It brought me back to my own high school senior year, while during the middle of my AP English test, friend RDC caught my eye, signaled to me to cover my test. I was confused but she made a very strict face, and I then moved my test closer to my chest and covered my answers with my arms. After the test, she informed me that someone had been blatantly cheating off my test during the exam. I couldn't understand why anyone would do that? Why cheat? It was the furthest from my mind, especially when the repercussions were potentially so great. (The student unfortunately did not get caught, nor did I tell - but I'm sure my score was better than hers.)
And just last week, while swimming in the lap lane at the gym, I noticed a young guy slipping in and out of the water, back and forth and back and forth. I couldn't really understand what was going on, but found myself slightly annoyed as he kept on jumping in and out of my lane swimming a little and then getting out. As he repeated this over and over, it became clear that he was trying to race me - only he was getting out of the water mid lap, running along the side of the pool, and then would jump in, swim a few strokes, and finish a hand or two ahead of me. Once I realized that this was what he was doing, I of course turned up my own steam, and wouldn't let him win by simply slipping in the water ahead of me. It came to the point where he was forced to literally jump in almost at the end of the lap, because I was pushing it. From the sidelines, Daughter #1 watched and asked me later what was going on. I explained to her that the young man was racing me and she looked confused. "If he's racing you, how come he's running half the lap?" Good question. The funnier thing was that he looked SO SATISFIED at beating me in the lanes, and I could only think - you're satisfied from cheating?
I'm worried about what the word cheating means or rather I'm worried that it has lost its meaning. The gravity of the word itself, its significance, its inherent meaning has been watered down to nearly nothing, because we don't think it is serious anymore. People talk about cheating on their diets or their taxes. They talk about cheating time or cheating death. Cheating on spouses or cheating our children has become ordinary daily conversation. Our public officials are caught cheating, taking money, or cheating the fundraising system - and suddenly - cheating-it ain't no thing at all.
It bothers me and makes me pause. It makes me wonder how much I'm cheating? What am I cheating on? Do I even think about the ways I cheat - my children of my full, undivided attention, my students of a teacher that is really well-rested and focused, and Husband of a wife who is happy and not exhausted. Yes, I am too a cheater. And I am disturbed.
I have a love/hate relationship with puff pastry for this reason. In many ways, it is cheating. I could make my own puff pastry (NOT LIKELY) or not use puff pastry and use something else, but I love its convenience, its simplicity, and ease of use. For that reason, I also cheat in the kitchen with puff pastry, and I am bothered. Friend SH tries to assuage my guilt by reminding me that to make puff pastry, it would require hours of work that are best left to the professionals. Perhaps. I'm not sure.
This savory tart, is so delicious, it's hard to imagine that it's anything but good hard work. But it's fairly simple, easy to execute and SO good to eat.
Savory Tart with Fig Butter, Caramelized Onions, and Brie
1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted (Trader Joes is nice as it is one sheet, unfolded and totally flat)
¼ cup fig jam or fig butter
1 large onion sliced (about 4 cups sliced)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz brie cheese, thinly sliced (rind is okay)
2 cups of arugula, washed
2 teaspoons olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
In a heavy fry pan, over medium high heat, melt butter and olive oil together. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium high heat until onions have softened and begun to golden brown, and then reduce heat to low, cooking onions slowly for an additional 10 minutes. Add oil if onions seem dry or sticking to fry pan. Set aside to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 400. Line baking sheet with parchment or grease it liberally. Place defrosted puff pastry sheet on top and spread fig jam over entire surface. Spread caramelized onions and arrange Brie cheese slices over the top. Bake for 25 minutes, until pastry is puffed and golden.
In a small bowl toss together arugula, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place dressed arugula on top of puff pastry onion tart and slice into pieces. Enjoy warm.