should be moist but not overly wet, and should easily stick and stay together in your closed fist. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring the dough together in about a 1 1/2-inch thick disc. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out discs of dough and lay them out on a parchment (or silpat) lined baking sheet 2 inches apart. Ball together any remaining scraps of dough and continue cutting out discs.
AND THEN, and here’s a surefire way to make sure your scones don’t flatten like pancakes during baking, cover your scones with plastic wrap and pop the whole sheet into the fridge for an hour (or the freezer for 30 minutes if you are impatient like me). After working the dough quite a bit already, you want to make sure your butter is cold enough before it bakes up.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F some time during this hour and make sure your oven is good and hot for some time.
Take your scones out of the fridge and into the oven they go. Bake for 20 minutes. Let them cool completely before serving with wonderful things like butter, creme fraiche, jam, or honey.