As a personal chef in New York City, (a personal chef cooks for multiple clients and a private chef has one client. That client gets all of the chef's culinary attention,) I cover a lot of real estate. I’m in and out of beautiful buildings and homes each week. Through the years, I’ve built up relationships with the doormen who buzz me up, give me the keys, or take my bags of food for their residents.
The doormen definitely make me feel good about what I do. They make me feel respected and like I belong in their beautiful lobbies and elevators. I’d like to think I brighten their day a bit too. I have a favorite. Lexington. What a dreamy name, right? He serves in a very special building and keeps very special people safe and attends to their needs with great care.
Last week I was leaving a dinner party in Lexington’s building and had an eight minute wait for my car to come. My eight minute conversation with Lexington inspired this whole blog! As we were chatting, people were coming and going, embracing him, shaking his hand, fist bumping... everyone clearly adores him like I do. I asked what he did when he wasn’t working and he told me he just works. I rephrased my query. “Where do you spend your very hard earned dollars?”
Do you know me? I’m nosy. I ask a lot of questions. Not always my business, not always appropriate. But I am always well intentioned and my need to know comes from a place of wanting to connect. To refocus attention off of me onto you. And do you know my mother? I inherited 100% of her curiosity.
Sweet Lexington indulged my question with a very dear answer. His money is sent home to his mother in Jamaica and he also puts it towards his sister’s college education. He said these words to the floor. I wanted to hug him but chose to give the moment some space.
Lexington raises his head and meets my gaze. I say how that must feel like he’s under a lot of pressure to work. He nods and then says, “I live everyday like it’s my first. Every day is an opportunity to start over. Every day is a clean slate. Every day I have a new chance to not fail.” Then he whispered, “My greatest fear is failure.”
As my car was pulling up we walked to the door. I said I’m sure this building (that might as well be The Celebrity Dormitory of Central Park West,) was full of high pressure. I told him that the people we work for are just like us. We’re all human. The only difference is that they happen to live in this building. But they’re all afraid of failure too.
We said our goodbyes, I got in the car, and I thought about those eight minutes the whole way home. I’ve thought about that conversation up until the very minute I sat down to type this blog post.
This week kicks off the Chinese New Year,! Also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, this is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is commonly called “Lunar New Year”, because it is based on the lunisolar Chinese calendar. Just after the ‘Januaries’ have done their worst, and February leaves me wanting to hide under the warm covers every day, I’m given a reason to celebrate the coming spring!
Every year I share my love for this holiday in a blog post. I love the traditions and foods that celebrate this time of year. I always treat this New Year as a check in — how did my January go? Do I need a reset? I give myself a wish, something to look forward to. I pour energy into a new goal. I get re-inspired.
Lexington served up my 2019 Lunar wish on the silver platter of his humble and vulnerable share. I, too, want to live every day like it's my first. I want to forgive myself of my daily failures and greet each new day as an opportunity to succeed. I want to face my fears.
As I stuff my dollars into the little red Lunar New Year envelopes that I send to my loved ones, I will offer up blessings to Lexington and his family. New Year’s money in red envelopes is known as 'yā suì qián' which means ‘money to anchor the year.’ It’s also known as lucky money.
It’s the year of the pig! Pigs are the last sign in the zodiac — legend tells us that the pig overslept and was the last one to the Emperor’s party. So he had to take last place. In Chinese culture, pigs are the symbol of wealth. Do you know your Chinese Zodiac Year? I was born in the year of the rat. Incidentally, the rat outran everyone and was the first to the Emperor’s party! We’re the first Chinese Zodiac sign. I find this funny because I’m Pisces and we fish are the last of the astrological signs. I guess having a zodiac month in the last position, and a zodiac year in the first position keeps me balanced.
To celebrate the Pig and his wealth, I made homemade fortune cookies! I’m wishing you all a year of abundance, good health, and good fortune. All good things.
adapted from allrecipes.com
Makes 24 cookies
4 egg white
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Write fortunes on strips of paper about 4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Generously grease 2 cookie sheets. (I used silpats.)
Mix the egg white and vanilla until foamy but not stiff. Sift the flour, salt, and sugar and blend into the egg white mixture.
Place teaspoonfuls of the batter at least 4 inches apart on one of the prepared cookie sheets. Tilt the sheet to move the batter into round shapes about 3 inches in diameter. Be careful to make batter as round and even as possible. ( I used the ring of a Ball Jar lid.) Do not make too many, because the cookies have to be really hot to form them and once they cool it is too late. Start with 2 or 3 to a sheet and see how many you can do.
Bake for 5 minutes or until cookies have turned a golden color 1/2 inch wide around the outer edge of the circle. The center will remain pale. While one sheet is baking, prepare the other.
Remove from oven and quickly move cookies with a wide spatula and place upside down on a wooden board. Quickly place the fortune on the cookie, close to the middle and fold the cookie in half. Place the folded edge across the rim of a measuring cup and pull the pointed edges down, one on the inside of the cup and one on the outside. Place folded cookies into the cups of a muffin tin or egg carton to hold their shape until firm.