When Albert Camus wrote that “real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present,” I doubt that he imagined a world that is perpetually plugged-in like ours. Being fully present in any given moment has become a near impossible feat with the constant inundation of information and content enticing us to mindlessly swipe and stare at our screens. We’ve become a society that is increasingly tethered to our mobile devices, so much so that our attention span has diminished to less than that of a goldfish. Consequently, this dependence is starting to interfere with our cognitive abilities and hinder learning. Our daily digital consumption keeps us continuously stimulated, leaving us virtually no quiet moments to be alone with our own thoughts. We often bemoan not having enough time to do anything, yet we willingly allow our smartphones or tablets to monopolize a good chunk of our time and attention.
La vraie générosité envers l’avenir consiste à tout donner au présent.-Albert Camus
My internet presence is relatively sparse, but I’m no different from anyone else. I, too, occasionally (well, maybe a little more than occasionally) succumb to the lure of aimlessly surfing the net and whiling away an obscene amount of time after getting sucked into the digital vortex. Though I like the idea of being able to glimpse into the lives of those from different corners of the world and staying connected to friends and family (especially since I live so far away from them), I started to neglect my analog life in favor of my digital existence, or rather that of others. I think I was drawn, in part, to fostering connections, albeit superficial ones, on certain social media platforms because I was subconsciously trying to fill the void from my friendship deficit here in France. But in doing so, my personal and creative endeavors were being pushed to the wayside. I was forgetting to consecrate time to cultivate my passion projects and to nourish my personal relationships.
The internet and all that it has spawned are tightly woven into our lives and there will always be something vying to occupy our eyes and ears these days. Though it would be unfeasible to return to a strictly analog lifestyle, it is possible to become more fully engaged in my life and in the things that I do. Being more present and weaning myself off of my digital-centric habits would require periodically muting the digital chatter that is constantly buzzing (ie, the news, tv shows, social media, etc) to make way for my own reflections as well as curbing cursory information consumption that has started to handicap my ability to intelligently react to anything with more than 2 or 3 superlatives punctuated by emojis.
As with any major lifestyle or behavioral change, phasing out the old habits to make way for the new takes time and resolution. To start, a gradual shift in mindset and learning to be fully immersed in the present moment has triggered an awareness of my habitual inclination to reach for my phone or ipad. Rather than yield to such proclivities, which are often without aim and ultimately serve no other purpose than to numb my brain, I’m slowly gravitating towards more enduring experiences and rediscovering the things that excite me. Asking myself what is the rationale behind my doing something has also prompted me to be more deliberate in choosing what to do with my finite time. This simple reflection has motivated me to focus more on my writing, which is an instrument for processing and documenting my thoughts and ideas as they germinate.
My cooking has also started to take a front seat again. Despite the oppressive summer heat, I’ve been finding myself in the kitchen tinkering with different dish ideas more often these days. Rather than cook dishes that I can make in my sleep, I’ve been expanding my repertoire by playing with different flavor profiles and refining my own version of familiar dishes, such as pâté chaud. I recently made this French-inspired Vietnamese meat pie, which can be found in just about every Vietnamese bakery. When I was growing up, my trips to Orange County always started with a stop at one of these bakeries to load up on Vietnamese iced coffee and pâté chaud. In between trips to Orange County, my auntie would make this delectable snack for us kids.
As my miniaturized version of pâté chaud neared the end of its bake time, a buttery aroma filled the kitchen and I couldn’t wait to see if I had successfully reproduced the flavors of my childhood. Once out of the oven, one bite of the flaky outer shell and the savory richness of the filling took me right back to my grandparents’ backyard in Southern California where my cousins and I spent our childhood summer days – a time when people still communicated through written letters and rotary dial telephones.
Thanks for reading,
Vietnamese Pâté Chaud
- 300 g ground pork
- 75 g pâté
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- ½ tsp salt (or more to taste)
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- ¼ tsp sugar
- 2 tsp potato starch*
- 2 sheets pâte feuilletée (puff pastry)
- 1 egg beaten
- Combine the pork, pâté, onion, potato starch and season with salt, sugar and pepper. Mix thoroughly until all of the ingredients are uniformly amalgamated. To ensure that the mixture is properly seasoned, I usually add the salt gradually and taste after each addition by cooking a spoonful in the microwave (but without the spoon).
- Preheat oven to 175°C.
- Work with one pastry sheet at time, leaving the other one in the fridge until ready to use. Unfold the puff pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface. Cut out 6-8 cm diameter circles using a round cookie cutter or drinking cup. Combine the remaining pieces of puff pastry dough, roll it out and cut additional circles.
- Place about a tablespoon of filling onto the center of a puff pastry circle, and top with another circle. Seal by pressing the sides down with a fork. Place the meat pies onto a flat-edged baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the surfaces with the beaten egg. Bake for about 25 minutes. Be sure to watch them during the last few minutes of baking to ensure they have sufficiently browned but not burnt. Transfer them onto a rack to cool once removed from the oven.