I ran into a some high school friends of mine the other day at the grocery store and it reminded me of what a nerd I was in school. I wasn’t the socially ostracized, jaded nerd type. I was more like the over-looked, under-appreciated, easily ignored girl. I sat in the front of the class room, the only one raising my hand, the only one who ever actually read Dickens. I even enjoyed it. If any of the popular kids ever did notice me it was with a comment like, “Oh, yeah….the one who likes to read.”
I was uber-skinny with my own sense of style which never really seemed to make sense to anyone else. My Hermione Granger hair was always out of control unless it was tightly tied into a bun on the top of my head. The glasses and braces didn’t win me any beauty contests, but I never really cared. I was more interested in philosophy, ballet, reading or riding my horse (yes, it’s true).
I was, in a word, Nerd. (See figure 1.1 below)
And my problem with men was this: I was smarter than them, more agile than them, more emotionally astute than them and certainly better read. They were simple eye-candy and I knew it, but I wanted them. I just preferred to spend the rest of my time with the nerdy boys instead. And the truth was, none of the eye-candy boys wanted me.
But you know how it is with super hero’s, they are usually these nerds who discover their amazing powers. Then I grew up. I traipsed off to Europe when I was 19 and it was then that I discovered my power. You know the one I’m talking about. The ones that make a Frenchmen’s head turn.
I finally had the long, long, long, long, long awaited power-of-the-breast; the high-heels-make-me-tower-over-most-men power of intimidation; the ability to take of my nerdy glasses and still see. And I was not shy about using my new found gifts.
But like every super hero, I also discovered that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It took me two or three years, but I discovered that the eye-candy boys were exactly as I had suspected: sweet, little, empty, candy shells with no nuts inside. The Nerdy boys, the geeks, the one’s who played role-playing games, who majored in science and read Joyce, they were the one’s I had wanted all along. And like every super hero, when you discover your powers, you have to decide to use them for good or for evil. If you cannot learn to control them, people could get hurt.
I came to this realization when I met B. He was older than me, so he had a head start on this “coming to terms with your nerd powers”. He was 6’6″, I couldn’t tower over him. He was an engineer, I couldn’t out-geek him. I couldn’t out-swim him, out-sail him, out-talk him, or out-psych him. He simply shrugged off the power of the breast. Like Dr. Xavier, he became my mentor.
I only had one power over him. Like Jean Gray, it was one I did not know I possessed until it showed up in a moment of extreme stress. I did not know how to control it. What was this power?
No, it wasn’t the power of cooking.
There are times in our lives where we are all the students and we all become the mentors. As we were driving in the car to meet with friends JJ said to me, “I used to play a lot of World of Warcraft.” I knew my mentoring time had come. I knew this was my nerd-paduan. (See figure 1.1 above) But I didn’t feel ready. I had not finished my training.
I often wonder if he thought I was intimated by him. The answer is, not really. I’m pretty sure I can out-swim him and out-psych him. I can tower over him and I can certainly out-sail him and so much more. He does have the gift of gab and I’m not sure I could out-geek him. After all, he has potential. What intimidated me was that power I possessed yet couldn’t control. The one my own mentor could never help me with.
Young paduan – I am sorry to tell you – the lesson I had to learn from B is that there is no mentor. The last trick must be done by you. I know you think you know this it, but now you have to do it. Like Luke in the swamp, like Theseus in the labyrinth, like Sita in the forest, like Hanuman – you have to find it in yourself to take the leap. You have use your own strength to persevere. You have to slay your own monsters. All I, or any mentor, can offer is a golden thread. You have to hold on and do your part.
Peach Jalapeño Jam – (Preserve and preserver)
2 1/2 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into 1/4-inch thick wedges
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 jalapeños, seeds and stems removed, diced
2 pint-size jars or 4 half-pint sized jars with lids and bands
Toss the peach slices in a non-reactive saucepot with the sugar and macerate for 1-2 hours or until the sugar has dissolved and the peaches are soft and juicy. Meanwhile, sterilize the jars and lids in either a pot of boiling water or the dishwasher.
Once the peaches have macerated, it’s time to make the jam. First, place a plate in the freezer. Then, stir in the lemon juice and the diced jalapeño to the peaches. Place the saucepot on the stove and turn the heat to high. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down to low, stirring occasionally. (Don’t worry if there’s foam on top of the jam. While some advise to skim it, I leave it and find it doesn’t affect the jam.)
After 40 minutes, take the plate out of the freezer and place a spoonful of the jam on the plate. After a minute, tilt the plate and if the jam doesn’t run then it’s ready. If it does run, continue to cook it while occasionally stirring for 5 more minutes and then check again. Continue to cook and test until it doesn’t run.
Pour jam into hot, sterile jars leaving a bit of headspace. Cover with lid and rings. Allow to cool and then refrigerate. I find that it can last for a few months in the refrigerator.
Alternatively, you can place the covered jars in a canning pot or stockpot, cover the jars with water, bring to a boil and then cook on high for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and then allow to cool. If you are processing this way, make sure that your lids have never been used before, as they will only seal once. These jars will not require refrigeration until after opening.
Recipe source: Homesick Texan