Of all the good things in my life, and there are plenty, today's guest writer is at the top of the list. Thank you to Christopher Windom for sharing his story. He's usually behind the scenes editing my words every Sunday night to greet you on Monday mornings. He gets to be front and center today. Leave him some love in the comments below!
Maybe you can relate. As a young eater, at mealtime, I would taste every bit of food on my plate. The food I liked the most I would save for last so that I could finish my meal with my favorite flavor on my tongue. In my grade school lunches, my mom would pack a little orange Tupperware container of Del Monte Fruit Cocktail. I loved the little juicy halved cherries so much, and with only one or two of them in each serving they were like treasures. Instead of eating them then and there, I would stick them in my pants pocket to save for later. More often than not, I would forget I put them there, leaving my mom to fish out tiny fuzzy fruit during laundry. (Sorry Ma'Dear.) That was my first experience of the tragedy in setting your prizes aside for some supposed future delight.
In January of 2013 I had an onset of a major depressive episode. I know I’m not alone in this condition. Many go through it; privately, isolated, seasonally or not, doing our best to mask the pain and shame of unliftable sadness as we try to go through our “normal” daily life. I’m fortunate to have a small team of support, and I’ve learned to recognize a wave of depression before it hits hard. I can start to take action to minimize or curtail some effects before that wave crashes to the shore of my life. At least that’s where I am now. I don’t take anything for granted.
One of the tools that helped me manage my depression was simplifying my life. I did things like become a weekend Facebooker. I downsized my activity schedule and beefed up my meditation practice. I studied minimalist philosophies and I de-cluttered…a lot. I called it the Year of Curating.
To curate means to select, organize and look after the items in a collection. I applied that concept to other aspects of my life like my emotional life, thoughts and behavior. To kick-start that process I went online to search for tips on organizing. The first link I clicked led me to what would become my mantra for the year; “You don’t have to organize what you don’t own.” When stuff and things and clothes have piled high, we usually go out and buy a container or something to put those things in. But guess what…now you have one more thing to take care of!
I started to sort through my belongings and realized in most cases I didn’t need or want what I was trying to contain and save. I was holding on to things just in case it would help me solve a future dilemma, or because it reminded me of a past delight. Part of what fueled my depression was the lack of hope for the future blended with the anguish that perhaps my past hadn’t amounted to anything worthwhile. I realized I needed to stop inviting future problems into my present life by letting go of those “emergency” items. (When will I ever need three full rolls of Scotch tape all at once??) I faced the truth that I no longer had a use for certain items, or they didn’t ignite that spark of delight anymore. In either case, those objects weren’t helping me live in the present. The more I brought my attention to the present moment I could see what was enjoyable, sustainable, satisfying, purposeful, essential, and fun. Today I can look at projects, objects, negative thoughts and emotions and say I don’t want to take care of that anymore. When I stop and think about them as things to take care of and not just things to have, I’m more mindful of the projects, objects, thoughts and emotions I choose.
Depression was holding me back from the important life decisions I wanted to make, and it wasn’t being helped by all of the daily little decisions that needed to be made, like which shirt to wear. If I had 100 shirts in my closet, and I did, I felt obligated to wear them all. I had shirts that I liked and shirts that I loved. I would wear the ones I liked first, saving the shirts I loved for some future awesome day. I curated my closet and got rid of the shirts I only liked. Today I have fewer shirts, from which to choose, which make laundry and getting dressed easier, and I’m left with only the shirts I love. Now I only wear love-shirts and every day becomes an awesome day. I have a new saying – Save The Best For First!
My minimalist aesthetic isn’t something completely new to me. One of my favorite snacks is a minimalist concept. The classic grilled cheese sandwich. The warm melty goodness of cheese and bread is comfort food that’s easy to make for a solo lunch at home, or an after theatre nighttime snack for you and your sweetie. I used to be a prepackaged, sliced cheese and white bread kind of GCS maker. Today I curate my ingredients. I choose quality gourmet, fresh cut cheeses. No pre-sliced processed bread. I choose nutty, dark whole loaves that I have to slice myself. (A bread knife is one of my favorite kitchen tools.) Experiment with a variety of cheese combinations. Experiment with the type of bread loaf you use. A cranberry-walnut is a great choice. Make sure the bread has lots of air pockets so the melty cheese can mix with the mustard and mayo. Oh, yeah….this ain’t your mama’s classic GCS.
Awesome Day Grilled Cheese Sandwich
(Makes 2 sandwiches)
- 2 slices each of sharp cheddar and Swiss Cheese
- 4 slices of bread cut from a whole bread loaf. The grainier, nuttier, darker the bread, the more flavor. Sourdough is a great option too.
- Dijon Mustard
- Course salt and freshly ground pepper (optional)
- Softened butter
- Preheat your skillet or pan on medium flame.
- Prepare your sandwiches by slicing four slices of bread 1/2 inch to 1 inch thickness. Pre-sliced bread is okay (big yawn), but slicing into a whole loaf gives you the quality experience you deserve. On the inside of two of the bread slices, spread mayonnaise on one slice and Dijon Mustard on the other. (I love mustard. You can find a range of mustard blends. Experiment beyond the yellow mustard variety.) Sprinkle a half a pinch of salt and twist or two from your pepper mill; this will add a kick of seasoning. Layer on your cheese slices and gently close your sandwich.
- Lather the outside bread sides with soft butter. It is possible to use too much butter on your sandwich, but I dare you to try.
- Low and slow is the way to go. Turn the flame to a lower heat before laying your sandwich in the skillet. About three to four minutes each side should do the trick. Buttered bread gives a golden brown sear, but a little dark crust will give flavor and crunch, so don't be afraid to grill it a little longer. Just keep an eye on it to avoid burning.
- Remove the sandwich and place on a cutting board.
- Patience! Don’t slice into it right away. The delicious cheeses will ooze out on the sides. You want the cheese in your mouth, not the plate! Let the sandwich rest for a minute to let the cheese settle and bind.
- Eat it paired with tomato soup or pommes frites. I pair it with a glass of soy milk, but you can find your favorite beverage.
Christopher Windom is a NYC based professional Director/Choreographer. He’s a St. Louis Cardinals fan and he’s never met a meal he didn’t like. You can find out more about him at www.ChristopherWindom.com or follow him on Instagram @cwindom5