What is the best thing a meal has done for you in the past week, two weeks, month? Potentially, it has brought you and your family close, you and your friends together for good laughs and entertaining nights, or even you and a potential sweetheart somewhere exciting — all beautiful things. For me, a meal has bookmarked some turmoil and given birth to a mindset that I hope will make 2016 my best year yet.
Let me set the scene. Around two in the afternoon on a (slightly cold) early spring day, a friend and I went skateboarding throughout Schenley Park in Pittsburgh. We trekked all the way to the top of the hill on Overlook Dr. (see what I saw below). Faced with that view and a skateboard, there is only one way down. I began my descent, and fate took it from there.
On my way down, through no fault of my own, I was hit by a car. The driver was not paying attention and drove straight into me. At the last second, instinct took over and I bailed — unfortunately, my ankle and foot still collided with the front end of the car and the roll on the asphalt after the collision did not feel too great. I remember having sooooo much throbbing pain throughout my legs. Simply stated, it was not fun.
I immediately bounced back up, though, and tried to walk it off. I had a conversation with the driver (who was very apologetic), and as I was trying to walk off the pain, I came to terms with what had happened: this was just an accident, and it could have happened to anyone. I told the driver that I would be fine and that there was no need to worry. Accidents happen, man.
Nevertheless, the pain I felt in my foot was excruciating. I tried to adopt the warrior mentality with this situation. I figured that this accident was not going to slow me down and that I’d just grin and bear it through the pain. I even went to work later that evening with an ankle and foot so swollen that I could barely put my shoe on. That night I made a smooth 27% tip average, which made the pain a little more bearable.
My ankle stayed severely swollen for a few days after the accident. The pain was pretty intense, but I survived. After my ankle started feeling better, I got back on the board and found a true love for skating. Sometimes you just have to realize that life is going to knock you down (or send a 3600 pound vehicle directly into you), but it’s how you choose to respond to those situations that defines your character. You can always choose to be a warrior.
Unfortunately, once I started feeling better, I got hit with a super busy work schedule and four exams within 10 days. I stayed on the grind and made it through the hectic two weeks, happy with my performance at work and on the tests. Plus, I went to a Pirates game, got intoxicated a few nights, followed this Game of Thrones drinking game while re-watching the show and preparing for winter to come, and made some great memories with some great people.
To celebrate surviving and thriving through these two weeks, I knew I needed to treat myself to a baller ass meal. I have been obsessed with French culture lately (an obsession I gained from my French professor, who is the sweetest woman in the world), so I decided to go all out on a truly French feast. I’ve never felt more like a monsieur in my life, which was a truly beautiful experience.
I ventured to Crepes Parisiennes, located in the North Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, for my meal. It was a rainy, dreary day, but that was not bringing me down at all. It took me some time to figure out the perfect order, and after debating whether to get a liege waffle or a dessert crepe, I just said “Screw it” and went for broke. My order consisted of a French dark chocolate liege waffle, Icelandic smoked salmon crepe, a white forest crepe, and a café au lait.
French Dark Chocolate Liege Waffle
The first dish I tore apart was this beautiful waffle. It was authentic to the Liege style and possessed that delicious sweetness a good Liege waffle has. Plus, it was covered in this not-too-sweet dark chocolate sauce, which played so well with the sweetness of the waffle, the crunchiness of the fresh walnuts, and the lightness of the freshly-made whipped cream. This was easily one of the best waffles I’ve ever had.
Smoked Icelandic Salmon Crepe
My better judgement convinced me that I shouldn’t just ingest delicious sweets, but I should also go for some substance. I made an excellent choice in selecting the smoked Icelandic salmon crepe. This crepe was garnished with creme fraiche and a slice of lemon, which played well with the fresh salmon.
Every bite was delicious, and the small salad made me feel like I wasn’t being the fattest person on earth. My only regret is not getting the feta bechamel sauce, but there’s always next time.
White Forest Crepe (and the café au lait)
This was the game changer. This crepe was absolutely incredible, and I loved every second of eating it. There was a white chocolate sauce inside the crepe that tasted unbelievably good with the generous topping of fresh raspberries, walnuts, and whipped cream. Out of the entire meal, I savored this the most while sipping on my café au lait. I could eat one of these every day and love it more and more — it was that insanely good.
La Patissierie du Jour (Dessert of the Day)
After finishing the white forest crepe, I somehow still had an inclination to enjoy a French baked good. Unfortunately, Crepes Parisiennies was sold out of my traditional favorite French pastry (a chocolate croissant), so I hopped on a bus to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and traveled to Gaby et Jules, one of the best French bakeries in the city. Their dessert of the day did not disappoint.
Chef David Piquard is responsible for all of the fantastic creations at Gaby et Jules, and he truly delivers authentic French pastries and desserts that have a modern twist. The dessert I opted for was surrounded with a thin layer of chocolate cream and topped with silk chocolate and a banana rum cream-filled macaron. All the flavors were delicious, and this was the perfect ending to a truly French meal.
This meal was everything I could have asked for and more. It bookended a long two weeks of stress and was supremely enjoyable. Plus, two days after this meal, I made the most money in tips I’ve ever pulled in and was extremely proud of my performance at my job. But what stuck with me the most after this meal was the idea of optimizing myself.
I reflect on this meal as a pure treat. It was certainly a delicious meal, but it was an ending in many ways. It was an ending to two weeks of calamity, it was an ending to undeservedly treating myself, and it was an ending to the somewhat poor diet I had been on. I’ve always been obsessed with putting the best me forward, and the best me stems from a healthy, balanced diet.
This meal put into perspective for me what I had been struggling with for so long: if I truly want to live an optimized lifestyle and continually put my best self forward, then meals like this can only be rare treats. A clean, healthy diet is key to optimization, and that’s the way I want to live from now on.
I’m not saying I’ll never eat sugar again, but I am finally making a conscious effort to create a proper diet and maintain the healthiest body I can. Because our bodies are the only vehicles we get to navigate through this life, and I want to make sure mine is in the best shape possible.
So, with that mindset and some incredible summer plans coming up ever so shortly, I am hoping to make 2016 my best year yet. Life is a beautiful thing, and I want to take advantage of every second I get. The path of the warrior destined for optimization is the road I want to travel in this life. It is the only way I’ll ever find happiness, which is always the goal. Just keep grinding, yo.