Resistance and Fig and Feta Tartlets
Why are you here?
Do you know?
And by “here”, I don’t mean this blog, your computer, or your kitchen. I mean Here in this world.
Currently, my income is generated from cooking lessons, which most recently entailed teaching teenagers how to make French desserts. It was fun, a lot of fun—their eyes lit up with every lick of their spoons, their faces awestruck as they watched the egg whites get foamy and swell in the bowl until glossy peaks formed. It was magical for me, if not for them. I love to cook, and I’m blessed that I can share that love with others. But it’s not why I’m here.
I am Here to write, a fact that took me three and a half decades to discover and some extra time to accept. In seventh grade I graduated from passing notes in class about Dave Hoover to capturing my fears and dreams in a bound, unruled notebook covered in pink satin. Strong math skills partnered with an unquenchable desire to please my mom and an immature notion of success led me to structural engineering. But I never stopped writing. Journal entries became poems, essays, stories. I imagined sharing them with someone someday, but I never did. After all, writing was just my hobby.
In my mid-thirties–somewhere between losing my mom and almost losing my husband–I came to understand that my constant craving to put pen to paper was much more than a hobby. It’s why I’m Here. I was born a writer. I will die a writer.
Feeling called to do something, however, even when you feel it with such an intensity that you cry at the thought of not being able to do it, isn’t enough. There is another force at work, a force that Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, calls resistance. Resistance plagues us all whether or not you consider yourself to be a writer or an artist of any kind. Anyone who started this New Year with a 21-day detox or a raw food cleanse understands resistance. Pressfield identified the activities that most commonly elicit resistance:
1. The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.
2. The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.
3. Any diet or health regimen.
4. Any program of spiritual advancement.
5. Any activity whose aim is the acquisition of chiseled abdominals.
6. Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.
7. Education of every kind.
8. Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.
9. The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.
10. Any act that entails commitment of the heart—the decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.
11. The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity.
In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.
I battle resistance each and every day. The battle is lost when I find myself in the closet I share with Greg organizing his stuff, because my side has already been purged and reorganized, and purged and reorganized again. If not the closet, resistance lures me into the kitchen to practice making macarons for a party, or to the basement where I can spend a satisfying hour rearranging my burgeoning pantry of jams and pickles. Resistance leads me anywhere but the place my heart knows that I need to be: at my notebook or computer, channeling my muse and working on my book, the same book though with arguable differences that aren’t worth noting here, that I’ve been working on for three years now.
At night I set my intentions for the next day—“I will write!”, promising myself that tomorrow will be different. My grasp on optimism tightens while I’m running or practicing yoga. And then resistance takes over, and I’m elbow-deep in bread dough. To be fair, the distractions aren’t always of my own making. A sudden urge to organize the recipes ripped from the pages of Saveur, or to whip up a batch of savory tartlets can be overshadowed by a hard drive crash or a thick stack of near-due bills. Such urgency, real or contrived, keeps me from doing what’s most important, what I’m Here to do. At the end of those days, I’m angry and deeply ashamed by the ease with which I can break a commitment to myself.
I’ve tried a number of techniques to instill discipline.
“Schedule your priorities rather than prioritize your schedule.”
“Don’t consider what you want to accomplish for the day (or year). Consider instead what will disappoint you at the day’s end if left undone.”
But deep in battle I’ll argue that if I can just get everything crossed off the list, I’ll be free of the “shoulds” and all the background noise that keeps me from my higher calling, and then I can focus on my book. Even though I know that background noise is really just life. It will always be there, if not hiding in a stack of bills, then waiting for me with a flat tire.
This year I made a new commitment to myself, one that I vow to keep: I’m going to accept the background noise and work in its midst. No more excuses. I treat my book like a job. I go to work every day, not just when the closets are clean. I work out, muscle through my emails, develop a gluten-free menu for a new client and send out a few cooking party proposals for the job that pays the bills. Then my real work begins.
Fig and Feta Tartlets
Think of these tartlet shells as a blank canvas for your favorite fillings. Replace the feta with fresh goat cheese or a creamy Gorgonzola, if you prefer. Or substitute a slice of brie for the cheese filling and top it with apricot jam and hazelnuts.
24 wonton wrappers, 2 1/2 inches square or round
olive oil for brushing
2 ounces feta cheese
2 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup fig preserves
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Orange zest (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Press the wrappers into a non-stick mini muffin and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Remove the tart shells from the muffin tin and set aside to cool.
- In a small bowl, combine the feta cheese, cream cheese, honey, heavy cream, black pepper, and sea salt. Mix with a fork until the mixture is creamy and smooth.
- Spoon a generous teaspoon of the cheese mixture into each wonton shell. Top with a teaspoon of the fig preserves. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts.
- Place the tartlets on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until warmed through. Sprinkle with orange zest if using. Serve immediately.
Makes 24 tartlets.