Picture yourself on the subway watching the world stream by. It's a whole lot of fast-moving darkness, all nondescript, underground blur.
As you approach the station, though, things change. Colors start to appear, then shapes, and finally, as the train grinds to a halt, you can make out billboards, crowds of people, and, if you're lucky, maybe something unexpected or delightful. A group of performers, say, a couple kissing, two young sisters hand in hand.
This is mostly how I feel about Twitter.
I've been on the Twitter-train for years now, and most of the time, I scroll the feed pretty mindlessly. Lots of promotion, in-case-you-missed-its, mindless blather. Every now and then, though, BAM. Something truly delightful catches my eye. I click, and a gear locks firmly into place.
A few weeks ago, Grace Bonney, the creator of the visually stunning website Design Sponge, posted a link on her Twitter feed to a short film by Gael Towey & Co. In Towey's series called Portraits in Creativity, the filmmaker profiles Maira Kalman, the brilliant illustrator behind many a New Yorker cartoon (and cover). Kalman has also written countless books, including one of my all-time favorite kids' books, Ooh-la-la, Max in Love. I must have read this to my kids hundreds of times.
Do yourself a favor: Make something hot to drink and sit back and watch Towey's 14-minute film. If you're at all creative, if you have a relationship with New York, if you like art and museums and books and talented, inspiring people, even if you just need a lift, I highly recommend it.
The film is brief, but Kalman utters several notable lines, including this one: "Everything that's fantastic looks so simple."
I wrote that down and have been thinking about it, turning it over and over like a butterscotch on my tongue. I love that line. It tastes sweet.
And it applies not just to the visual arts, of course, but to so many genres: Clean lines appeal in design, in architecture, in fashion; uncluttered spaces soothe and please; clear, unmuddied flavors ring true on the palate.
It's terribly hard to simplify. It's a challenge for so many of us.
But when we do create something simple that's also fantastic, that beckons and seduces without too much time, effort, equipment, or fuss, it's deeply satisfying. Much more so than all the bells and whistles in the world.
Where simple meets fantastic is my favorite destination. It's where the train stops, and I take the time to really look around.
Recipe for SexyToast
A few months ago, the food media was filled with tales of restaurants selling $4 plates of artisanal toast. Me? I'm not a fan of gentrification, but a well-made plate of toast does get my attention. Ditch the butter and jam just this once and heap your toast with sweet dates, toasted almonds, and a fine dusting of cocoa. Coconut oil makes a luxe, flavorful emollient.
Simple, sexy, perfect.
Note: You can toast your almonds by shaking them back and forth in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
Makes one serving
2 plump Medjool dates, pitted and sliced
1 piece of sandwich bread (these days, I'm eating Dave's Killer Bread), toasted
1-1/2 teaspoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon toasted, sliced almonds
Place the dates in a small bowl. Add boiling water just to cover. Let stand a minute or so, then drain and pat gently dry.
Spread your toast with the coconut oil. Sift the cocoa powder on top. Layer on the plumped dates, then the toasted almonds. That's it. Value > $4.