Do you ever find yourself getting bogged down in the frustration of work? I did the other day. Don’t get me wrong; for the most part, I love my job. The people I work with our great, I have fun at work, and the challenge of using my skillset and education as part of a company can’t be beat. But there are some days — and some times of the day — when I hit a roadblock. Maybe it has to do with being unable to move along a particularly frustrating author in what he has to do, or maybe it’s a tricky legal situation which has me digging through legal publishing agreements. Whatever it is, there are bound to be times where I hit that 2:30 energy drain at, oh, about 11:30.
It happened the other day. Our business manager at the Press, an older gentleman who deals with the ‘boring’ but oh so important money ‘stuff,’ came over to my desk. He had given me a major project to work on a few weeks earlier which I had hardly touched because of other priorities, and as soon as he showed up, I found myself apologizing for getting behind.
It was OK, he said, he wanted to talk about something else. Phew.
Actually, not phew. More like “oh shinaz.” What he wanted to talk to me about was only THE major book project for our press. The book that was supposed to come out last year. The book which we’re running behind on now. The book, he reminded me, which will either make or break our financial year.
He could see the stress in my face, and I could see the stress in his. In that moment it didn’t matter that he was some 40 years older than me, came from a remarkably different background, and had a completely different and more senior role with the Press. At that moment we were both human beings under stress in the middle of a workday, needing a break and a reminder that some times, you just need to unwind before summoning the strength to get going again.
He looked out the window, and knew exactly what to do.
I’ve only had a fresh fig once and my life, and I couldn’t have told you the difference between a fig tree and an apple tree before the other day. But when our Business Manager pointed out the fig tree out back our office and asked me if I wanted to pick figs, I was not only relieved for the break from the stress, I was, suddenly, excited. Judging my the ways his eyes lit up when we got outside, I would say he was too.
It’s amazing how the spark of creativity can not only lift one’s spirit, but one’s physical energy. I’m usually zombie-like in my lethargy when I get home from work, but something about a bag of freshly picked figs had already put in motion the culinary wheels in my head. I wasn’t lost for ideas, and immediately knew my first task would be to try to recreate the Ricotta Tartine I had for lunch the fancy Euro-style chain Le Pain Quotidien a few years ago.
I decided to use a slice of P28 bread as the base. While I was hardly a fan of the bagels, P28′s bread does a better job at bridging the game between providing a whopping amount of protein (14 grams per slice) and taste. Lightly toasted, the slice of bread manages to avoid the gummy chew that plagues the bagels. The flavor gravitates towards a mix of grains and seeds with a hint of honey sweetness, making it a more than tolerable — heck, I’d even say enjoyable — option for an open-faced sandwich.
I wish I had some fresh ricotta on hand, but unfortunately I didn’t. Wanting to bumb up the protein even more I instead decided to cover the open-faced sandwich with cottage cheese. A layer of salt, black pepper, and a drizzle of strawberry balsamic vinegar was to follow, adorned with fresh picked basil. Next up came the figs, as well as some tomatoes picked from the garden. I decided to grill both of fruits, topping both with a bit of honey and more balsamic.
The result wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the Tartine I had from “Le Pain,” but then again, it wasn’t that far off — even with the cottage cheese substituted for the Ricotta. The star of the show here was the plump, honey and balsamic drizzled combination of tomatoes and figs. There’s something about balancing a floral sweetness with the harsh grind of black pepper than does an amazing job, while the salty cottage cheese underneath helps bind the tastes and textures together.
It was a nice, complete, and creative way to end a long day, and probably highlights exactly why I’d buy P28 bread in the future. What’s more, it was the kind of meal that allows you to look back on 8 hours of sitting at a desk and realize that you did more than just destroy your eyesight by looking at a Microsoft Word document. I don’t know how long that Fig Tree will hold up with fresh fruit, but as long as it does — and as long as the challenges of the job keep coming — you can bet I’ll be picking figs each and every afternoon.
Food for Thought: What’s your best way to alleviate stress at the office? Ever picked a fresh fig, or any fruit?