“This isn’t getting the work of the world done,” my mother used to tell me when I was young and talking on the phone to friends instead of cleaning my room or putting away the dishes or whatever else needed to be done. I still don’t know exactly what the work of the world is, but it sounds so ominously important it made me believe that my laziness was in some ways contributing to world failure.
Her words still echo through my life. Even now, though I know that world will go on even if I watch a whole night’s worth of “Downtown Abbey” episodes, I remember what my mother said and I turn off the T.V.
Now, after reading “Laziness Does Not Exist” (Atria 2020; $27) by Devon Price, PhD, a Clinical Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago, I may reconsider that long ago lesson.
“Laziness does not exist means there is no slothful, shameful feeling inside of us called laziness that is to blame when we fail or disappoint someone or simply lack motivation,” says Price after I ask him to define the book’s title. “There are always structural, external factors as well as inner personal struggles that explain why someone is not meeting goals.”
Instead, Price says that often when someone is written off as lazy, the problem is actually that they’ve been asked to do far too much, and not given credit for the immense work that they are doing.
“Fighting depression is a full time job,” he says. “Raising children in a global pandemic is a full-time job. Taking a full course load while working a job is too much to deal with flawlessly. So many people are overwhelmed and overworked, yet because they have been asked to do more than they can handle, these incredibly ambitious people are branded as lazy.”
So how do we deal with these feelings?
Price recommends first observing the situation neutrally while trying to determine where the feeling is coming from and what do you have to learn from it.
“Sometimes, we lack motivation to do something because the task just does not matter to us — so ask yourself, do I really have to do this task? Does it matter to me, or have I just been told that I should do it? When someone is feeling lazy and beating themselves up for it, that is almost always a sign they need to cut a bunch of obligations out of their life, so they have time to rest and reorient themselves, to focus on their true priorities. “
Self-efficacy, a confidence in one’s own ability to get things done, also comes into play.
Price describes this as a very grounded form of confidence — the confidence in one’s own capabilities.
“When a person has high self-efficacy for a particular skill or task, they trust their instincts, and know how to break a large task down into smaller parts, so they’re way less likely to get stuck in doubt, perfectionism, or inhibition,” he says. “A lot of times when someone is struggling or procrastinating such as failing to write a paper for class, for example, it’s because they don’t trust themselves to do it well enough, or they don’t know how to take the big project and divide it into tiny bites. Unfortunately, we live in a very perfectionistic culture where lots of teachers and managers micro-manage and nitpick the people they are supposed to be mentoring, so we actually destroy a lot of people’s self-efficacy in the process. “
Price believes that we also need to act like all human lives have equal value and deserve equal support with no proof needed.
“On a more personal level, we need to approach other people with generosity and trust,” he says. “I don’t need proof that a person on the corner asking for change deserves my money. I can trust that if he’s in that spot, he clearly needs it, and I don’t get to decide what his needs at that moment look like or how he lives his life. In general, we need to stop policing one another and viewing all needs and limitations as suspicious.”
“When I was a kid my mother would cut up hot dogs to add to canned split pea soup for me to eat,” Ina Garten tells me from the barn in West Hampton, New York where she creates and tests the recipes published in her cookbooks, including the latest Modern Comfort Food and on the her Food Network show Barefoot Contessa.
I tell her that I ate so much split pea soup when I was a kid that my mother told me I was going to turn green. Garten laughs though it really isn’t very funny. It’s just the way she is. Polite and friendly, as if she and I are good friends rather me interviewing her in a spot where her phone gets very poor reception. That’s for sure. During the course of a 45-minute call, we get disconnected at least five times.
But back to the split pea soup. When Garten was thinking up recipes for “Modern Comfort Food,” the 12th in her Barefoot Contessa series, it was one of the dishes she wanted to include. But not just any old split pea soup.
“My soup is from scratch and instead of hot dogs, I sauteed kielbasa,” she says. I love the way crispy sausage and the creamy soup contrast with each other.”
Using her culinary magic, among the 85 recipes in her book she transforms the grilled cheese of childhood into Cheddar & Chutney Grilled Cheese and the frozen pot pies your mom kept in the freezer in case she was late getting home morph into Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Puff Pastry Croutons. Burnt hamburgers made by your dad the one time he tried to grill are now Smashed Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions.
When I mention that I love her recipes because they always work and that often with celebrity cookbooks it’s just the opposite, she responds with a laugh, saying “ya’think?”
Her recipes, on the other hand, are strenuously tested. It took her six years to perfect her recipe for Boston Cream Pie. She just couldn’t get it right until she finally found the exact flavor matches for the cake, chocolate glaze and pastry cream layers.
Some, no make that most, of us would have given up or just said “good enough.” But not Garten which is why the Boston Cream Pie she hoped to put in two cookbooks ago didn’t make it until this one.
“Sometimes it takes me a day to create a recipe that works just right, sometimes weeks or even months,” she says, noting that she loves getting up in the morning knowing she has a long list of recipes to test.
She also has advice on how to use her recipes.
“Do it once the way it’s written using the same ingredients, then you’ll know the way it is supposed to be,” she says, noting that someone once complained about one of her recipes not working and when she drilled down as to why, discovered that out of the seven ingredients called for, they didn’t use three. “It’s like someone saying the chocolate cake didn’t turn out and then they tell you they didn’t use any chocolate in it.”
Recipes courtesy of Modern Comfort Food: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.
3 chicken breasts, skin-on, bone-in (2½ to 3 pounds total)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks) (see note)
4 cups chopped fennel, tops and cores removed (2 bulbs)
3 cups (½-inch) diced scrubbed carrots (5 medium)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
¼ cup Wondra flour
¾ cup cream sherry, divided
7 cups good chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (2 × 3-inch) piece of Italian
Parmesan cheese rind
1 (10-ounce) box frozen peas
1 cup frozen whole pearl onions
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chicken on a sheet pan skin side up, rub the skin with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, until a thermometer registers 130 to 140 degrees. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the skin and bones and cut the chicken in 1-inch dice. Set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium (11 to 12-inch) heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium heat. Add the leeks, fennel, and carrots, and sauté over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender but not browned.
Stir in the garlic and tarragon and cook for one minute. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add ½ cup of the sherry, the chicken stock, 4 teaspoons salt, 1½ teaspoons pepper, and the Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
Add the chicken, peas, and onions and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Off the heat, remove the Parmesan rind and add the remaining ¼ cup of sherry and the parsley. Serve hot in large shallow bowls with two Puff Pastry Croutons on top
Note: To prep the leeks, cut off the dark green leaves at a 45-degree angle and discard. Chop the white and light green parts, wash well in a bowl of water, and spin dry in a salad spinner. Wet leeks will steam rather than sauté.
Puff Pastry Croutons -Makes 12 croutons
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, such as Pepperidge Farm, defrosted (see note)
1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Lightly dust a board and rolling pin with flour. Unfold the sheet of puff pastry on the board, dust it lightly with flour, and lightly roll the pastry just to smooth out the folds.
With a star-shaped or fluted round cookie cutters, cut 12 stars, or rounds of pastry and place them on the prepared sheet pan. Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
Defrost puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator. You want the pastry to be very cold when you bake it. make ahead: Prepare the pastry cutouts and refrigerate. Bake just before serving.
Boston Cream Pie
Makes one 9 – inch cake / serves 8
For the cake:
¾ cup whole milk
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon grated orange zest
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
for the soak:
¹⁄₃ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¹⁄₃ cup sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
For the chocolate glaze:
¾ cup heavy cream
1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips, such as Nestlé’s (7½ ounces)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, broken in pieces
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon instant coffee granules, such as Nescafé
Grand Marnier Pastry Cream (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round baking pans, line them with parchment paper, butter and flour the pans, and tap out the excess flour. Set aside.
For the cake, scald the milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat (see note). Off the heat, add the vanilla and orange zest, cover the pan, and set aside. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, until thick and light yellow and the mixture falls back on itself in a ribbon. By hand, first whisk in the warm milk mixture and then slowly whisk in the flour mixture. Don’t overmix! Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto a baking rack, flipping them so the top sides are up. Cool to room temperature.
For the soak, combine the orange juice and sugar in a small (8-inch) sauté pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Off the heat, add the Grand Marnier and set aside
For the chocolate glaze, combine the heavy cream, semisweet chocolate chips, bittersweet chocolate, corn syrup, vanilla, and coffee in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, just until the chocolates melt. Remove from the heat and set aside for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is thick enough to fall back onto itself in a ribbon.
To assemble, cut both cakes in half horizontally. Place the bottom of one cake on a flat plate, cut side up. Brush it with a third of the soak. Spread a third of the Grand Marnier Pastry Cream on the cake. Place the top of the first cake on top, cut side down, and repeat with the soak and pastry cream. Place the bottom of the second cake on top, cut side up. Repeat with the soak and pastry cream. Place the top of the second cake on top, cut side down. Pour the ganache on the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Set aside for one hour, until the chocolate sets. Cut in wedges and serve.
Grand Marnier Pastry Cream
Makes enough for one 9-inch cake
5 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1½ cups whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon Cognac or brandy
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, until very thick. Reduce the speed to low and add the cornstarch.
Meanwhile, scald the milk in a medium saucepan. With the mixer on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to thicken. When the custard starts to clump on the bottom of the pan, stir constantly with a whisk (don’t beat it!) to keep the custard smooth.
Cook over low heat until the custard is very thick like pudding. If you lift some custard with the whisk, it should fall back onto itself in a ribbon. Off the heat, stir in the butter, heavy cream, Grand Marnier, Cognac, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Cool for 15 minutes. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard (not the bowl) and refrigerate until very cold.
Ina Garten is doing a virtual Modern Comfort Food tour.
The phone call from Perez Hilton came two days earlier than planned.
“He can do it now instead,” his assistant emailed me on Wednesday.
I was totally unprepared. Hilton’s autobiography, “TMI: My Life in Scandal” (Chicago Review Press) — the one we’re supposed to talk about — sat unread on my desk.
Thinking “right now” might mean I had a few minutes to speed read, I reached for it. The phone rang.
“I love your book,” I said, just to start it off. That’s all it took.
“Thank you,” Hilton responded. “I was so afraid that people wouldn’t like it. There’s so much of me in it, I’m one of the most transparent and honest people there are. People like that, and they like nostalgia and that’s me, I’m a dinosaur.”
Jurassic throwbacks seem a little bit overdone. Hilton hit the scene 20 years ago, garnering almost instant attention with his blend of gossipy take on celebrity distilled through his blog, podcasts, personal appearances and general lifestyle. He didn’t just report of celebrities, he hung with them. If he didn’t like them or had a juicy story, he reported it. His blog quickly was dubbed the “most hated blog in the world,” though he garnered millions of followers.
But the more he talks about being a dinosaur, it starts to make sense. He was one of the first bloggers.
“I started in 2004,” he said. “There are 13-year-old kids who don’t know about blogging, they’re doing TikTok. There were names that were big that no one thinks about anymore. You may luck your way into celebrity, but you have to have perseverance to be a success. You have to learn to reinvent yourself. I reinvented by going into podcasts; I have two YouTube channels. I started Instagram way back in 2011 when it first came out. It’s about knowing when the next trend is coming, and I’ve always been good at that. I’ve outlasted a lot of the stars I wrote about.”
But Hilton is still worried. Sure, he’s constantly metamorphosing, but he’s learned some lessons and he wants to share a few with me, starting with how important it is to live below your means.
“I have three children, I have to save for their education, I have to take care of them,” he said. Does he know about that new purse I bought? I wonder, vowing to return it.
He also worries about the Kardashians. I should note that by this point, I realized Hilton doesn’t have a filter, which is one of the many characteristics that make him so delightful.
“People reach a tipping point,” he said, explaining why he’s concerned about these glamorous, fully-endowed women who seem to have the most beautiful jewelry, homes, children, clothes, husbands, ex-husbands and boyfriends and a fascinating jet-set lifestyle.
I know about the jet-setting because last year, when I was on Providenciales, one of the islands in the Turks and Caicos, we’d made reservations to have dinner at the Conch House, a beach joint where fisherman dive for conch right off the shore and the cooks turn the meat info fritters, stew and all sorts of conch delights. But then the restaurant called and canceled our reservations. Why? Well, the Kardashians had just flown in and wanted to eat there, and they didn’t want non-cool people around. Their evening was filmed for their show. I didn’t watch it. We went the following Kardashian-less night.
But Hilton knows about tipping points. He reached his own a while back and it taught him lessons even if the Kardaashians aren’t listening to his advice right now.
“Now I’m the cheapest person I know,” he said.
Born Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. and raised in Florida, he graduated from New York University, dabbled in acting and public relations but found career success in his ability to feed our celebrity fascination.
“I’m sharing stories in my new book,” he said, “because I want to make money.”
All the juicy escapades with and about stars that I read when I finally read his book are delightful, but they come at a price.
“I work 17 hours a day,” Hilton said. “I never rest. But that’s part of perseverance. The more you work, the more you notice the patterns and you can see how they’re coming together, and which ones will become trends. That’s how you know what the next thing is going to be.”
For your information
What: Perez Hilton Virtual Event
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 30
Cost: This is a ticketed event, and a purchase is required to attend. Anderson’s offers a variety of ticket options. Every book ticket will include a signed copy of “TMI: My Life in Scandal.”