I’m not a coffee snob by any sense of the imagination, but I can appreciate a good cup and the careful attention it took to brew. What I don’t appreciate is the attitude that now often comes served on the side with these new trendy caffeine purveyors, and really, the “craft” food scene, at large. I was in San Francisco two weeks ago with my Mom and dear friend Mari shopping for my wedding dress (found it) (love it) (!!!!) and stopped by a hip and hyped establishment in SoMa for the day’s fuel. At the counter we were greeted with the most appalling you-are-wasting-my-time looks from the baristas for even asking what the meth-lab looking glass beaker contraption was at our left, and what the “minimalist” breakfast menu really entailed (does the listing “egg” really mean just an egg on a plate, or does that come with toast?). I usually can tune out the I’m-hot-shit barista vibe at home in CO, but that morning I wanted to reach over and smack the beards off their sassy faces for acting like jerks to my gracious and legitimately curious Mom.
Frankly, I could care less about how cool or well-known a person, brand, or product is. Cool bores me. Cool tells me nothing about your heart. Cool tells me nothing about your brain. I’d rather sip lukewarm instant coffee in a dirty, poorly-lit diner outside Reno, Nevada every day of the year then have to stroke an inflated ego to get some pour-over in prime urban real estate. What happened to being friendly WHILE these folks do whatever sustainable, curated, artisan, handmade, small-batch, “authentic” thing they do? Hi there! I’m human, you’re human, isn’t it neat that we get to be humans together!? What happened to being and living those maxims for the sake of it, not because it’s en vogue and gives people/brands this elevated sense of social importance and license to be inconsiderate.
On that note, Shaun and I have been on a crusade lately to eliminate the use of the word authentic in our daily dialogue. I feel like we’re living in this supersaturated season where friends and colleagues can’t express themselves or be in relationship without tossing around the word to qualify to everything they care about: authentic storytelling, authentic branding, authentic relationships, authentic conversations, etc. It’s gotten so bad we have even joked about pitching a film to the Portlandia producers where a couple sits down at dinner and has to use the word authentic in every sentence they speak to the waiter, i.e. “is the tomato in this burger an authentic tomato?” It seems that in the process of trying to authenticate our lives, work, and experiences, we turn our social environments into the very antithesis of the word. By definition, authentic simply means to be genuine. Yet if we’re all trying SO hard to be genuine, is genuine even genuine anymore? It certainly doesn’t feel like it. When a friend emails, “I’m really looking forward to authentically relating with you” in regard to an impending meet-up, I scratch my head and think, oh wait, you mean, like JUST BEING ALIVE TOGETHER IN THE SAME ROOM AND LISTENING TO ONE ANOTHER? I realize that this is a terribly circular debate, one that I know seems to wrap around and over itself and runs into all sorts of dead-ends and fingers pointed right back at me at various times of my life. That said, I think it’s worth stepping stage-left and sorting through the mess of how this word “authentic” has made us more or less of the thing we want most — to be ourselves and feel “different,” to feel like we’re all not just cogs in the machine.
We have friends who make furniture from reclaimed wood in an old mechanics shop south of downtown Denver and furnish some of the “hottest” bars and restaurants of the city. On paper, they seem like poster children for a hipster, eco-chic, cool-kid (fill in the blank). What I love most about Rob and Ben though, is how utterly unconcerned they are with “striving for authenticity” in their lives and craft. They just ARE authentic. Imagine that! They do what they love. They live what they love. They are the truest expression of authenticity I know because of how little attention they pay to accomplishing the definition, and how much attention they pay to being good humans and enjoying the time they get to live on earth and do the things that make them happy. I find that this I’m just doing my thing the way that works for me attitude is constantly in attempt to be emulated by the creative community but most of the time ends up feeling forced in a I’m trying way too hard to not care… but… really I care a lot about what you think of me and my authentic-ness, kind of way.
And then I sit back and think… I’m probably just a grouch. What is authentic for me is different for someone else. Maybe, as it has been suggested to me, some people just authentically are assholes. Maybe the trendy coffee experience is sincerely soul-affirming for some in a way I can’t possibly understand or appreciate. I happen to find conversations with the folks working in cafes with saggy green leather couches, gay-marriage posters, and drip coffee more affable than the former, but hey. At the end of the day, the pandemic use of the word authentic underscores how massively disconnected we are, as individuals, to what it means to be fully ourselves. Fully and/or comfortably. We have to talk about being authentic all the time to convince ourselves that we actually are. And where does that come from? Ultimately that’s what we’re left to assess. Why is everyone trying so hard? WE DON’T NEED TO TRY SO HARD! We just need to BE our own weird selves. That’s authentic. Be weirdly enthusiastic. Be weirdly honest. Stay weirdly interested in the things that make your heart sing. We are all unique little snowflakes. Except when we’re not unique little snowflakes. Let’s try owning that too. I actually really like that I’m not the only one who enjoys camping or has binged on episodes of Mad Men or wants to be Oprah Winfrey’s best friend or puts avocado on toast. Is being alike really so bad?
At the end of all this, I feel like I’ve made no progress in wrestling the issue. In fact I’ve hesitated even posting this diatribe after coming across a sticky note in my suitcase while packing for our trip that I quoted from a magazine: “gratitude alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive – it’s the easiest, quickest, most powerful way to effect change in your own life and the world.” Gulp. In some weird way, sorting through and throwing out the bullshit in our lives is a way of expressing gratitude. What if we were all just too darn grateful to worry about what’s most cool or most authentic? We don’t get enough time in this life to navel-gaze on the these matters, and I’m stomping my feet and throwing my arms to just say so.
Be a nice human. Listen well. Be intentional. Speak your truth. Say thank you. Like what you like. Love what you love. Do what you do. That’s all I have left to say about that.
- 6 persimmons (any variety)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 tsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- Butter, for coating the pan
In a mixing bowl, combine milk, water, butter, honey, and eggs. Add flour and stir together vigorously. Place batter in the fridge for 1-2 hours so bubbles rise and diminish.
Cut persimmons into wedges, peeling off the skins as you work. Place in a heavy bottomed pot or pan. Set over medium heat and saute persimmons with sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon for 20 minutes until softened. Add cornstarch and simmer for another 5-1- minutes. Remove from heat.
Heat a small, non-stick crepe pan. Scoop half cup of batter into the center of the pan and spread evenly. Cook for 30-ish seconds and flip, cooking for another 10 seconds before removing to a plate.
Fill corner of crepe with a dollop of mascarpone and persimmon compote. Fold crepe over itself until you have a triangular shape. Repeat. Cover desired serving with more persimmon compote.