Russ asked me to assemble Beet Eggs to serve at a party this weekend. I was surprised. My skills in the kitchen, compared to his, are still in diapers. In the last six years, I’ve received only one prior request from Russ: carrot cake for his birthday. After three hours, my knuckles were shredded, along with the carrots pressed against the bullet holes of the boxed grater. Slapping the layers with a mountain of sugary frosting, I slung it across the table and swore, “I love you, but never fucking again.” Russ smiled, speared it with his fork, and swallowed a chunk the size of the Andes.
I think he enjoyed my toil as much as he did the sweetness of the cake.
Eggs are a staple in my diet. They’re packed with protein, cheap, and are difficult to destroy beyond edibility when preparing them. They can be served a myriad of ways, and are a key ingredient in most baked goods, the glue holding all that sweet goodness together. I’ve learned consummating the meaty yoke with a stick of butter produces an alchemic event equivalent to spinning gold. Hollandaise is the rich extension of chicken roe that pairs well with most dishes like an upstanding vintage.
I’m positive Russ considered all of this before initiating his request. What could possibly go wrong? What he didn’t factor into the equation was the peeling process. I can count on two fingers how many times I’ve peeled hardboiled eggs smooth and unblemished, skin like veneer-bronzed supermodels. I had acknowledged this potential pitfall, but reconciled my misgivings with the page of foolproof directions Russ had left for me to follow.
How. Could. I. Possibly. Fuck. It. Up?
I can only surmise I must peel eggs with the same brawn as John Ceda. No doubt when he shucks corn, some kernels are yanked unceremoniously from the cob along with the husk, leaving the fleshy pestle with a gap-toothed smile. Two out of the eighteen eggs I peeled are as smooth as a baby’s bottom. The rest of the litter is pockmarked like the faces of pimply teenagers. Covered in beet juice, I’ve coined them “Freddy Krueger Eggs.” Russ laughed when I recounted the horror flick that happened in the kitchen. He said,“Well, I guess we’ll just pick up some crackers and cheese to take to the party instead.”
“Ohhh, bullshit to that!” I screamed into the phone. “Do you know how much work these were? I worked really hard! And what the fuck were you thinking, asking me to make something I’ve never made before? To serve at a party? To other people!”
Russ sighed knowing this train had to run out of rails before any sense could be extracted from the wreckage.
“Fuck that,” I said. “We. Are. Serving. Them. They’re ugly, but I’m sure they’re delicious. Besides, it’ll be a good story for the new couple. They can always laugh and say, ‘Remember that time? At our engagement party? When Jenn and Russ brought those beet eggs?? Oh my God, who can’t peel a fucking egg? Well, they were delicious, even if they did resemble Freddie Krueger’s face.’”
Russ thought that was funny until I told him I was taping his recipe to the jar for everyone to see. The end of it reads, “The eggs need to stay refrigerated. No one wants food poisoning at an engagement party, and a house smelling like poop would not go over well for the soon-to-be in-laws. But it would be kinda funny.”
Now that is NOT the story I want the future bride and groom to remember about their party.
This is my birthday (week). It’s still a few days away, but the champagne has already flowed, and I received the best gift ahead of schedule. Gushing (not from the champagne), I called my boss.
“This is the BEST present ever!” I said. “I’m saving it, and I’m going to show it to E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!”
My boss chuckled his hearty, wonderful laugh, like a comforting bowl of Irish stew on a December day. His laugh, infectious, has a way of wrapping shoulders in a warm embrace, like a blanket pulled straight from the dryer.
My boss is the CEO of Ullico Inc. Our organization is comprised of 240-plus people, providing financial services to labor unions and their members. Ed arrived at Ullico thirteen years ago, in the shit storm of the Great Recession. The company was bleeding out for a variety of reasons, both internally and externally, and onlookers were doubtful to its survival. But like a phoenix that rises, so too did Ullico soar from the ashes. But reality isn’t a story sucked from lore, glorifying the gods and goddesses central to their myths. Comebacks are legends built on the backbones of blood, sweat, and tears, with the acute vision of strong leadership, a stalwart at the helm. For Ullico, that person was Ed.
Discussing leadership within Section5, a friend proposed there are two levels of leadership: basic and advanced. Basic leadership is when a leader brings together a group of people to start something they couldn’t have begun themselves, individually or collectively. Advanced leadership is when a leader has the skills to turn-around an organisation that has lost its way and is spiralling into destruction.
In his words, “Both types require a decent amount of EQ, but the second type requires much more humility and the ability to listen.” Another person added advanced leadership also includes the foresight to develop other leaders, as well as devise a succession plan for the organisation to ensure its continued success.
My peers, astute, peeled the rind from the fruit with proficiency, spotlighting the juiciest part all great leaders encompass. This blogpost might prostrate eyes as toady, but how often does a subordinate take the time to boast about their superior? In public? And mean it? I work closely with Ed everyday, enough to see all of his sides.
My job as assistant isn’t sexy. In Scott Galloway’s words, “My mom lived and died a secretary.” Pretty sure that’s not a brag. But Scott’s words ring true. I have felt the sting of derision cast my way at the mere mention, as if my intellect is surely stunted, as if I am “that girl” who exited the bathroom, sloppy drunk, returning to the table at the Inn [of Little Washington], while trailing a half dozen squares of toilet paper under her heel. (This hasn’t happened…yet.). Setting that aside, it’s worth mentioning even piles of shit have peaks, and my parachute floated to the tip of the top. Colloquially, I landed the best of the worst.
My boss is an exceptional leader and an exceptional person. He likes, and truly cares about, all people. Every single one of them. He has an uncanny ability to view situations from the other person’s perspective, as easily as he must rise from sleep every morning. He cares, so much so, he personally pens a note to every employee, in their annual birthday card.
He writes 240-plus birthday cards a year.
There was that one time, when a month’s worth of cards disappeared in the mail-service vortex, during the height of the pandemic. Ed called each person on their birthdate instead.
This year, my birthday note from Ed said:
Thank you for always taking good care of me! AND introducing me to your buddy—Scott Galloway. I really enjoy him. Jenn, You’re the best!!
Okay, for those sitting in the last row of the bleachers, let me say it one more time, LOUDER, so you don’t miss a single word:
THANK YOU FOR ALWAYS TAKING GOOD CARE OF ME! AND INTRODUCING ME TO YOUR BUDDY—SCOTT GALLOWAY. I REALLY ENJOY HIM. JENN, YOU’RE THE BEST!!
I am almost famous. Seriously, this counts. It’s likely the closest I will ever come to smooching fame, or meeting Scott, so I am grabbing this one by the tail and swinging it. I did this. I introduced one great mind to another, igniting synergy like a matchstick. This journey has come full circle. I already live and breathe Scott’s words through Section4, Pivot, The Prof G Show, and the erudite discussions with my peers in Section5. Now my boss, and my mother, both quote Scott to me as well.
This weekend, besides serving bloody eggs, Russ and I are gifting the newly-engaged couple with a pair of crystal champagne coupes. Trying to keep step with fashionable trends, coupes (versus flutes) are vintage resurfaced as stylish chic. Versatile, they can also switch hit for martinis, when bubbles won’t do.
We thought it was important to share a meaningful gift. Russ and I are sure to celebrate success, any win really, major or inconsequential, with champagne uncorked. Life is hard. It pitches a lot of curveballs, unexpected, sometimes only dashed with a divot to the forehead. Being sure to celebrate with arms intertwined, bubbles cradled between fingertips, is a habit worth mastering for any marriage, especially a new one.
Russ and I know, as do others who’ve lived long enough to withstand the gamut, not every day sparkles with champagne. Some days are relinquished to bloody eggs served in a pickle jar. But every now and then, a day emerges unlike any other, a welcoming apparition, posted with special delivery. This year, it surfaced only days before my birthdate, my best gift to mark the day.
It’s good to be almost famous.