Stalin once famously said, “The production of souls is more important than the production of tanks; and therefore, I raise my glass to you, writers, the engineers of the human soul.” After that lovely toast, Stalin, of course, proceeded to persecute all the writers and thinkers in Soviet Russia, with the purpose of extinguishing the human soul and its intrinsic need for autonomy of thought and self-expression. He recognized the power of such dangerous thoughts and preemptively sought to destroy it. Here we are in the midst of commencement season – and while the class of 2012 deserves many praises – I can’t help but wonder how many of these graduates will become engineers of the human soul. How many will challenge the totalitarian hegemony in their respective circles, pushing the boundaries of the human soul to produce new wonders for the world?
Without meaning to channel Rand or Bradbury or Orwell (and for fear of sounding hackneyed), it’s interesting that most of us want nothing more than to become-one-with-that same dictatorial social hegemony. We absolutely love groupthink, in part because it’s easier than thinking for oneself, and because it’s more socially acceptable to blend in, rather than stand out. Well then – I challenge you new graduates to really consider changing the system – to really tap into your inner ‘soul-engineer’ and see where that might take you. This may mean that you decide to study medicine instead of law, or perhaps you want to enter the world of performing arts instead of joining the corporate world, or perhaps this means not taking that job offer at some large hedge fund or software company and instead, traveling through Africa by moped. Whatever the case – follow your own voice, your own soul. Don’t complacently and listlessly kick back and watch life pass you by. Follow your soul. See where it takes you. Maybe you’ll discover something awesome. Maybe you’ll even discover something awesome about yourself. Just do it.
Have a bite?
Homemade Gyro Meat with Tzatziki
Source: Alton Brown, Food Network, with some minor changes
Speaking of following souls, I have two friends who recently moved to NYC, and I thought a great way to welcome them was with a homemade meal on their first day. And what better way to celebrate one’s first day in New York City than with food reminiscent of the halaal food carts you find at every intersection here in Manhattan. This Alton Brown recipe was slightly altered to add stronger flavor and accommodate my lack of a functioning food processor and rotisserie. Also, you can substitute the lamb with beef, veal or pork, as you like.
For gyro meat:
1 small onion, finely chopped or shredded
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbs dried marjoram
2 tbs dried rosemary
1 tbs salt
1-2 tbs Worchestire sauce [not authentic, but such a good flavor enhancer]
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1 small cucumber, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
pinch of salt
2-3 tsps red wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 lemon
5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced [or a bit of dill is delicious too]
crumbled feta cheese
tomato, small dice
hot sauce [my fav being sambal oelek + a bit of ketchup]
For gyro meat:
Preheat oven to 325*F.
Combine all ingredients and place mixture into a loaf plan, pressing down into the sides of the pan. Place loaf pan into a water bath (a 9×13″ pan works great) and bake for approx. 60 minutes, or until the meat reaches an internal temp of 165-170*F. The meat loaf will have reduced in size and pulled away from the sides of the pan, and released a lot of liquid and fat. Remove from water bath and allow to cool and congeal, perhaps even overnight.
Use a sharp knife, slice the meatloaf into thin strips, about 1/8″ to 1/4″ in thickness. With a frying pan on medium-high heat, warm up the slices of lamb meat and allow to slightly char, to mimic the grill marks that one usually sees on a rotisserie. Serve with pita bread, tzatziki sauce, pickled onions, tomatoes, feta cheese, and your favorite hot sauce.
For the tzatziki:
Combine all ingredients and adjust seasoning as need with salt, acid (lemon or vinegar) and a tiny bit of sugar, so the flavors are harmonious. Let the sauce sit for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to develop. The sauce will keep in the fridge (tightly covered) for a week. Enjoy over gyro meat, or toss with some small boiled potatoes for a quick Mediterranean-style potato salad (similar to Smitten Kitchen’s).
I feel pretty strongly about this topic. All these writers, thinkers, and expressionists, I hope, did not die in vain. While there are those who fight to be allowed to think and express freely, isn’t it then a crime to choose not to do so?