My best friend’s dad excitedly yells “coincidence theory!” when it happens. Others know it as serendipity.
It’s the little things that connect to something else. These moments strung together like events in a choose-your-own-adventure book. They don’t seem to mean much, but sometimes they do. Coincidence, people say as they brush it off. But still these uncanny moments happen all the time, and often they lead you to exactly what you needed.
It’s like when you learn a new word and suddenly see it everywhere. Back in high school I truly enjoyed studying my SAT vocabulary book in the morning, so this happened quite a bit.
One night Danny wondered if he’d bought the right cheese (Emmentaler) for a ham and bean stew. I figured it’d be fine and we didn’t bother to look it up. The next day I came across an article about gougères by David Tanis. As a side note in his story of cheesy puffs, Tanis tells me Emmentaler is interchangeable with Comte and Gruyère, which is just what I needed to know.
That night we made the stew, and it was more than fine.
serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way (Oxford Dictionary)
Days later, my bookmark held its place halfway through Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” when the Brain Pickings weekly newsletter arrived in my inbox. One item immediately caught my eye, a blurb about an anthology of columns from an anonymous advice columnist known as Sugar. The newsletter tells me this new book compiles some of the best of “Sugar’s no-bullshit, wholehearted wisdom on life’s trickiest contexts – sometimes the simplest, sometimes the most complex, always the most deeply human.” Sugar turns out to be Strayed. Of course.
Why does this happen? How?
Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.
I’d heard about Strayed’s memoir here and there before picking it up on a whim from a library display. In the thick of the busy holiday (retail) hours and the imminent end of a challenging year, it was the inspiring book I needed. I was glad it found me. Her writing is raw and her story is a good one, making this book a quick read. Almost too quick. At the end of the last page, I felt like I needed a few minutes to take it all in before stepping out to face the world.
I didn’t hesitate to check out the Dear Sugar book. In her advice to strangers, her voice is clear. And it’s one I appreciate and understand better after reading her memoir. The questions needing answers are intimate, heavy, and sometimes desperate. Her answers are ruminative and in-depth, frequently interjected with vignettes and lessons from her own life. She calls her readers sweet pea and hon. She seems to carry the problems of strangers as if they were her own. She mulls them over, and then turns out an answer in a touching essay with firm guidance. I don’t personally relate to all of these problems, but I can’t stop reading. Sugar connects these people to you, and in each of her answers there’s advice and inspiration for all of us.
There’s one line I keep thinking about: “Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.” It could me by mantra for starting every day, for the month, for the new year. I could’ve missed it if one book and a well-timed newsletter hadn’t led me to another. I’m grateful for serendipity.
In so many ways, Sugar is telling these strangers what they already know they need to do. And when it comes to fate, when it comes to your life, only you are in control of it. Bad things may happen. Good things may come. It will not all go as planned. But only you can decide how you’ll react to it.
You’ve gotta trust yourself.
breakfast polenta with chorizo
This is a great savory meal for a weekend brunch. If for some reason you can’t find queso fresco, cotija cheese is a good substitute, though you may want to use a little less because cotija is aged and saltier.
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 1/4 cups water
1 cup polenta (coarse yellow cornmeal) or regular cornmeal
1 pound frozen yellow corn kernels, thawed
1 pound fresh link chorizo sausage, casings removed
1 pound cherry tomatoes (about 3 1/2 cups)
Heat oven to 425°F.
Mix water, polenta, and corn in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Season generously with salt and pepper and give it a quick stir. Bake until water is absorbed and polenta is tender, stirring occasionally, 25 to 40 minutes. Probably depends on whether you actually thaw your corn or not.
Meanwhile, add chorizo to a heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat and use a wooden spoon to break the meat into smaller pieces. Sauté chorizo until browned, about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Cover and reduce heat to medium, letting everything simmer until the tomatoes soften, about 6 minutes. Remove the lid and pierce then crush most of the tomatoes with a fork. Let simmer until the tomatoes release some juice and slightly thicken the sauce, about 10 minutes.
Serve polenta on plates. Top with chorizo and tomatoes, and sprinkle with queso fresco and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately. Store leftovers separately in the fridge for up to a couple of days and reheat gently.
Serves 4 hungry people. Recipe from Bon Appétit.