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Rudolph’s Redemption

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” might be the deepest of all the Christmas Classics. It definitely is among the most animated ones. There can be no doubt. Maybe you think it’s sappy, or outdated, or just part of the stupid song. Not so. There is more, here, than meets the eye. There is substance beneath the veneer of stop-animation and the lyricism of Burl Ives. There is a truly valuable and timeless lesson therein. 

Rudolph is a treatise on acceptance. It is a very basic story about the fact that what makes us different, what often makes us hated, mistreated, ignored, or berated … those are the things worth having. Those are the things that define us. It’s not the 99.9% of genetic makeup that we share with monkeys that makes us special, is it? It’s that 0.1% … that last little bit. Rudolph couldn’t help his nose being red any more than Hermey could help loving teeth. Those toys … those misfit toys … they were MADE that way. All of the characters in this story find redemption, ironically, because of the very parts of their being that made them hated. This special teaches a fundamental character trait. It shows that one should value others, not judge them. It tells us to love one another, and not to mistreat our fellow beings.

Rudolph was driven away in shame, Hermey was belittled into quitting his job, and the toys were abandoned and ostracized for not conforming to what some idiot kids thought a “toy” was supposed to be. Well screw those kids, I’ll take a misfit toy over a regular one any day of the week. I want the nesting doll that ends in a mouse. I want a bird that swims. I want a water gun than shoots jelly. I want a polka dot elephant. I want a cowboy riding an ostrich. I want a sinking boat and a plane that can’t fly. I want a train with square wheels on its caboose. I want a damn Charlie in the Box! I want an elvish dentist and a radiant reindeer. I want uniqueness. I want different. Conformity is boring. No one remembers any of the other elves’ names or any of the other reindeer kids, either. If I didn’t watch the special every year, I wouldn’t even remember that they gave some of them names at all. They are uninteresting, unimportant, and banal. But the weirdos stick with you. The oddballs came through in the end, when no one else could.

Hermey de-toothed the bumble and made it tame. The toys were found by Santa and given to (presumably) less judgmental, more grateful children. And Rudolph …well, without him, there wouldn’t have been any presents at all that year. Despite all of their so-called flaws, these hated and undervalued people came right back to help those who persecuted them in the first place. If that isn’t a Christian ideal consistent with the very essence of this purportedly holy day, then I don’t know what is. I can’t think of a single other animated classic that has anything nearly as moving at its core, save perhaps “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer could be played at any time of year for people of any age and it would still ring true, however. That is somewhat unique among the holiday classics.

So, this year and all years hence, I ask you all to lift a glass of eggnog to the greatest, simplest, and purest of all Christmas messages! It is a toast to Rudolph, Hermey, and to all the Misfit Toys out there. It is a toast to our selves. It is a toast to redemption and a toast to acceptance. If you can’t do at least that much this holiday season, then you’re no friend of mine.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and a Joyous Whatever Else You Celebrate!

Pejay Rossi - Regret

A Story of Regret

Dedicated to Dana

He was willing to give you everything.

Some people just have this ability to love deeply, profoundly, and completely. No matter how many storms they’ve weathered, they still choose to shine and they still choose to love. Despite all they’ve been through, they still manage to trust their heart and follow it courageously. And somewhere along the way, it was that heart that led them straight to you. At first there may have been a lot of uncertainty, but it soon became clear that this was no ordinary love. He was the guy willing to do just about anything for you, who knew when you needed him even when you didn’t say a word. He never held back his emotions and was never shy about telling you what he was thinking or feeling. Despite any mistakes he may have made along the way, time and time again, through actions, he fought to prove himself and his love to you. But for whatever reason you remained bitter and angry. Whether it was because of a few bad choices he may have made in the beginning, or the direct result of being burned so many times by those before him, you always expected the worst. For years the battle to win your trust and affections back waged on. But a person can only fight so long before they grow weary and break. And sadly, you broke him.

Blinded by skepticism and bitterness, you couldn’t reciprocate the kind of love he was offering. Either you weren’t mature enough or you just didn’t know how to let go of the past and appreciate what it is you had staring you in the face. Or maybe you were too selfish. Perhaps the timing was just always off between you both. Perhaps it was a little of each. Finally finding the potential “one” after so much heartache and pain has a way of fucking with even the most level headed person. And even after you broke his heart the first time, the second time, maybe even after the third and fourth time, he was still kind and understanding. But above all else, he still found it within himself to love you.

Not only did he find it within himself to love you after all you had done, but he was still willing to love you just as much as before. Truth be told, he probably could have loved you forever. Marriage may have even been a strong possibility in his mind. He had no trouble talking about making a lifelong commitment to you because love wasn’t something he ever held back. He might have lived in a world all his own, with his own ideas of how love is supposed to be, but he believed in love more than anyone you ever met. Even in the end you never really had to question his love for you. But he was always left wondering if his feelings were reciprocated. You knew how deeply you loved him, but you still let fear and unnecessary doubt stop you from ever letting yourself appear vulnerable in any way. If only you had realized how special his love was before it was too late.

You were too scared to see just how rare he was. It wasn’t until you met other people who left you feeling empty inside that you began to truly understand that you had made a huge mistake. Even on their best days, others who loved you would never, and could never, compare to the depth and totality that he did. And no one ever believed in you quite like he did.

Even when everyone else lost all faith in you, he had this ability to see into your heart, into your soul, and he just understood you and your intentions more than even you understood yourself at times. Even when you couldn’t see or understand it, he saw your true potential and actually believed in the person you were, the person you could one day become, and your abilities. He had so much faith and never questioned whether or not you both could make it through life together. And even with all your faults and flaws, he still thought you were perfect and looked at you with the world in his eyes. But your insecurities still managed to get the best of you. And it wasn’t until it was over that you realized he was the perfect one. Body, mind, soul and all.

Maybe, in the beginning, he messed up or had a flaw that still needlessly haunted your thoughts. It’s possible you became accustomed to disappointment and convinced yourself that there was no way things were going to turn out any differently this time either. But despite whatever doubts you may have had about you both, he never had any. And when all was said and done, all you could do was look back at what you left behind with sadness and regret.

In time you would realize that your greatest flaw was your inability to let go of the past and learn to love again. Like so many others, you were blind to what was right in front of you. And just like he wouldn’t have changed a thing about you, you realized that changing anything about him would make him imperfect as well. Suddenly you became painfully aware that his only flaw was settling for you in the first place. Especially knowing that he deserved far better.

He swore he wouldn’t love again, but you know that despite being let down by you, he would one day do just that. You know the type of person he is deep down. You know just how much love he actually has inside of him, and how much he genuinely has to offer anyone he’s with. You know he will treat them just as he treated you, and that the day will come when he meets someone that doesn’t make the same mistakes as you.

Realizing all of this, what you truly lost, you know you made the biggest mistake of your life.

So if you ever want to live the rest of your life full of regret, simply let go of the one person who loves you most. Do that and all the “what ifs” will haunt you until the end of time.

This is my story of regret.

Nothing to Prove

We may attempt to prove ourselves and our worth in many ways. Needing to prove ourselves can be insidious as we strive to be accepted. This is a basic human need.

When you accept that you are complete and whole, that you are not lacking in any way, you stop looking outside yourself for something or someone to complete you. When you look outside yourself for validation of how you should be or act, you actually give your power away to some external person or thing! It is YOU who requires your approval and consideration. You cannot find what you are looking for in something outside of you. You cannot buy enough stuff to make you happy; there will always be a longing for something more. 

You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. You are whole and complete and wonderful.

Perfect Shrimp Pad Thai

Seventy-five years ago, when Phibun decided to give Thailand’s culture a makeover by decree, pad Thai was a recipe that had yet to be introduced into the country’s cuisine. Rice with chili paste, leaves, and salt were the staple, subsistence food at the time, and Thai people bought meals from Chinese food vendors.

The exact origins of pad Thai remain disputed to this day. According to some, Plaek Phibunsongkhram announced a competition to create a new, national dish. Phibun’s son, however, went on record to say that his family prepared the dish well before Phibun ever actually made it government policy, but could not recall who specifically was responsible for its initial creation.

The dish’s roots are Chinese, and its full name is kway teow phat Thai. Translated from a Chinese dialect called Hokkein, kway teow means rice noodles. The entire name means stir-fried rice noodles Thai-style. Noodles and stir-frying are predominantly Chinese, and it was likely immigration that introduced the practice to Siam. Flavors like tamarind, palm sugar, and chilies were the Thai’s subsequent influence on the dish over time.

By publicizing the pad Thai recipe, Phibun turned one potential take on stir-fried noodles into a national dish. It was his belief that by doing so, pad Thai would improve the diet of a people who primarily lived off of rice, and that cooking pad Thai in clean pans would improve national hygiene.

More than anything, it was Phibun’s hope to unify the country by promoting a uniquely Thai dish. Despite its Chinese origins, pad Thai stood out greatly from the variety of wet or dry noodle dishes sold by Chinese vendors. It was part of Phibun’s nation-building strategy to develop “Thai-ness” and impose a “Thai Great Tradition.”

Within several years, vendors selling pad Thai filled Thailand’s streets. Phibun’s son called it “Thailand’s first fast food.”

In summary, the popularization of pad Thai was the work of a military dictator who survived multiple coups, World War II, and who believed that his political future, as well as the future of his country, were both at stake.

And now, without further ado, I give you this American’s take on a Chinese influenced Thai tradition. I put a lot of thought into this recipe, and took special care to ensure that I kept its ingredients as authentic as possible (no peanut butter or ketchup). I hope that you enjoy the final product as much as I did!


Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 23 minutes, approximately

Total Time: 1 hour, approximately

Serves: 4


Ingredients

  • 14 ounces stir-fry rice noodles (I used the Thai Kitchen brand located in the “International Foods” section of the grocery store)

  • 2 beaten eggs

  • ¼ cup fish sauce

  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons sriracha sauce

  • ¼ cup coconut milk

  • 5 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil

  • 12 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 1 cup diced firm tofu

  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms

  • 1 cup bean sprouts

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

  • ¼ cup diced shallots

  • 4 fresh jalapenos, seeded and diced

  • ¼ cup unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped (I actually used walnuts)

  • ½ cup diagonally sliced green onions

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Directions

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Place noodles in a large pot or bowl and cover with the boiling water. Allow noodles to soak for 8 to 10 minutes or until noodles are soft but firm. Drain and rinse under cold, running water for 30 seconds. Drain well and set aside.

rice noodles

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, sriracha, and coconut milk, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

pad thai sauce

In a wok, heat ½ tablespoon of sesame oil over medium-high heat. Just before the oil is smoking, add the egg, stirring constantly until set. Set aside in small bowl.

Next, heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Just before the oil is smoking, add the garlic, shallots, and jalapeno and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the shallots and jalapeno are tender, stirring frequently.

shallot mixture

In the wok, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of sesame oil over medium-high heat. Just before the oil is smoking, add the shrimp and cook until pink, stirring constantly. Add the cooked shallot mixture, tofu, mushrooms, and bean sprouts and cook for 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms and sprouts are tender.

shrimp

Add the reserved noodles and egg and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour the sauce mixture into the wok and toss until well distributed. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to steam and simmer. Add the peanuts and green onions and cook an additional minute.

Remove the wok from the heat and season with the lime juice and cilantro. Serve hot.

Enjoy!

Shrimp Pad Thai

Perfect Shrimp Pad Thai

Regret

In this moment of silence

Don’t pity me my pain

It’s here in isolation

I fall on your disdain

For all that pulls me under

I know there is a Hell

There’s nothing I know better

I know it all so well

Shamed into my solitude

And left with little care

Lost within my speechless grief

My glorious despair

I had hope and I believed

But yet the sun still set

And darkness fell upon me

To bathe me in regret

Carry On

Try to find the strength you need. To calm the doubts in your belief. If you’ve the will, you know your spirit will not break.

If you have strength, then you’ve belief. If you show love, your heart still beats. You’re never quite as lost as you may think.

Though far from shores you’ve yet to reach. Without a star to cross the sea. No avenues of light to guide you to the answers you can’t see.

Seeking fortitude of heart and mind. But who can guide the lost and blind? And who but you can make in Hell yourself a Heaven?

Face your fears, and face your shame. Face the idols you have made. And raze them back unto the dust from which they came.

Be not a servant of the weak. Be the light and change you seek. Leave no stone unturned, and find the strength to carry on.

Hot and Fiery Lamb Masala

Masala is a word of Indian origin, meaning mixture of spices. For instance, the term “garam masala” literally means a “hot mixture of spices”, and is a combination of ground roasted cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, and other spices.


Prep: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 40 Minutes

Yield: 4 Servings


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of ghee* or 1 tablespoon of sunflower oilSunflower Oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped

Onion

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

Coriander

  • 2 bay leaves

Bay Leaves

  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed

Whole Black Peppercorns

  • 3 teaspoons mild paprika

Paprika

  • 1-2 teaspoons hot chili powder

Chili Powder

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Minced Garlic Cloves

  • 2 inch (5cm) piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped

Ginger

  • 1 x 26-28oz (750g) jar or can of crushed tomatoes or tomato purée

Crushed Tomato

  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

Heavy Cream

  • 1/2 cup cashews, ground

Ground Cashews

  • 10oz (300g) leftover roast lamb, coarsely shredded or sliced

Roasted Lamb

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sea Salt and Pepper


1. Heat the ghee in a large, deep frying pan over low heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Now add the cumin, coriander, bay leaves, peppercorns, paprika, and chili powder while stirring. Cook for a couple of minutes longer until fragrant.

2. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a few more seconds while stirring. Pour in the crushed or puréed tomatoes, cream and nuts. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly, and add the lamb. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Masala

3. Serve hot over basmati rice with a crisp green salad on the side.

Masala Over Basmati

Variation: Stir in some fresh spinach or 1 cup of frozen peas, thawed, for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.


*Ghee is clarified butter that is used in Indian cooking. You will find it in specialty Asian markets and it will give your masala an authentic touch.