Here’s a fun fact about me: I’m a pathological perfectionist.
We’re talking self-flagellating, obsessive, crazy-town style perfectionist. Can’t-sleep-at-night, panic-attack, stomach-ulcer style perfectionist. Or at least I used to be until pretty recently.
I grew up in a household that, while it never felt poor to me, never felt quite abundant either. I always felt loved and cared for, but there was a lot of coupon-cutting and bargain hunting. There were big bricks of government cheese. We lived in a trailer park for a while. Add to that the fact of growing up bi-racial in a tiny, rural town in Illinois in the early 80s (mine was the only brown skin for miles and miles), and you’ll understand the intense fear of judgement I felt as a kid.
Being good at things, or rather, being PERFECT at EVERYTHING!!! became my mantra and my armor. It got me out of the sleepy midwestern town I grew up in. It made me the second person in my family (after my mom) to attend a 4-year college. Hell, it got me into Yale.
It gave me the courage to move halfway around the world with $200 in my pocket and build a life in a foreign country. To be honest, that perfectionistic, never-good-enough, you-can-do-BETTER! drive served me in many ways.
But lately, perfectionism, with its attendant anxiety and insomnia and sense of insecurity have started to wear on me. I no longer want to forgo sleep in order to get a project I’m working on just right. I’m not interested in motivating myself out of fear. I’ve discovered that falling on your face can be a valuable form of instruction.
Also, trying to be perfect (or even good) at everything is exhausting. It doesn’t leave enough time for laughing and snuggling and lazying around on Sunday afternoons.
Old habits die hard though. And despite my best efforts to chill the eff out, I can feel those old, hard-wired tendencies creeping in, triggered in part by the chaos of our recent move to a new house.
Which is why I have undertaken a new project. A sort of re-programming, if you will. (The irony of having an official project to work on being less perfectionistic is not lost on me, in case you were wondering!) Instead of rolling out of bed and into a day of doing, doing and more doing, I now do something nice for myself every morning. I take a bath. I read. I cuddle my cat, Loulou. I watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Hulu. I make myself pancakes.
I cook up a stack of these fluffy beauties, brew myself a latte and sit down at the kitchen table with no phone and no computer and enjoy the morning sun streaming in the window.
I don’t always want to take the time for this new ritual. But most days, I do it anyway. And I’m happy to report it’s working. I’m not going to say my perfectionism has gone into full remission. But there’s something in the act of pausing and taking a moment to be kind to myself rather than punishing or demanding that sets each day off on a better footing.
Who knew the path to self-acceptance would be paved in pancakes?
Gluten-Free Almond Pancakes with Honeyed Oranges and Pistachios
- 2 cups orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed, strained
- 5 teaspoons mild-flavored honey, divided (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 4 medium oranges (I used cara caras)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 6 large eggs
- 6 oz cream cheese
- 2 cups almond meal
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk or half and half
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Butter, ghee or high-heat oil for cooking pancakes
- ½ cup roughly chopped pistachios (roasted or raw)
*Notes: As you may have noticed, I'm trying to eat a lot less sugar and simple carbs. But I don't want to assume everyone else is, too. So the honey in this recipe is completely optional. If you're used to eating a relatively low-sugar diet, you can leave it out. If you're in the mood for a sweet treat, leave it in. You can even add a touch more if you like. :)
- If you can’t find almond meal, make your own. Place almonds in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until they form a fine meal. You will be able to get a finer meal in the blender. Adding a tablespoon or two of sugar will help keep the almonds from turning to almond butter.
Place a sheet pan in the oven and preheat the oven to 200° F.
First, make the orange syrup. Place the orange juice, 2 teaspoons of the honey (if desired) and cardamom in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup (use a heatproof measuring cup to check). Set aside.
Slice the skin and pith from the whole oranges then cut them into rounds about ¼-inch thick. Place in a heatproof bowl and pour the slightly cooled syrup over the orange slices. Set aside.
Place the cream and one teaspoon of honey (if desired) in a large bowl. Whip the cream to soft peaks. Set aside in the fridge until you’re ready to serve the pancakes.
Make the pancakes: Place the eggs, cream cheese, almond meal, milk (or half and half), almond extract, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and remaining 2 teaspoons honey (if desired) in a blender. Blend at high speed until the batter is smooth and homogenous, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, about 1 minute.
Heat a 6-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add about 1/2 teaspoon butter (or ghee or oil). When the butter has melted, pour about ¼ cup of the batter into the center of the pan. I usually just pour straight from my blender. You want to pour enough batter for a roughly 5-inch pancake. Cook until the pancake puffs up and there are bubbles in the center, about 45 seconds. Flip and cook until the other side is golden brown, about 45 seconds longer. Transfer the cooked pancake to the sheet pan in the oven. Carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel and repeat until all the batter is cooked.
Makes about 16 small or 8 large pancakes.