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1001 minus 437

My last post was about a book I found at a small, independent book store in Vermont. It’s called “1001 Foods to Die For”. This week I went through the book and figured out what, among its pages, I had already eaten. Discounting foods that I have eaten but don’t remember the taste or texture, that amounted to 427 items, so my goal this week was to decide on 10 foods I was going to try new or revisit.

The 10 items were: scrambled eggs (a Julia Child recipe which is VERY different from my usual), raclette and quark cheeses (both new), tandoori chicken (revisit), Indian lentil soup (new), bhaji (Indian fritters)(revisit), blini with caviar (new), Devils on horseback (new), and eggs two ways: sunnyside up and over easy (both revisits).

I have to start with the scrambled eggs. For a long time – years – I have had egg issues. Plainly put, runny eggs gross me out. I suspected at some point in my youth I was forced to eat something that was not cooked properly, and  that had such an impact on me that I just decided that runny egg yolks and soft eggs were disgusting. I realize that this was an incredibly limited view of the venerable egg, so I wanted to give them another shot. Enter Julia Child.

Julia made scrambled eggs using a completely different method than I was used to. My normal procedure was to get a non-stick fry pan pretty dang hot, spray with Pam, toss in some beaten eggs and fry until set. Julia’s method starts with a cold pan and slowly heats the eggs, adding butter at the very end, resulting in a creamy, velvety egg dish that is diametrically opposed to mine in both texture and flavor. I was a little hesitant to start with a cold pan, because I thought the eggs would stick, but they didn’t, which surprised me no end. Serving them up with some rustic toast, I sat down to try them. They looked good, and smelled good. I put the first forkful in my mouth and almost gagged. They were soft! Not at all the firm scrambled eggs I am used to. I had to look hard at them to make sure they were fully cooked, which they were. I tried again, and managed to get both eggs down ONLY if I put them on toast and didn’t look directly at them, so the soft texture was masked by the crunchiness of the toast. It sort of worked. At least I didn’t barf. I realized, however, that change of this nature is not instant. More work was needed.

Scrambled Eggs

  • 8 eggs
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tsp. water
  • 2 T butter, for cooking
  • 2 T softened butter or whipping cream
  • parsley (optional)
  1. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the seasonings and water for 20 – 30 seconds, to blend the yolks with the whites. Smear the bottom and sides of the cooking pan with butter. Pour in the eggs and set over moderately low heat. Stir slowly and continuously, reaching all over the bottom of the pan. Nothing will seem to happen for 2-3 minutes as the eggs gradually heat. Suddenly they will begin to thicken into a custard. Stir rapidly, moving the pan off and on the heat, until the eggs have almost thickened to the consistency that you want. Remove from the heat, and they will continue to thicken slightly.
  2. Just as soon as they are the correct consistency, stir in the remaining softened butter or cream (I used butter), which will stop the cooking. Season to taste, and serve. Serves 4.

Adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

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The same day as my first egg attempt, I went to a local store that has a fabulous cheese department and picked up raclette and quark cheeses. I brought these and a wedge of duck and goose liver pate to my friend Tee’s house and we had a leisurely lunch. She made a focaccia bread and flan, put out some olives and we sat and chatted for a few hours. My idea of the perfect lunch! The raclette cheese has a nutty flavor not unlike Emmenthaler. Is this cheese “to die for”? Mmm – probably not. It’s good, to be sure, but not to die for.

Quark cheese was a surprise to me. It has a texture similar to ricotta and a flavor like plain yogurt. It is very simple. We spread it on the onion/rosemary focaccia that Tee made and it was absolutely delicious. I would like to try to make it into a filling for cannoli. It is completely unremarkable on its own, working as a chameleon ingredient that ingratiates itself with anything it is paired with. To die for? Mmmm – probably not.

The big surprise of that meal was the pate covered in aspic. By placing slivers of the aspic on the hot bread, it melted into a sexy, unctuous liquid that was DIVINE mixed with the fresh rosemary and caramelized onions on the focaccia. Best part of the meal!

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The next day my husband and I dropped our daughter off at college. We went out to lunch at an Indian restaurant (for a “last supper” of sorts), and had one of the best Indian meals I’ve had in a long time. Even though it was a buffet, there was a wide variety of food offered, and I took a teeny bit of almost everything. The items that were in the book were tandoori chicken, lentil soup, naan and bhaji (vegetable fritters). I discounted the naan because I’ve had that a billion times and it’s a fixture in my mind. Nothing new to explore there.

Tandoori chicken. Ah, tandoori chicken.

This one dish is sort of the bastard child of the Indian repertoire. You know it’s related to all that other delicious Indian food, because it LOOKS similar. Its bright red exterior looks exotic, as though it has been dyed by the same pigments that color the brilliant sari fabrics of India. However, tandoori chicken is usually a gross disappointment, because it is cooked far beyond reason, usually resulting in a chalky, pasty blob that only vaguely resembles chicken. This was an incredibly pleasant surprise. The chicken was tender and moist. It was dark meat, to be sure, and had the gentle flavor of warm spices mixed with the subtle tang of yogurt and lemon juice. It was the first time I have EVER had tandoori chicken and wanted more. So, of course I had it. It is a wonderful thing to learn that a dish you thought was crap, an embarrassment to an entire culture’s cuisine can, in fact, be sublime and wonderful. The truth is, it’s very hard to cook lean meats in a tandoor oven, because a temperature only a few degrees too hot can ruin even the best cut.

The lentil soup they presented was so tasty I wanted to take some home. It was unlike any I’ve ever had before. I’ve eaten a lot of lentils and other legumes in my life, and this combination of flavors was a surprise. It was earthy and spicy and had a kick of acid at the end, as though vinegar has been floated on top just before service. I made everyone at my table taste it. I don’t know if they liked it, but it was really, really good. What I learned here is that even an old workhorse like lentil soup can surprise you. Never discount a dish you think you’ve tasted before – you might be in for a very pleasant surprise.

The final dish from the book that I tried that afternoon was bhaji, specifically vengaya bhaji. Onion fritters. Shredded onion, flour, chili, cumin, garlic and cilantro rolled in a ball and deep fried. They look like messy little meatballs but are crunchy, satisfying packets of oniony goodness. They can be dipped into any variety of sauces – I chose to eat them plain that day to savor the sweetness of the onions. They were divine!

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Saturday I wanted to try something totally new. I went with Devils on horseback, which is a riff off the oyster version called Angels on horseback. I also decided to make real blini with caviar and sour cream.

The devils could not have been easier. Seeded prunes wrapped in half a slice of bacon, secure it with a toothpick and bake at 450 until crispy, turning at least once, about 15 minutes. That’s the basic recipe. You can throw an almond in the prune, you can do all sorts of variation, but that’s your standard devil. I baked them, took them out, and tasted one. Good, not great. The bacon was crispy, the prunes chewy and dense. However, the concentrated sweetness of the prunes overpowered the saltiness of the bacon. Nothing to die for, to be sure. I decided to try some additional flavors. I topped some with spicy brown mustard, some with hot sauce. Roasted garlic went on a few, soy sauce on a few, and balsamic vinegar on the remaining ones. The roasted garlic and hot sauce did nothing for these poor things. The soy sauce kicked up the saltiness of the bacon, making them a little more balanced. The spicy mustard was really, really good, but the balsamic vinegar gave them an acidic punch that accentuated the sweetness of the prune and contrasted with the fattiness and saltiness of the bacon. I learned an awful lot about combining flavors before I realized that I had eaten 15 prunes at one sitting. That’s a lot of fiber at once. (gulp) No fear, it was all good in the end… 🙂

Blini are interesting little things. Silver dollar sized buckwheat pancakes made with yeast and whipped egg whites to leaven. The finished batter had a texture that was almost mucilaginous. Definitely not your average pancake batter. The pancakes, cooked in unsalted butter, were crispy on the edges and fluffy in the center. An absolutely beautiful example of what a pancake should be. I topped a few of the little cakes with equal parts of sour cream and caviar and popped them in my mouth. Salty, creamy, tangy, crunchy, I can see why these little appetizers are favorites at cocktail parties. They really are delicious!

I have to state here, for the record, that I think caviar is a bizarre food product. When I was a kid, my sisters and I would scoop frog eggs out of the pond near our house. They were smelly, slippery and stuck together, and I’ve always associated the larger caviars with those frog eggs. I don’t quite know why this should bother me – monkeys in the African jungle have been seen devouring clutches of frog eggs, and we’re just slightly more evolved primates. I saw a documentary once on how caviar is processed. I used to think that the fish were “milked” of their roe and then set free. But, in fact, they are anesthetized, slit open, eggs removed and then killed, with their meat sold for food. I suppose I’m philosophically OK with that, as long as the whole animal is used for sustenance. It would be a shame to harvest just the eggs and throw the rest away. The eggs are cleaned, salted and refrigerated, then sold for ridiculous amounts of money because someone said they were fancy food. But I digress… Blini with caviar – delicious, but not good enough to die for…

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Which brings me back to eggs. This week all seems to revolve around eggs.

On Day 4, Monday, I had an urge to try another egg dish. I thought a plain old sunny side up egg would be the ticket. Out came the non-stick frying pan again and in went the egg (one, mind you. I can’t handle two yet). I broke the thicker part of the albumen so it would all cook at the same rate, with no wobbly bits of uncooked white. Blech. Once out of the pan, I took some fig toast and dipped into the yolk. It spilled its thick golden liquid all over my plate. I brought the yolky toast up to my mouth, closed my eyes and bit. My first realization was that it tasted EXACTLY like a hard cooked egg, only it was runny. It was startling to realize that my distaste for runny eggs is a texture issue, not a taste issue. Taste aside, I started to really pay attention to the way the yolk coated the inside of my cheeks and my teeth. Why did this bother me so much? After letting that question sit for a few minutes, it finally clicked. Eating egg yolks reminds me of a horrible experience with boiled okra in college. A huge mouthful of slippery, slimy, green food. Disgusting. I vaguely remember throwing up into a garbage can.

The memory of that okra experience clarified a few things for me. For years I have been hesitant to eat green food that could be considered “slippery”. Avocado and roasted green chiles were things I avoided like the plague, which is too bad, because I cut myself off from a LOT of good food while visiting the Southwestern US. I was especially disgusted if the food I was eating dripped green drips. Blech. I had to put it down and stop eating. For me, it was always a texture thing, but I had transferred the texture discomfort to include taste, thereby ignoring the actual flavor of the food. The problem is, roasted green chiles and avocados taste great! My full circle moment came when I realized the slipperiness and coating properties of egg yolk were very similar to those of okra and that’s why I stopped eating liquid egg yolks. It had nothing to do with any childhood experience, but one much more recent.

The next morning I woke up craving another egg. I made it over easy this time. I scooped up all the yolk with my toast, enjoying the flavor, marveling at the color. Then, due to that realization that eggs are not okra, I even ate the wobbly bits.

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My Favorite Books

95, 96, 97, 98, 99… Believe it or not, that’s the number of cookbooks in my house. 99. They run the gamut from cajun to seafood to Indian to general. Some are VERY specialized (like Gordon Grimsdale’s Book of Sauces), and some have every recipe your grandmother made (Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook originally published in 1948). Since I read cookbooks like novels (front to back, marking the pages with PostIts as I go), it seemed like a good idea to share my favorites with you – let’s call it Coleen’s Book Club. These books are the ones I refer back to time and time again, the ones that have stains in them, dog-eared pages and torn spines. To be sure, I have some favorite recipes in each one of them, but mostly use them as inspiration for my own creations. Check them out!

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The American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond

This book is my go-to book for inspiration for fresh cooking. My first introduction to the Diamonds was when I read Fit for Life in the 1980s. Their philosophy was that one should have only ONE concentrated food at each meal, and this cookbook backs that up. It is a great reference book for cooking grains and vegetables. The recipes are simple, delicious and packed with flavor. Having said that – stay away from the blended salad on page 142. Disgusting!

My favorite salad dressing is in here (pg. 124), the basic “cream” soup recipe I use all the time (pg. 191), and Louise’s favorite hummus recipe (pg. 131). Here is that hummus recipe. As the Barefoot Contessa says, “How easy is THAT?”

Linda’s Delicious Hummus

2-3 T olive oil

juice of 1 lemon (3-4 T)

1 medium garlic clove

1/4 cup tahini

17 oz jar or 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained

Measure olive oil and lemon juice into blender or food processor. Add garlic and tahini and blend until smooth. Add beans and blend until mixture is creamy. (Note – I drop the garlic into a running food processor to turn it into little chunks before I add the other ingredients.)

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A Little German Cookbook by Gertrude Philipine Matthes

This is my go-to book for our Oktoberfests, or whenever Rick is in a wurst mood. It’s a teeny tiny little book (4×5 inches with only 60 pages including the table-of-contents and index), but has nearly every traditional recipe you need. Spaetzle, pork roast, cabbage dishes, sauerbraten, applecake. Yum! Hundreds of people have eaten the food out of this little book – I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth!

Here’s a twist on Sauerkraut (pg. 30) that you might find intriguing…

Sauerkraut

1 lb. can or jar of sauerkraut (use the refrigerated bag if you can find it)

1 small onion, diced

3 slices of bacon, chopped

2 tsp. oil

1 small apple, diced (peel still on)

1 carrot, peeled and grated

1 peeled potato, grated

salt and pepper

water (about 1 cup)

Drain and rinse sauerkraut thoroughly. Fry the bacon and onion in oil until bacon is crisp. Add sauerkraut, apple, carrot and potato. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with water and boil for an hour. (Note – The recipe originally called for uncooked sauerkraut. However, we can only find cooked kraut here, so reduce the cooking time to 15 or 20 minutes or so.)

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International Meatless Cookbook by Jean Hewitt

This is a funny cookbook. It says it’s meatless, but includes chicken and fish recipes, as though their flesh wasn’t meat. Interestingly enough, I use the chicken recipes in here a LOT. The chicken section includes such standards as Brunswick Stew, Sancocho, Tagine, Marengo, Coq au Vin, Cacciatore, Paprikash, Normandy, Chicken and Dumplings, Mole, Scarpariello, Arroz con Pollo, Kiev, Parmigiana, Florentine, Provencal, Chausseur, Vindaloo, Chicken with Snow Peas, Sukiyaki, Scaloppini, Tandoori, Satay, and Teriyaki. It’s a GREAT chicken reference book!

It’s also a great book for soups and appetizers. This recipe (pg. 47) is, indeed, meatless. It’s my go-to hot summer day soup.

Chilled Cucumber Soup (Turkish)

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

16 oz. yogurt (use full fat if you can find it)

8 oz. sour cream

2 T snipped fresh dill

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped walnuts and dill sprigs for garnish, optional

Put the cucumber, garlic, yogurt, sour cream and dill in the container of a blender or food processor. Whirl until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill. To serve, put a T of walnuts in each of four bowls and pour soup over. Garnish will dill. (Note – I never use the walnuts. This soup is best served a day after it is made.)

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Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni

This is the book that changed everything in my kitchen. The more recipes I made out of here, the more I wanted to learn about Indian cooking. The more I wanted to learn, the more spices I bought, and the more versed I became with Indian ingredients. This book is a MUST if you are interested in learning how to cook Indian food. There are sections on cooking techniques used, chapters on spices, herbs and seasonings, and on planning and serving Indian foods. Then the recipes – oh my, the recipes. Some of my favorites are Fish in Velvet Yogurt Sauce (pg. 253), Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce (pg. 274), Cumin and Turmeric Rice (pg. 364) and the following recipe, Masala Dal (pg. 330).

Masala Dal (Spice and Herb laced split peas)

1 1/2 cups yellow split peas (toor dal)

1/3 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. Kosher salt

for the Tadka:

1/2 cup light vegetable oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 1/2 cup finely chopped onions

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 T finely chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

  1. Sort and wash the peas. Put the peas in a bowl, add enough hot water to cover by 1″ and let soak for an hour. Drain.
  2. Put the peas, turmeric and 4 1/2 cups water in a deep pot. Bring to a boil, stirring to keep the peas from lumping. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, or until the peas are thoroughly cooked and tender when pressed between your fingers. Stir now and then to ensure that they don’t stick to the pan. Turn off the heat and beat the peas with a wooden spoon or whisk until finely pureed. There should be about 5 cups of puree. If not, add water until you reach 5 cups. (You can refrigerate the puree for up to 4 days if you want, or freeze. Defrost thoroughly before proceeding)
  3. When ready to serve, simmer the puree over low heat until piping hot. Check the consistency and add water if it is too thick. Set aside and make the tadka.
  4. Heat oil over medium high heat in a frying pan. When it is very hot, add the cumin seeds and fry until they turn dark brown (about 10 seconds). Add onions and fry until they turn dark brown (about 20 minutes), stirring constantly to prevent burning. Stir in red pepper and pour tadka over split pea puree. (It will sputter – don’t get your face too close) Garnish with coriander and serve in small bowls.

(Note – I pour the tadka over the puree when it is still in the pot and mix it in. This isn’t authentic, but I prefer it over having the oil sit on top of the puree.)

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Laxmi’s Vegetarian Kitchen by Laxmi Hiremath

This is a great book. Period. End of story. Seriously, this book contains some of my favorite recipes EVER. Garlicky smothered bell peppers (pg. 98), Garbanzo Beans in Tangy Tomato Sauce (pg. 160), Lemon-Sesame Rice Crowned with Vegetables (pg. 136), Palak Paneer (pg. 166), and the recipe that got my husband to eat cabbage, Gujarat-Style Baked Cabbage (pg. 115). Some of the recipes are complicated, but everything I have made out of this book is wonderful! The pages are coated with stains and scribbled remarks like “Great!” and “Yum!”

This dish should come out with a crispy texture like a potato pancake or hash browns. You can serve it with ANYTHING. If you have a clay baking dish, use it – you get better crispy edges.

Gujarat-Style Baked Cabbage

2 cups firmly packed finely shredded green cabbage

1 medium onion, halved and finely sliced

1/4 cup grated coconut, fresh or thawed (you can use unsweetened dried – just rehydrate in a little hot water)

3/4 cup chickpea flour

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1 or 2 fresh hot green chiles, chopped (serranos are a good choice)

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. salt

3 T mild vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

sesame seeds

  1. Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350F.
  2. Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to mix well. Add the oil and water and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into an ungreased 8x8x2″ baking dish (a 9″ round works fine). Press lightly to spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the top with as much or as little sesame as you desire. Bake until the top is browned, about 45 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  3. To reheat, place the baking dish in a cold oven and turn the heat on to 350F. Bake until heated though, about 12 minutes.

(Note – You can easily double this dish and bake it in a 13×9″ rectangular baking dish. Don’t double the salt, though. Just increase it a little bit.)

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Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen by – you guessed it – Rick Bayless

 

This book was written by one of my favorite chefs. Rick Bayless, owner of Topolobampo and Frontera Grill in Chicago (where I plan to celebrate my 50th birthday) is a master of Mexican cooking. He was working on his Doctorate in Anthropological Linguistics in Mexico when he wrote his first cookbook about regional Mexican cooking. In nearly every recipe, Rick offers variations and improvisations, showing that Mexican cooking is flexible – truly an art, not a science.

This recipe is one of 14 different sauces (salsas) and seasoning pastes that he writes about. It is quick, easy and one of my absolute favorites. Presented here is the version with canned chipotles in adobo, because it’s the easiest. The version in the book also shows how to use dried chipotles (both black-red and tan).

Essential Quick-Cooked Tomato-Chipotle Sauce

3-4 chipotles in adobo

4 unpeeled garlic cloves

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 medium-large round or 9 to 12 plum)

1 T rich lard or olive or vegetable oil

salt to taste, about 1/2 tsp.

  1. Remove the canned chipotles from their adobo.
  2. In a heavy, ungreased skillet or on a griddle over medium-high heat, roast the unpeeled garlic until blackened and soft in spots, about 15 minutes. Cool, peel and coarsely chop.
  3. Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet and place about 4″ from a very hot broiler. When they blister, blacken and soften on one side (about 6 minutes), flip them over and roast on the other side. Cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes. (Note – you can skip this step and use a 28-oz. can of Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, either whole or diced. Just make sure they’re the fire roasted ones.)
  4. Scrape the tomatoes and their juices into a food processor and add the chiles and garlic. Pulse until nearly a puree – it should have more texture than canned tomato sauce.
  5. Heat the lard or oil in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add it all at once and stir for about 5 minutes as it sears and concentrates to an earthy, red, thickish sauce – about the consistency of a medium-thick spaghetti sauce. Season with salt.
  6. This freezes well. You may need to simmer when you defrost it to thicken it up again.

(Note – This is quite spicy with 4 chipotles. The first time you make it, use 3 chiles and go from there.)

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There you have it – six of my favorite cookbooks. I’m curious to know what yours are – please write and let me know. Who knows? They might become one of my new favorites, too!

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Books That Changed My Life

Throughout the course of my nearly 48 years, there are many books that have made a HUGE difference in the way I think and act. I wanted to share them with you one at a time. The most important book I have EVER read is PsychoCybernetics, by Maxwell Maltz. Without being melodramatic, this book truly saved my life. This is a hard story for me to tell, because it’s painful for me to return to that time in my life, but here we go…

* * * * *

When I was in my early 20s, I was in a serious blue funk. It was probably a clinical depression, but since I didn’t tell anyone about it, it went undiagnosed. My parents had moved to Hawaii shortly after my college graduation, and I found myself alone with no one to sit and talk with. There were all these questions about Life, about how to move forward, about what to do with this seemingly useless education. I was lonely and afraid, didn’t want to leave my apartment, and my biggest fear was that I would die all alone. I felt completely unloved. I was so desperate for the familiar that I booked a short-notice, $1500 first class ticket to Hawaii and spent a little time with my parents. It didn’t help in the long term, but it certainly kept me off the ledge for a few more months.

At the YMCA in White Plains, where I was the front desk membership clerk, there was a masseur named Kevin Grady. He would come to my apartment to give me massages, and we would talk for hours. When Kevin discovered my depression, he told me about a book that had made a difference to him. It was called PsychoCybernetics and was written by a doctor named Maxwell Maltz in 1960. Billed as “a new technique for using your subconscious power”, he said this book was worth a study. So I borrowed his copy, read it, then ran right out to buy it for myself. It changed my life. That sounds corny, but it really, truly did.

Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon. He discovered throughout the course of his practice that a large number of the people who came to him for “improvement” really just needed to feel better about themselves. There was no physical defect that needed correcting, no “real” reason for surgery. So he would counsel them on their self-image prior to their surgeries and many of his patients decided NOT to have the surgery after talking with him – they realized they were just fine as they were.

This is one of the earliest books I know of that explores the mind/body connection. In simple, straightforward manner it describes the fact that your body doesn’t know the difference between a real stimulus or an imagined one. If you can imagine yourself in some terrible, horrible, painful situation, your body will respond as if it were actually happening. Imagine that you are trapped in a car that is filling with water and you will get short of breath, your pulse will race, you will get lightheaded. Now imagine that you were on a beach somewhere, feeling the heat of the sun beating down on you, pushing your body into the sand. Your pulse will slow, you will get sleepy and your pupils will dilate.

The key to this book is that it uses this mind/body connection to say “imagine that you are happy” and “imagine that you are a success”. He said that the pursuit of happiness is not a selfish thing. We all DESERVE to be happy. We all DESERVE to feel like a success. Dr. Maltz then goes on to describe a definition of success that he used, using the word “success” as an acronym. It was posted for years on the side of my fridge, and I still refer back to it when I am feeling wonky. This is a radically abridged version.

  • S = Sense of Direction – We have goal-seeking brains. When we don’t have a goal, we tend to wander around in circles, feel lost, and find life aimless. Get interested in something because you WANT to and you will have that sense of direction.
  • U = Understanding – We expect other people to have the same response to situations that we do, based on the same set of facts. We forget that fact and opinion are two different things and that different people see situations through different glasses. Try to understand problems from another person’s point of view and you’ll ultimately help resolve it.
  • C = Courage – Nothing in this world is guaranteed. You should assess a situation, plan different strategies to resolve it, pick the course of action that seems most promising and then MOVE FORWARD. Bet on yourself – you’ll never know what you can accomplish unless you try. Be willing to fail – you can always correct your course, but only if you’re moving forward.
  • C = Charity – Successful people have a regard for other people and a respect for their problems. Try to develop a genuine appreciation for people by realizing that they are unique, creative personalities. Stop and think about things from the other person’s point of view. Act as if other people are important, because, in truth, everyone is.
  • E = Esteem – Get it through your head that a low opinion of yourself is not a virtue, but a vice. Stop dramatizing yourself as an object of pity and injustice. If a person can esteem the stars or all of nature, then that person can also esteem himself or herself because of their inherent worth and beauty.
  • S = Self-Confidence – Work on forgetting your past failures and remember your past successes. Reprogram your CPU (your brain) to “see” success. Everyone has succeeded at SOMETHING. Focus on that and build from there. (A personal note – I remember vividly meditating on this while playing the harp at a restaurant one night. I was convinced I was a total loser, but I looked around the restaurant and knew that nobody else in the place could play the harp like I could, and that was the thread of sanity I held onto that night. It got me through.)
  • S = Self-Acceptance – “Most of us are better, wiser, stronger, more competent – now – than we realize. Creating a better self-image does not create new abilities, talents, powers – it releases and utilizes them… You are NOT your mistakes. You are Somebody – right now!… Accept yourself… Be yourself.”

The book then goes into the “Failure Mechanism” that uses the same acronym format. I present these with minimal explanation, because I don’t want to dwell on them. I prefer to focus on Success, keeping these in the back of my mind as a rudder.

  • F = Frustration, Hopelessness, Futility
  • A = Aggressiveness
  • I = Insecurity
  • L = Loneliness (lack of Oneness) – Remember that Loneliness is different than being alone.
  • U = Uncertainty
  • R = Resentment
  • E = Emptiness

The book then goes on to talk about forgiveness, how to remove emotional scars and unlock your real personality, and offers some do-it-yourself tranquilizers. There are chapters on rational thinking, turning crisis into creative opportunity and dehypnotizing yourself. I could go on for days expounding on the importance of Dr. Maltz’s book, but I will instead suggest that you get a copy and read it. Don’t get it at the library – buy it. You’ll want to keep it around.

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To everyone who reads this post, please remember the Truth about yourself is this:

  • You are not Superior
  • You are not Inferior
  • You are simply You.

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