Struggles and Simplicity

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

-Simple syrup made a bit more complex.-

No one ever said that life is simple. It's supposed to be a struggle. A fight to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, you barely have a chance to savor the victory before realizing there's another mountain there that doesn't give two shits about the climb you just finished. It's a never ending trial, that life of yours.

Still, that's not to say it's all bad. There's a certain pleasure to be found in these challenges that life throws our way. After all, for some, pleasure is pain. We're all a bit masochistic in our own ways and, so, time and again, we submit ourselves to these tribulations, whether they be our education, family, friends, frenemies, or hobbies. Then there's work, which is probably the one we submit ourselves to more than any other. Our high-heeled mistress whom we're all more than happy to have step on us in four-inch heels.

It may seem a bit of a high comparison, but think about it: at various times in your work life you put yourself through torture that you know will be somewhat enjoyable because the eventual payoff is worth it. Once you come to your conclusion, the prize at the end, it's all immensely satisfying and you revel in the challenge you undertook. Furthermore, you usually ensure there's some way out just in case you realize you've bitten off more then you can chew. (The safety word is "run.")

-Perfect after a hard day.-

Of course, not all challenges are quite so. My recent internship was a challenge. I cut my fingers and suffered a few small burns. I had to master skills after viewing them only once. I screwed up a few times and I had to make it work. I took this challenge knowing that there wasn't a way out and that I would happily take whatever the kitchen could dish out. And once or twice I wished I wasn't there; there's nothing fun about peeling, coring, and slicing a flat of baby-fist sized Seckel pears and nicking yourself with the peeler every few minutes. Making the entire kitchen smell due to burning a gallon of caramel turned oil slick black certainly isn't a keen experience either. Hazing is something you should expect and embrace in a kitchen each time you get it wrong.

Then you deal with it and do it once more. I marched back to the burners with a new pot and fresh ingredients knowing that I might fuck it up again, but realizing there was less chance I would. I learned from previous experiences and knew that sooner or later got the results I wanted. Success is an ego-boost to be sure, and while it was physically and mentally exhausting there are benefits to that hard work. For example, I'm quite proud of the muscles in my arm that I strengthened from whipping up so much sabayon; a task that requires a good thirty minutes of whisking at the speed of a bullet train. My bicep is now built like a butcher's dog. It's a fantastic feeling.

Still, that isn't to say the simple acts in life don't have their advantages. Simple is quick, easy, relaxed, and less likely to explode in your face or burn your wrists with a hot pan. It's tossing some spices into a pot of sugar and water and blending up a simple (See? Right there in the name.) syrup for cocktails of vodka and soda water.

So, sometimes, life isn't a cliff to scale but a hill to meander. A mistress wearing flats. You can enjoy those easy victories too, laid back joys that help push you through the tougher trials.

Sometimes, just keep it simple.

Hibiscus Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 strips of orange peel

Place over high heat and stir until mixture becomes clear and the sugar has dissolved. Allow to steep for thirty minutes. Pour through a sieve to remove solids. Cool to room temperature and use in ice creams, sorbets, poaching liquids, and cocktails.

-Of course, after this, I have a wedding cake for you to make. Ready?-


  1. Despite the subject matter, you sound very relaxed in this post. The simple syrup cocktail, perhaps? Well done.

  2. I absolutely love your writing!

  3. Great blog, puts everything into perspective and a good recipe to boot.

  4. Would you have any suggestions on a recipe for a non-alcholic drink.
    I'm not really into alcohol,but I would like to make a nice relaxing drink with this wonderful syrup

  5. I would suggest just plain soda water. =)

  6. Gorgeous photography! Love the shot of the liquid falling into the glass. Sophisticated.

  7. Yum! I'm a big fan of hibiscus and elderflower together. I bet this would be fantastic with St. Germain and soda water.


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