It’s a bit morbid (and I apologize for the doleful mood), but for the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about tombstones. One day, hopefully far, far away, I will peacefully rest in a verdant church cemetery, surrounded by a well-manicured green lawn, beneath the shade of lovely oak tree. And there I will lay for all eternity, as the seasons erode at the only earthly reminder of my existence. The rains will beat my tombstone, while the winds corrode the words written there. And long after the dust has settled and the moss has invaded the plot, a stranger will happen upon the crumbled stone, and feel the etchings on its surface, wondering what words were once written there. I too wonder what words will be written there.
A few years back, the Harvard Business Review published an article written by the very talented and very successful Clayton Christensen – a professor, a consultant, a businessman, who invented the concept of disruptive innovation. He had earned accolades and degrees from the world’s most prestigious institutions, and had amassed renown and respect in his field. At the height of this career, he developed cancer and began to re-evaluate life, as so many people do when faced with their own mortality and frailty. In this article, he concludes with a section entitled, “Choose the Right Yardstick”, the abridged text of which is below:
“…I have a pretty clear idea of how my ideas have generated enormous revenue for companies that have used my research; I know I’ve had a substantial impact. But as I’ve confronted this disease, it’s been interesting to see how unimportant that impact is to me now…
I think that’s the way it will work for us all. Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.”
Like many young adults today, I have trouble defining that metric. It’s well and good for Professor Christensen to say these things, but it is reality-shattering for many of us to come to the realization that our career goals and educational ambitions mean naught. We’ve been so bogged down and focused on these short-term goals, that we’ve forgotten our bigger purpose in life. In the end, that tombstone won’t mention the salaries, the grade point averages, the revenues, the power or the influence. Instead, the epitaph will detail other successes. For me, that epitaph is still being written every day, and I hope that in the end, I will have lived true to life’s one true metric.
By now, you have probably all OD’ed on ice cream (oh, you’re not? perfect – more to come!), and perhaps are looking for something cooling, satisfying and less heavy. Well you are in luck. My friend Steph of Seasonal Taste recently made a deliciously healthy and seasonally-appropriate beet and arugula salad. It was the perfect light meal for one of these nasty NYC summer days, where the air is pregnant with humidity and temperatures breech 90*F. Using her instructions, I have recreated it below. Enjoy!
Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
The best way to cook beets – after lopping off the roots and giving them a good scrub, wrap them individually in foil, and roast in oven at 400*F for an hour, or until a knife easily pierces through the flesh of the beet. This is the best way to preserve the sweetness (to not lose it in the boiling water) and circumvents potential messes (all the mess is contained in the foil packet). Once cooled, simply run the roasted beet through cold water, and gently push the skin from the flesh. Voila and ready to eat. Recipe serves 4.
2 large beets, roasted and thinly sliced
16 oz mesclun/spring greens [Steph uses arugula only]
1/4 small raw vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2-3 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 c dried cranberries [optional]
1 c walnut halves
1/4 c sugar [or 2 tbs maple syrup if you aren’t comfy making caramel]
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1-2 tsp honey [to taste, really]
salt and pepper, to taste
In a small non-stick pan, place walnuts in a single layer and gently toast walnuts. Pour in maple syrup or add the sugar, allowing the sugar to turn into caramel. Stir the pan to evenly coat the walnuts with sugar. The syrup/caramel will thicken and stick to the nuts once cooled. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely.
Roughly chop cleaned/dry greens and place in bowl. Add in thinly sliced onions.
To make dressing, whisk all the ingredients and adjust seasoning as needed.
To assemble, toss the greens in the vinaigrette to evenly distribute, then top with candied walnuts, crumbled goat cheese, dried cranberries and roasted beets. Marvel at the loveliness of the salad and enjoy.
Don’t throw away the leafy greens! Beet greens also make a delicious side dish. Treat them like you would kale or other greens. Featured here sauteed with garlic, onions, crushed red peppers and topped with roasted beets and walnuts.
Thank you for reading,