Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Isn't There Something You'd Like To Say?


Yesterday was one of those days where I had to do what every good parent has to do from time to time -- absolutely nothing.  I simply sat on my hands and bit my tongue.  Suffice to say, my tongue is perforated.

It's a hard thing to watch your kid make a mistake.  It's miserable to sit on the sidelines while they learn "the hard way."

Nevertheless, there are lessons we all have to learn.  One of them is how to say, "I'm sorry."

A good "I'm sorry" resolves a myriad of issues. I'm not talking about one of those through-the-teeth and half-unspoken, "I'm sorry" (and silently, that you ran full force into my clenched fist.)  Or, "I'm sorry that your feelings were hurt" because you're such a wimp.  Or, "I'm sorry" that I got caught.  Or worst of all, "I'm sorry" that my mom is making me apologize.

I'm talking about a selfless, "I made a mistake, please forgive me, what can I do to make this better?" that eases the pain of the recipient and the provider.

Empathy can be a tough thing to teach.  But as my own kids hear over and over again, in addition to being the "right" thing to do, apologizing and admitting your error can make you feel better.

It's our job as parents to help them learn this, and the sooner the better.

So I've got a question for the various CEOs and bonus-hoarders and investment bankers and Ponzi-schemers currently making headlines and devastating American families and institutions alike:  Does your mother know what you're up to?

Actually, I've got quite a few questions.  Were you raised in a barn?  Do I have to call your father?  Where are your parents?  Isn't there something you'd like to say?

Yes!  Lawyers be damned, there is something you need to say.  Two words.  1) I'm.  2) Sorry.

Groveling isn't required, but surely would work in your favor.  Belly-crawling would be fine by me, as well.  I'd even accept tears, but since I suspect you'd only be able to muster the alligator variety, I won't insist.

To be sure, this mess is so deep and so smelly that an apology wouldn't actually fix anything, but it might ease the pain of some of your many victims.  And, if, down the road, leniency is ever an option, a heartfelt and well-rendered apology may work to your benefit.  OK.  Probably not in this life, but maybe in the next.

My son's seventh grade science teacher had a phrase that comes to mind --  "Man up."  When any of the boys in class shirked their responsibilities or complained about the workload, she'd summon a sharp, "Man up!" to remind them to behave accordingly.  I love how much meaning is packed into that one phrase.  Man up:  Stop thinking only of yourself, you are better than this, do the right thing, we expect more of you, take responsibility.  Man up.

That's my advice to Wall Street:  "Man up."  Apologize.  And start setting this right.

If your mom is Southern, she'd probably point out that proffering a plate of cheese wafers wouldn't hurt, either.  Some of the best apologies are catered.  This recipe makes about 300, which isn't nearly enough for the mess you've made.  But combined with a good, old-fashioned "I'm sorry," it's a start.

Cheese Wafers
These crackers are the perfect nibble at cocktail parties.  The recipe is easily halved, but I prefer to make a larger batch and then, freeze half of the dough "logs," to be thawed and baked as needed.

1 lb. extra sharp NY cheddar cheese (alternatively, use 1/2 lb. cheddar and 1/2 lb. blue cheese, crumbled), grated
1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 cups flour
1/2 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2-3 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 cups pecans, chopped (optional)

Beat butter until light and fluffy.  Stir in cheese, salt, cayenne pepper and poppy seeds.  Gradually stir and mash in flour.  Eventually, you'll have to use your hands to incorporate all of the flour, because dough will be very crumbly, and then, stiff.  Using your hands, incorporate the pecans.  (Be patient, this takes a while.)  When all ingredients are incorporated, break off a chunk of dough about the size of your fist and roll it out into a log.  I prefer my wafers small, so my "log" is usually slightly larger than the diameter of a quarter.  If you're feeling fancy, you can then roll the log in any extra poppy seeds or nuts (or even kosher salt -- lightly!).  Wrap the log in plastic wrap, and repeat with remaining dough.  Refrigerate logs for at least four hours (or as long as four days).  To bake, preheat oven to 400.  Remove plastic wrap from log, and, using a serrated knife, slice into 1/4" thick wafers.  (Note:  dough will not rise or spread.  What you cut is what you get.)  Place wafers on parchment paper on a baking sheet and bake approximately 10 minutes, or until lightly golden.
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