When the Jewish High Holidays approach, I always look around for inspiration. Three years ago, I found some in a magazine article that feels particularly present this high holiday season.
In an August 2010 issue, The New Yorker ran an article by Dana Goodyear entitled the “The Truffle Kid.”
The piece follows Brett Ottolenghi, a young Las Vegas food purveyor, on his quest to get the best chefs on the Strip the most incredible ingredients on the planet. Aromatic Spanish saffron, rare pink pine nuts from New Mexico, and “1890 balsamic vinegar in tiny bottles that looked as if they should hold perfume.” As Goodyear tells it, each exchange resulted from a call -- either from a seller or a buyer -- who said I have/I need something truly special, and Ottolenghi made the match. He was the middleman of dreamers. How fantastic! How delicious! How audacious!
I read the piece twice over and eyed my own grocery list, held by a magnet on the fridge. Some good staples -- cornmeal, organic apples, olive oil -- but pink pine nuts? Definitely not.
For my kitchen, that was fine. I decidedly didn’t need century-old balsamic to be a satisfied eater. But what about my grocery list for life? That was a different matter.
That August of 2010, Rosh Hashanah was fast approaching and -- like so many Jews -- I was listing in familiar verse what I hoped to change, conquer, and experience in the year to come. Quickly apparent was that on my Rosh Hashanah list that year, my life list, I had the staples, but nothing audacious. Nothing fantastic.
Could I be a Wolfgang Puck or a Ludo Lefebvre -- a visionary -- in my own life? If I didn’t put the proverbial pink pine nuts on my life list, how would I think to seek them, and who could know to deliver them to me?
And so I did it. I ripped apart the pantry of my mind’s eye. I didn’t run from the staples. We all could use more kindness, patience, and humility, but I pressed the question -- for me -- what was the exceptional thing I wanted to add to my list? Even now, I shy from sharing it, but the truth is that what I sought was the love I desired. Not the easy stuff of Hallmark cards, but an unfettered and balanced, authentic and limitless, glorious and agonizing love. And so I wrote it down, next to all of the staples. Adding it made everything else, even the mundane stuff, more dynamic, more real, and, frankly, more fun.
In the three years since, I couldn’t say for sure if inking the list is what made the difference, but I can tell you I found the guy in whom my soul delights. I can also tell you that last week I dusted off my copy of Goodyear’s story. Once again, I am dreaming about the extraordinary.
May 5774 be a year when each of us identifies, seeks, and gets our pink pine nuts.
Emily Kane is a Los Angeles-based attorney and High Holiday enthusiast.