Wed 29 Sep 2010
Few things are more humbling than moving to another country on your own. After the novelty wears off and the dust settles and you realize just how far away you are from home, it knocks you back a bit. And God knows I needed to be knocked back a bit.
To be honest, I’ve never been the humble type. When I was younger, I said everything that came to my mind and put my foot in my mouth on a regular basis. I often think about an incident from back when I was a lowly newsroom assistant in my early 20s. My editor, a wiry, pencil-thin woman named Jondi Ward, was someone I decided right away I didn’t like. She was good at her job but was absolutely stone-cold to me no matter how well I performed my duties and was fiercely critical when I fell short of her expectations. I never approached her about my concerns, because at that age being right was more important than a resolution. I chose to talk smack to anyone who’d listen, particularly to the night-desk crew. This was the group of guys who’d stumble in for their 2 p.m. shift, bleary-eyed from another late night of putting the paper to bed topped off with a few (or several) nightcaps. The night-desk chief, Grant Condy, a slightly gruff, mid-40s man with a soft-center of a heart, was my go-to ear for my Jondi b*tch-sessions.
I always went for shock value when speaking of my ill-feelings toward Jondi; I’d pepper my rants with the “c” word and other colorful insults. In my immaturity I felt very punk rock about the whole thing and was convinced I was a crusader, the Brave One, someone willing to speak out (though never to Jondi herself!) about the mistreatment I had to endure – oh how the world revolved around me back then! Grant always responded with empathetic nods and a few neutral yet wise words of wisdom like “Just hang on in there!” Though he never partook in the sh*t-slinging, I felt he understood. He just got me.
Several months into the job, I was sitting at home on my day off when my phone rang. It was my best friend and roommate Catherine, who also worked as an assistant at the same paper. “Oh my GOD, you are never going to believe this!” she squealed. “I think Grant is having an affair with Jondi!” I was stunned. How could this be? “Well I overheard them in the kitchen saying something about seeing a movie together later,” she continued. I was dumbfounded. I’d never even seen them acknowledge each other in the office, so this was quite unusual. I knew Grant was married, as was Jondi, and I was pretty sure she had a son. My mind raced, trying to recall conversations, mental images of her husband or his wife or her son – anything that could help make sense of this outlandish gossip.
We whispered to each other on the phone for another few minutes (I don’t know why I was whispering), exchanging theories and seeking clues. Then, suddenly, Catherine yelped, “Wait. Wait. I have to call you right back!” and hung up. A few minutes later, the phone rang. “I just checked the company phone list…and they have the same home phone number,” she said, her voice cracking. I could not process the information; my mind went blank. I said nothing. “They have the same…home…phone…number,” she repeated. My brain couldn’t catch up and I still just sat there, unable to comprehend the news. “Don’t you understand? They are married. To each other!” she cried. My heart skipped several beats. I reviewed what I knew: I never witnessed a single exchange between the two. Her name is Jondi Ward. His is Grant Condy. I shared this seemingly strong evidence with Catherine.
“Think about it. Who wants a name like Jondi Condy?” she said. It all became clear in that moment. I had spent the last several months telling Grant, almost on a daily basis, that I thought his wife was a c***. Humiliated? Yes. Remorseful? Yep. Humbled? Absolutely. I went in the next day, tail between my legs, and apologized profusely to Grant. He, being the consummate professional, accepted. When I asked him why he never said anything, he replied, “You’re young. Everything is a big deal to you and I accept that you genuinely feel that way. I was just giving you room to vent.” A class act, that one.
The greatest benefit of having moved here, so far away from home, has been time for reflection and lessons in humility. For the first time in a long while, I am the one who knows nothing, who needs the help of others, who is fumbling her way through it all. It’s f-ing scary sometimes, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few tearful nights here and there. Though I’d already come a long way from the Jondi Condy days before moving here, I still have some work to do. At the risk of sounding like a total navel-gazer, I made the move because I had to lose myself in something bigger than me to grow up, move forward and learn. So far, it’s been a humbling experience, and a great one at that.
Humble Whiskey Pie
I call this Humble Whiskey Pie because, on the surface, it looks very plain and unassuming. It’s not proud or assertive, like other more elaborate and colorful pies. You probably already have most of the ingredients for this pie in your pantry, especially if you’re Irish (chocolate and whiskey, anyone?) so it doesn’t cost much to make. And accompanied by a humble apology, it will certainly inspire forgiveness from those you’ve offended. Grant, this one’s for you!
110 grams unsalted butter
180 grams granulated sugar
120 grams all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 fluid ounces of Irish whiskey
200 grams of roughly-chopped milk chocolate
100 grams chopped toasted hazelnuts
1 pastry pie shell for a 10-inch pie dish
Preheat the oven to 135 C. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and let cool slightly. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, into the butter and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the sugar and flour. Add in the butter/egg mixture, Irish whiskey, chocolate and hazelnuts and stir. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and place in the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature to 150 C and bake for an additional 45 minutes or until the center is firm. Remove and let cool. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.