Food + Wine, Fun

It’s not always about me: A therapy session. And Cream Cheese Semifreddo

I take it very personally when someone I love is in a bad mood.  I feel responsible.  Not for putting them there, but for bringing them out of it.

OK… to be honest, I do sometimes feel responsible for putting them there… My first instinctual, internal question is always,

‘Oh no, what did I say this time?’

That, my friends, comes from a childhood career of always being wrong.

I sort of look at that bad mood as my job, my project…a challenge maybe?  Because I have this Superman complex which makes me believe I’m capable of fixing or saving anything.  I don’t like seeing people suffer in any way, it makes me sick.  And when I’m out with someone who doesn’t appear to be having a good time, I can’t focus on having fun myself until I can bring them back.  It becomes a task I simply must complete.

And every bad mood is different, every person is different.   Some people like to be sweet-talked out of a mood, some people like to be pulled out by their boot straps with tough love, some prefer distraction… and then there are those who just plain want me to go away.  That’s the one I’m learning more about.  That’s the one foreign to me.  Because when I’m in a bad mood, stressed out, or sad, I want someone to come down in my sad hole with me for a bit.  Look at things through my eyes, understand the reasoning behind my emotions, and then I’ll pull my own self out of the hole.  But it’s only after I get that understanding attention.  But the people who just plain wanna be left alone- those are the tough ones for me.  How does someone like me, a perpetual mood healer deal with such a thing?

Honestly?  Persistence.  And that ain’t always smart.  For them or for me.  (You can add stubborn to the Superman complex.)  I’ll be working hard on trying to pull someone out of a bad or stressful mood, trying all sorts of different tactics- surprise treats, thoughtful notes, humor… and when all of that doesn’t work, and they’re still sitting in their hole, I tend to feel bad about myself.  Isn’t that ridiculous?  I know it is, I’m typing it right now and realize how crazy I sound.  But that’s the truth.  And I’m working on it.  This year, these past several months to be specific, I’ve been working incredibly hard on understanding this one simple thing…

 It’s not always about me.
That one thought solves a lot of my emotional issues.  That one sentence can cure a lot of my problems.  Because, you know what?  Thinking that it’s always something I did or I said is, in fact, a very selfish way to think.  And I loathe selfish.  It’s one of my least favorite qualities in a person.  The sheer fact that I worked so hard trying to fix the other person is a a selfLESS act, so why would it make sense for me to then become selfish in thinking it’s all about something I did?  Silly, very, very silly.  And yet…Let’s say I send someone a text or email and don’t ever hear back?  My first instinct is to think, ‘Oh no, they hated it.  I bothered them.  They hate me now.  I take back everything I said!!!’  Someone’s in a bad mood and I can’t fix it?- ‘Oh no, they hate me.  I was annoying and I made it worse.  It’s over between us.’  I give someone a gift and don’t hear anything back?- ‘Oh no, they hated it.  I killed them.  It was poison and I killed them.’  Totally rational thoughts, right?  But now when those thoughts come in my head, I say to myself, ‘It’s not always about you, Abbey.’  And I move on.

Here’s the thing- I’m a giver.  I’m a helper.  I’m very, very generous.  And I’m not saying that to brag, I’m saying that to prove a point.  I over-give, I over-help, I’m over-generous.  (I would make a killer elf.)  I get that.  I know that about myself.  And to some people, that’s great.  To some people, they see those things as thoughtful gestures and it makes them feel special, and loved…which is totally my point.  To those people, that’s what they love most about me.  But some people don’t like attention.  Some people are suspicious about it, and it makes them uncomfortable.  That’s tough for me, but I need to realize that and dial back the Abbey a bit on those folks.  It makes me incredibly happy and satisfied and fulfilled to please the people I love.  And I don’t do it for the reaction or the thank you.  I truly and honestly don’t.  Don’t get me wrong- thank-you’s are always awesome.  But I genuinely love the way it makes me feel to get excited about surprising somebody with something I know they will love.  Yet somehow, if I don’t get a good reaction, or any reaction whatsoever, I regret my actions.
I’m a very spontaneous and instinct-driven individual.  I do my best work when I’m not thinking too much about it, when I react authentically and quickly based on my gut.  This is why, if you know me well, you will receive many a random text about many a random thing.  I think things, and I react.  BUT, when I have the time to think about the quick decision I just made, when there’s too much silence on the other end, I am a professional second-guesser and apologizer.  It’s a nasty habit I have.  And, like I said- I’m working on it.  Maybe a good practice for me would be to sit on a thought or an idea before reacting?  Maybe.  I don’t know though…then a lot of my best ideas would never have come to be…like having babies or pimento cheese scones or cutting bangs.
But something I do try to practice now is this- I try to imagine the other person, receiving my surprise gift, or my random text or email, and they’re in the middle of a thousand other things, they’re dealing with so many other important issues that responding to my gesture was just not high on their to-do list.  It doesn’t mean they didn’t like it or appreciate it, it doesn’t mean that I caused a negative reaction, it simply means that they’re just too busy.  And that makes me feel better.  I try to imagine that when they received it, they did get a little bit of joy, and their heart got all warm and fuzzy, even if they didn’t tell me about it.  And that makes me feel better.  Because that right there is the only reason why I did it- to make them feel good, whether they told me or not.
So, even though I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions, even though I think we should all be setting goals for ourselves year round and not just at the end of every year, I think that for this upcoming year I will continue to work on this.  I will repeat my mantra over and over until it becomes as instinctual as the gesture itself… it’s not always about me, it’s not always about me, it’s not always about me…  I will click my damn heels if I need to.  But I will never, ever, stop being me.  And ME is a giver.  An over-generous, over-helping, one elf of an over-giver.  It’s just who I am.  Like it, don’t like it, take it, leave it, that’s ME.(You’re welcome.)

Since we’re on the subject of generosity and giving and sharing, I’m gonna share my recipe for Cream Cheese Semifreddo that I plan on serving for Christmas Eve dessert this year.  The last time I made it, I served it with my Carrot SpoonCake (that y’all have GOT to check out because it is INCREDIBLE) but this time I’ll be serving it with a Panettone Bread Pudding.  It will come at the end of my Christmas Eve dinner that will go as such:*Orange-Glazed Cornish Game Hens with Chipotle-Cheddar Sweet Potato Gratin and Roasted Broccolini with Pomegranate Arils and Toasted Pine Nuts

Panettone is an eggy Italian sweet bread studded with dried fruit and candied orange, so it will be awesome after this meal.  I’ll cube up the bread, place in a pretty baking dish, and pour over a custard flavored with a bit of brown sugar and nutmeg, allow it to sit overnight in the fridge and ‘marinate’, then I’ll bake it til golden brown and crispy on top, but still creamy in the center.

This Cream Cheese Semifreddo will simply melt on our warmed tongues before it gently slides down our throats.  It will be heavenly.  It will be sinfully delicious and simply wonderful.  And it makes me incredibly happy that I get to share it with you now.  (Whether you thank me for it or not.)

*Cream Cheese Semifreddo

(Semifreddo, in Italian, means half cold.  It is literally a semi-frozen dessert.  It’s pretty much just a frozen mousse, not as firm as ice cream, not as soft as a mousse or pudding…somewhere in between.)

Before you begin, place a medium, glass mixing bowl and your metal beaters in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Using an electric, handheld mixer with those cold beaters, combine the following in your cold bowl:

-1 (8 ounce) brick neufchatel cream cheese, softened (I prefer the tangy flavor of reduced fat)
-1 cup heavy cream, very cold
-1/2 cup powdered sugar
-good splash vanilla extract
-smaller splash almond extract (optional, but will go nicely with the Panettone)
-a couple pinches kosher salt

Beat/whisk until soft peaks form.

Place in a small container with a lid and freeze for 2 hours for the perfect consistency.

If you needed to make this ahead of time, then take it out of the freezer and allow it to soften a bit before serving.  You want the texture to be a bit firmer than soft-serve ice cream when you serve.

Spoon or scoop out onto your plates and enjoy!

(You can also place this in a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap in the freezer and when you’re ready to serve, simply invert it onto a plate, remove plastic wrap and slice instead of scoop for a unique presentation.)

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