An Interview with My Favorite Local Chef 4

juliachildA week or so ago, my friend, Wendy Goldman Scherer interviewed her husband, Andrew, who is their family’s “Executive Chef”. It was an amusing look into how their family (or at least their family’s eating) operates.

Inspired by this, I decided to spring these questions on Meg, who is most definitely the Executive Chef at der Tripp Haus, while she made dinner last Friday evening.

 

How often do you think about food?

Uhhh, multiple times a day, every day. Usually after noon. (editor’s note: Meg rarely eats lunch, so this makes sense.)

How do you decide what to cook each week? 

I decide every day, and I do it according to what you feel like, what I feel like, what’s fresh, and the weather.

What if I want something special? 

You can have whatever you want, whenever you want (like tonight’s dinner.)

What’s for dinner tonight?

Black and blue beef tenderloin and baked potatoes. (Prepared similar to this, taken a few months back.)

A photo posted by Meg Tripp (@megtripp) on

How many nights a week/month do you cook? 5-6 nights a week (so 20-24 nights a month, or 240-288 nights a year. Lots of cooking!)

How much time do you spend cooking dinner on an average weeknight? Average week end night? About 45 minutes during the week (she’s underquoting here.) I tend to take more time on Sunday night, and very little time on Saturday night (That’s true.)

What is your favorite thing to cook? Risotto. Definitely. 

Brown butter scallops & lemon pea risotto. A photo posted by Meg Tripp (@megtripp) on

What’s your favorite meal to eat on nights that you don’t cook?

SUSHI (especially sashimi) or wings (from Buff’s.) 

What’s MY favorite thing that you make?

Burgers and tots, or agrodolce. Or beef stew with biscuits. (Meg’s homemade biscuits are to die for.)

 

Thanks, love, both for being such a wonderful cook and caregiver, and for being a good sport.

 


Par 38 (or how a guy in his late thirties learned to love golf… and being healthy.) 2

Golf

Just over a year and a half ago, Gretchen and Jeff got married. To celebrate his pending nuptials, Jeff’s friends decided his bachelor party should have all the excitement and brazen sexiness of the man himself.

We went golfing.

For seven of the eight of us, golf was either something we loved to do, or something we hadn’t done in years. For me, it was the first time I’d set foot on a golf course since I went sledding down the fairways behind my dad’s work as a kid. And, like any first timer, I stunk.

Golf scorecard

 

With a rule in place to stop at 3-over par to keep the game moving (the 5+ hour round needed a lot of help with that moving), I made less than the max twice. The bogey on the par-5 5th hold felt like a great victory.

And just like that, an addiction was born.

It didn’t start out particularly auspiciously. I bought an issue of Golf Digest. I started watching PGA Tour events on the Golf Channel. I bought Tiger Woods ’14 for the PS3. In December — almost 4 months after that first round — my wife took advantage of a Cyber Monday deal and bought me a beginner set of clubs.

Throughout the winter of 2013-2014, those clubs gathered dust — but I was gobbling up any and all information I could get into the mechanics and soul of the game. Part of that process was learning that (contrary to popular opinion) golf is not a “fat, old man’s game”, but (if done right) a physically challenging game that demands both strength and flexibility… two qualities that commuting 110 miles round trip and sitting in an office all day hadn’t bestowed upon me.

So I started walking more.

Whether I was walking around George Wright G.C., the muni near our home, or just walking around our neighborhood, the universally accepted 10,000 step benchmark became my goal.

I also started using the gym at work. That (if you know me, you won’t be surprised by this) led to new aches and pains, which led to physical therapy to help repair my (ugh) weak glutes, quads, and hip flexors — all important muscle groups in the golf swing. On top of increasing my strength in those areas, I began a new routine of stretching twice a day.

Then, in March of last year, I took advantage of a Groupon for a one-hour golf swing analysis at CityGolf Boston, an indoor golf practice facility in downtown Boston. No surprise: the analysis found my golf swing was wholly lacking in what it needed.

And with that, my amazing CityGolf instructor, Patrick McCarthy (say it in as much of a Boston accent as you possibly can and you’ve just about got it right) took on one heck of a challenging assignment: teaching me to not only hit a golf ball far… but straight.

A year later — through at least 40 lessons, at least as many evenings at the driving range, and a couple dozen rounds at the local par 3 course — I’ve learned a few things about this ancient game.

Golf isn’t as expensive as they make it out to be, but it’s not cheap, either. A bucket of balls at the driving range are $5-10. A round of golf is anywhere from $14 to $100. And 0n top of that beginner set of clubs, as I’ve improved, I’ve needed to replace my driver and hybrid, and am looking at doing the same for my irons. Close-outs and used clubs are my go-to choice (like many others, which may explain TaylorMade’s poor sales results last year), but at $100-200 a club, the costs add up fast.

Having a goal unrelated to losing weight is a great way to lose weight. On my quest to learn how to swing a golf club, I’ve increased strength, become way more flexible than I was just a year ago, and lost 15 lbs. I stand up taller than I did. My clothes fit differently. My wife gawks at me (she added this line herself.) Not a bad tradeoff.

Having a supportive spouse makes all the difference. From buying that first set of clubs, or buying my UP24 band to track my physical activity, to agreeing I should get out to the driving range late enough into the season that my golf instructor has to tell me to stop, Meg has been behind me (sometimes pushing) all the way.

It’s not about how you compare to the pros, or even to your friends. Sure, you play to beat your friends, or whoever you’re competing against in a tournament — but in the end, golf is entirely about competing with yourself. Outdriving your previous long. Hitting purer irons than you ever have. Holing more putts. And having the humility to accept that no… you’ll never play like the pros.

For me, it’s less about my ability to drive it as far as Bubba, or hitting wedges like Phil, or putting like Luke Donald.

Instead, it’s about playing like the octogenarian at the par 3 course when I’m an octogenarian. Unlike most other sports, golf is a game that I can (and will, God willing) play for the rest of my life.

And for that, I have to thank Jeff and his band of merrymakers that one day in August.


For Emma

This Sunday will be the thirtieth anniversary since Emma Mae Waters, my mother, was murdered by Robert Bruneau, her estranged, abusive husband — and my stepfather.

002_2-1024x801

Thirty years. Three decades. Over 80% of my life.

It’s almost easier to count the things that happened when she was alive, instead of trying to say what she missed. My sister and I being adopted by a loving family and growing up. Her grandsons being born and — faster than I would like — growing into strong, (mostly) responsible men. A lifetime of change from 1984 to today.

To mark 30 years since her death, Meg and I are raising money in Emma Mae Waters’ name to benefit Jane Doe, Inc., a Boston-based anti-domestic abuse organization. They are working to create policy change and programs that will help women and families escape the tragic impact of domestic violence in their lives. Thanks to Jane Doe Inc., other families may be spared the tragedy we experienced that Friday night three decades ago.

Please consider giving in Emma’s memory today.


Getting Unstuck. 2

There are two kinds of busy social media strategy folks:

1. Those who continue to publish at their blogs, no matter what, so their presence stays fresh, and readers come to expect their perspective on the issues of the day; and…

2. … everyone else.

If you’ve been keeping tabs on my blog for a year or more, you’ll note that I have little rushes of content… and then I’ll disappear for a few months. Or more than a few. Which puts me squarely in the second camp.

I think it comes from an odd sort of perfectionism — I don’t want to write anything unless it’s useful, and I actually like what I’m saying — combined with the need for a bit of a mental break after my typically busy day as a community manager. We’re either responding to customers and looking ahead to the next content we’re going to share, or exploring what initiatives or projects we want to take on… so to come home after that and produce something salient?

Bit of a challenge.

But as with most things in life, the fact that it’s a challenge seems like a good reason to try it.

That, and my belief that the impulse to express yourself is one that should be rewarded.

I’ve just started running after months away from it (I’ve gone running twice this week! Points for effort!) and my lungs and my legs are feeling challenged, to say the least. I was a track and field guy in high school, so there’s muscle memory in there somewhere, but it’s going to take a bit of time to get my distance and efficiency up to par.

The decision to get back on the trail was one I made on Monday. And as soon as I made that decision, I headed to City Sports, down from my office, to get some running pants suitable for the weather. I didn’t wait to see if I had something at home I could wear, because I knew that could put things off for a day.

And it was great to be out there in my new pants with my not-exactly-new-but-remarkably-unworn (oops!) running shoes. Great to breathe deeply, great to do something for myself.  It was great yesterday, too. And it will be great on Friday.

Mind you, I’m not going to be ready to run a marathon anytime soon… but that’s not why I’m doing it.

I’m doing it because I want to train myself to act on the positive impulses in my life, and to act on them right away. If I feel like a run? I should go for a run. If I’m thinking I should drink eight glasses of water a day, I shouldn’t wait for the next day to fit in the full eight… I can go get a glass right now. If my allergies are driving me bonkers, I should make an appointment with an allergist. How much longer do I need to wait and see if they’ll get better, anyway? The desire for change right now is a good reason to act right now.

That’s why this is my third blog post of the week.

I’ve been thinking about things and pondering ideas and shoring up opinions just as often as I normally do, but I haven’t been taking the time to put them down in words. I tell myself that I can start tomorrow, or that it would take too long to express things clearly, or that I haven’t been reading enough of what everyone else is writing to see if I’m rehashing what’s already out there, etc. etc. And I’m tired! And I already published a bunch of content!

But the impulse to do it, as easily quelled as it may be from day to day, is a good one. And good impulses deserve to be obeyed.

So I’m going to be writing more regularly.

And it won’t even require special pants.


Big Convenience (and a Little Jar of Curry) 4

Zipcar iPhone appLast night, we had a rare occurrence: Meg forgot we were out of an ingredient critical to our planned dinner: Thai curry paste. But no worries… we live a short walk from a small neighborhood grocery store. I walked down and scanned the international foods aisle, but couldn’t find the paste. We were out of luck, and would have to order out — a $40 mistake, perhaps.

Or were we out of luck?

The commuter rail station, between the grocery store and our house, is home to five Zipcars. And in my pocket was an iPhone. As I walked out of the grocery store, I opened the Zipcar app and saw that a Honda Insight hybrid was available right that minute. I finished the reservation process — a couple taps on the screen, really — as I arrived at the car.

I spent $7.75 to reserve the car for an hour, but could have spent half that if I was willing to wait another 12 minutes (I wasn’t.) For less than 1/4 the cost of take out, I rented a car, drove to another grocery store, and bought the missing curry paste. AND some other stuff we remembered we needed on the way.

Zipcar’s incredible growth over the last few years is based on a pretty basic formula: They have reasonably nice cars (the Insight is just about the worst car I’ve ever driven, but that’s Honda’s fault, not Zipcar’s), they’re affordable, and they make the entire process easy.

Whatever industry  you’re in, think about your typical customer experience. Do you offer a good product? Is it priced right? Do you make it easy — pull-out-a-phone-and-make-a-few-taps-easy — to buy? If you can’t say yes to all three of these, the Zipcars of your industry are going to happily, easily steal away your customers.

Any other examples of companies providing similar services with similar ease? What other companies could be rock stars if they just made it more simple to buy?


Be Your Own Tough Editor

I’ve been blogging since 2006 in one form or another, and when I look back on posts I wrote more than five years ago, I have to admit I cringe a little.

Spelling mistakes, grammar issues, rambling paragraphs, obscure industry jargon… you name it, I did it. Repeatedly.

While my friends might chalk up my improvement in the years since to my relationship with a fierce editor (who I married last year — good editors are hard to come by!), that’s not the whole story. I was always passionate about what I was saying, and the value of where I was saying it, but that same passion didn’t extend to how I was saying it. They’re inextricably linked, though, that what, where, and how… and great writing demands that all three get the appropriate amount of attention and consideration before you click ‘publish’.

Once I realized that was the case, I wanted to do better. And so I did.

Since I produce a ton of content every week in my role as Community Manager for Citizens Bank and Charter One, I’ve adopted the following four questions to avoid veering into garbled territory. I call them my ‘quality filter’… kind of like a Brita jug for my words.

(And while the title of this post talks about being a ‘tough’ editor, the process is actually pretty quick and painless.)

Here they are:

1. Have I edited out the ‘no brainer’ mistakes? While typos are bound to happen, a host of repeated typos are unacceptable — and distracting for many readers. Before you publish, read what you’ve written from start to finish. And then read it again. Worried you won’t see the forest for the trees by that point? You’d be surprised — the second read is where I spot mistakes.

A good trick is to read the content ‘out loud’ in your head (or even out loud, if this won’t scare/annoy the person in the next cube over.) This makes  jumbled syntax and misspelled words stick out like sore thumbs.

2. Is this ‘scannable’? Many people scan content before they decide to dig in and read it all, and a large block of uninterrupted, dense text makes that tough. If they can’t scan your post, they may put it on the back burner — or shelve it entirely. A good rule of thumb is to keep your paragraphs to two or three sentences in length, and ensure your sentences don’t stretch into an entire paragraph (I see you cringing, comma abusers!)

Formatting content this way acknowledges natural reader behavior, and is rewarded consistently with more time on page.

3. Is this approachable for people outside of my space? Most of us err on the side of “inside language” and jargon when we’re talking about an area or subject matter we know well. While many people who approach your content may be just as well versed in your topic as you are, there will be some who are completely new to the conversation — perhaps even people in your industry. So when you post content, consider…

  • Have I used words or terms that could be misunderstood by someone less familiar with what I do? Is there a jargon-free term I could use instead?
  • Have I introduced a concept that I assume everyone understands… but where a bit of explanation could add value?
  • Could I link to other posts or pages that provide definitions for terms or concepts I’ve mentioned? Could I assign keyword tags or place the content under a category that would give it further context?

4. Have I welcomed further conversation? You want your readers to feel that their contribution or response would be welcome (at least, you should want to…), and a good way to do that is to ask questions. Lots of questions. It’s a bit ‘Blogging 101′, certainly, but it’s also a step that many of us forget when we post.

Thoughtful questions show people you care about their perspective and opinion, and provide them with an easy framework for their response. And when readers do contribute, be sure to thank them for sharing their thoughts, and (if appropriate) offer a response in return. By acknowledging your commenters consistently, you’ll find that your commenters will be consistent in returning.

Now it’s time for you to go through this post and see if I missed any errors.

HA!

OR, you could share what you do to edit or refine your content before you post it.

Do you have a process or checklist you go through? Someone you show things to before you post them? How do you avoid looking back and cringing at your mistakes?