Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Here's My Card, with a Side of Croquetas

I met Adam when I was a senior in college.  I remember him as a large, round-faced, clean-shaven, slightly older-than-college-age guy with medium-length wavy black hair, big black-rimmed glasses, Hawaiian print shirts, and beads: the kind of long-flat, ziti-shaped beads that you used to find on jump ropes to make them heavy.  Let's just say that he stood out in a crowd.  Adam was also an English major.  We had a few shared classes, and we would sometimes walk from one to another together.  Or, I should say, he walked me.  I never would have initiated the relationship, because he wasn't my type, but he was an extrovert, and he saw something in me that made him decide he was going to befriend me.

I seemed to collect guys like that, so I didn't think much of it.  Until the poetry reading.

I'd submitted my work to a contest at my university, and won honorable mention.  As part of the award, I was invited to share my work at a real poetry reading, with a real academic audience.  The idea was enough to make me swoon, but also quake in my boots.  My poetry had always been intensely private, and I'd entered the contest on a lark, just to see what might happen.

On the night of the reading, I showed up in my best black pants and dark shirt, trying to look literary.  Stepping to the podium, I saw him standing in the back, wearing his brightly colored jump rope beads.  He flashed me a goofy smile, and I couldn't help but smile back, as I took a deep breath and started to read.  After it was over, he came up to me with a sweet bouquet of wilting pink grocery store roses, and a small envelope.  "Open it," he urged me.  Inside were a few printed plain black business cards: the kind of cards you used to be able to make yourself at a kiosk at Kinkos or Staples.  One of the cards, featuring a small truck graphic, had my name in bold letters, and under it,  "Poet.  I Truck Words."  One of the others pictured a jewel, and under it: "J.  Writer.  A Real Gem."

I swallowed hard, at loss for words.  Something about those business cards made me feel more authentic.  Like maybe I really was a writer.  He smiled.  "Don't forget who you are," he told me.

Years later, sadly, I no longer know where those business cards are, and I lost track of Adam as soon as we were no longer taking classes together.  But I was looking at business card sites the other day because I've been thinking about ordering cards for BlogHer, feeling like I couldn't get them to look quite right, like I should have a designer, like they were another expense, and I couldn't help but remember him.  I really should bite the bullet, I thought.

"JHL.  Writer.  Blogger.  Philosopher.  I Truck Words."

When I'm not browning croquetas, of course.

Do you have a business card?   If you had to make one for yourself, what would it say?  Has someone's external validation of your work ever changed how you perceive it yourself?

Because they're fried, these are not exactly health food.  Some people bake them.  I've compromised by reducing the amount of oil used for frying, and lightening the recipe.  They're pretty ubiquitous in the tapas bars of Spain.

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you could also use 3/4 lb. chicken and 1/4 lb. Serrano ham ... or even your favorite diced vegetable ... broccoli might be nice here)
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/3 c. all purpose flour
2 1/2 c. milk of your choice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
pinch of cinnamon
1 egg, separated
1 additional egg white
fine dried bread crumbs (no seasoning)
olive oil for frying

Cook the chicken or vegetables as you like, by either frying, poaching, steaming, or roasting.  Chop finely.

Add about 1/4 c. olive oil to a frying pan and saute the onions over medium heat until golden, about 12 minutes.  Add the flour and stir until the mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes.  Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly, then cook, stirring, until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken (and ham, or vegetables, if using), and season with salt, pepper, and cinnamon.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Lightly beat the egg yolk, then stir well into the mixture.  Let cool. This will be your filling.  (This step may take a while; I recommend refrigerating the mixture for at least an hour once it cools slightly.  You want it to be firm enough to scoop into balls.)

In a shallow bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy.  Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.  Scoop up an egg-shaped ball of the filling.  Dip it into the egg white and then into the bread crumbs, coating evenly.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Repeat until all of the filling is used.

In a deep frying pan, pour the oil to a depth of about 3/4 inch (The original recipe says to deep-fry in 3 inches of oil, so you can do that if you are so inclined) and heat until almost smoking (about 375F).  Working in batches, fry the croquetas until golden, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels to drain; keep warm.  Serve hot (the filling will get harder again as it cools, but will become creamy when warm).  If you need to reheat them, it's best to do so in a 300F oven for 5-10 minutes.
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  1. Gorgeous story! I would love to read your poem. Can you post me your business card? I love collecting them, not intentionally, they just seem to end up on my desk at work.

  2. Mine says "Doula" of course, but if I were feeling more cryptic it would say "The River Banks."

  3. I do love croquetas.

    I have no idea what my business card would say, but the tagline on my blog is "Optimists think they have more fun". That might be on it somewhere, along with a promise to correct your grammar only if you ask me to.

    1. I like that. (Not)Maud. Voluntary grammarian. Optimist. :)

  4. If I could go back I would have started here on day one:

  5. Great story, funny how some people are only in our lives for a short period of time but make such a huge impact...makes me want to reach out to people despite my reclusive/introverted leanings. (I'll admit that when I first started reading, I thought you were describing meeting your husband, oops!)

  6. I've had a few business cards over the years, some serious, some hilarious, and some just a flat out joke. I'm proud of the ones I just had printed because the business I'm starting now is all me from the ground up though some of the joke ones were pretty fun too.

  7. You know, I've never had business cards and I've never considered getting them until recently, when I found myself writing my contact info at the bottom of a card I was sending to a publishing house (not a submission, something else). Maybe I should get some cards for my hoped-for future as a writer. Of course, then I'd have to figure out what to write on them...

  8. What a sweet idea, the cards. I like the sound of that Adam and wish there were more of his kind in the world. I don't have cards, not for any of the hats I where. And I think part of it IS an authenticity issue (I suffer from impostor's syndrome).


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