Banker or Ballerina? Graduation Advice & Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction

John_Christmas_Eve_1964When we were kids we had dreams. Some were big, others were small, some fanciful and a few were even heroic. We weren’t afraid to reach for the stars. At five, the boys imagined their future selves as policemen and firemen or operating enormous bulldozers. The girls dreamed of becoming veterinarians or artists. If we liked our kindergarten teacher, then teacher was added to the list.

When did we become so unabashedly realistic? Few if any little kids ever dream of becoming an insurance agent or a marketing manager. Chances are good that bus driver or accountant is not on many lists of dream jobs. Better to invent a walking-talking-poker-playing robot or drive racecars. However, most of us ended up in the real world not dreamland. We don’t wear capes and are more likely to punch a clock than a dastardly villain.

Somewhere along the way, we turned our back on those glamorous careers and chose Plan B. There were lots of good reasons. For some, it was the realization that they just weren’t the type to run into a burning building. Others discovered that as much as they loved animals, they had little if any aptitude for veterinary science. Or maybe an uncle offered them a good paying internship between junior and senior year of college and twenty-five years later, they’re still there … making widgets or counting beans. Let’s face it; it’s hard to turn your back on a sure thing and reach for the stars. We all have a cousin or neighbor who reached and stumbled. Playing at the Grand Ole Opry or inventing the next Facebook is hardly a sure thing.

This spring, more than three million bright and happy seniors will graduate from high school in the US. A million or so more will earn associate degrees and close to two million will bring home a bachelor’s. What career advice would you, should you, will you give these kids?

No matter how long I live, I will not forget the scene in The Graduate when Benjamin Braddock receives a word of career advice. Plastics. Laughing on the outside, that one word sent shivers of dread and horror through millions of idealistic, young Americans. Like me. The scene evokes visions of cubicles, tyrannical bosses and boring meetings. It suggests a life sentence of bumper-to-bumper commutes and endless conference calls.

That young, idealistic me knew there had to be something better. Most days I seesawed between ace reporter and artist. At the time, my list of personal champions was pretty diverse and included both the oh-so glamorous Brenda Starr and fearless Georgia O’Keefe.

But that was then and now is now. What career advice will you give the bright young graduates among your friends and family? Before you answer; stop and think. Is there another path you wish you’d taken? Sure, you can tow the party line and suggest healthcare, insurance or telecommunications but, maybe just maybe, you’ll take a step back and channel the voice of your younger, more adventurous self. You remember that one, the idealist.

So what wise words will you offer? Banker or ballerina? Computer analyst or cowboy? Doctor or DJ? It’s up to you. Before you decide, ask yourself (and answer honestly), “Is there anything you’d rather be?” Then, go ahead and advise those eager young people to follow the straight and narrow … or share the dream you set aside. Who knows, you might convince yourself it’s time for a new start.

Here’s to new beginnings and bon appétit!

Balsamic Reduction with Heirloom Tomatoes
Not just for tomatoes, drizzle Balsamic Reduction on other veggies, grilled meats and chicken or your favorite brie or goat cheese. Enjoy!
Serves 12

1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 small clove garlic, minced
2-3 springs thyme
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon or to taste honey
1/4-1/2 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 pounds heirloom tomatoes
1 loaf country bread, thickly sliced (if making bruschetta)

Put the vinegar in small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil the over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the shallot, garlic and thyme and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Using a rubber spatula to press on the solids, strain the vinegar through a sieve into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the mustard and honey. Continue whisking and slowly add the olive oil until thick and well combined.

heirloom_tomatoes_02Slice the tomatoes or cut into wedges, arrange on a large platter or individual plates and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle sparingly with Balsamic Reduction and serve.

Alternatively, make bruschetta. Grill slices of country bread and, while the bread is still warm, top with tomato and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle sparingly with Balsamic Reduction, cut into wedges and serve.

Cover and store extra Balsamic Reduction in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream
Two Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Three Years Ago – Chocolate-Chocolate Sorbet
Four Years Ago – Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons
Five Years Ago – The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen
Six Years Ago – Asian Slaw

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What advice will you give your favorite graduate? Something you hear at least a couple of times a year? Feel free to share. Let’s start a conversation.

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015


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