Man in the Kitchen: When Change Strengthens You for a New Year

Man in the Kitchen: When Change Strengthens You for a New Year

Change strengthens
© Oleg Dudko/123RF

Like Noah, it started with a flood. A plumber came by our place on innocent dispatch. He tinkered, as plumbers are wont to do. The waters began as a trickle. Six weeks later, we had moved out, my kids had returned to their mother, I had traveled 23,000 miles and slept in 18 different beds – and when all was said and done, my children and I had a new home as the holidays were in full swing.

I cannot claim that our fate was determined by biblical provenance. Still, the genesis was epic, and as I settle my gaze upon the clean white squares of a glossy new calendar, we are faced with nothing but new.

Ken's empty apartment. Photo courtesy of author
Ken’s empty apartment. Photo courtesy of author

Change can be good

As parents, is there anything we strive to avoid more than change? Jobs are supposed to remain steady and we wish our own parents would never age. We hold our breath and pray for each kid’s doctor’s visit to check out normal, and our own to be remedy for little more than the aches and pains of our progressing years. The creaky shoulder we can live with. Anything more, we avert our eyes and hope for the best.

During this past autumn of my discontent, the most valuable lessons I learned were from my children. One, they are tougher than you will ever know. And two, even when you don’t realize it, every last thing we do, we do for them.

Photo courtesy of author
Photo courtesy of author

Out with the old; in with the new

Cast adrift after 12 years in our previous flat, I trekked the streets of the city with a quirky cast of carnivorous realtors, facing choices that seemed paltry at best, if not at times completely uninhabitable. Did I yearn for a private den with a rooftop view to house my reading chair and collection of vinyl? You bet. But back here on planet Earth, every apartment I walked through I was measuring for my kids. I would bivouac from the chandelier if it afforded two more square feet for my son’s bedroom. Kitchen barely large enough to make a cup of tea? No worries, as long as my boys could stay close to their friends.

For many of you who have chosen to call Paris home, you long ago embraced change. You are there, while we sit with envy in our respective corners of the globe, harboring fantasies of your life in the City of Light. And yet perhaps you are already contemplating that fearful flutter of “what next” as 2017 beckons with its unturned pages. 2016 was that kind of year. You know EXACTLY what I mean!

As we hunker down for the heart of winter with its arctic chill and changing landscapes, I offer this olive branch of hope. Give 24-hour TV news a rest and try to log off from your devices for just a little while. Light the fire and heat the stew.

It was Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher who famously said, “The only constant is change.”

That was around 500 B.C. I’m not sure how far we’ve come since, but I have an inkling we’ll get through it. Together. With our loved ones by our side. So bonne année et bonne santé, and of course, bon appétit! I am unpacking the boxes for my new galley kitchen and raising a glass to a delectable new year.

Streak Tartare. Photo courtesy of author
Streak Tartare. Photo courtesy of author

Ooh la la – Steak Tartare

On my last visit to Paris, I posted an Instagram photo of my most favorite of dishes, which you can find at pretty much any café in France. My American friends were horrified, bien sûr, which has never stopped me from settling down to a tempting plate of raw boeuf on a cold winter’s night, accompanied by a heady red. Heaven. And easy to prepare.


  • ½ lb. fresh ground 90 percent lean sirloin
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 chopped shallot or a tsp of capers
  • 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • A shake of Worcestershire sauce
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste


  • Place meat in a good-sized mixing bowl
  • Add the egg yolk, mustard and Worcestershire sauce
  • Mix thoroughly with your hands
  • Form into a handsome patty on a simple, pretty plate
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add some finely chopped shallots or capers, too

Helpful Hint:

Nothing says salad with classic vinaigrette more than a tempting plate of tartare. If you are sharing this romantic dinner for two, you can divvy up the main and add more greens, or vice versa. Bold and romantic. Shake up the palate to start the new year!

Ken Carlton is founder and editor-in-chief of Beyondish, a food review and storytelling website. He is the author or ghostwriter of eight books, including the award-winning memoir, THE HUNGER, the story behind Greenwich Village’s celebrity hotspot, The Waverly Inn. Ken wrote the "His Point of View" column for Cosmopolitan and appeared as a dating expert on OPRAH. He still muses about food, relationships and parenting at his website, Food for Marriage. A New Yorker and Parisian at heart, he has scripted conferences in Paris for CNN and Fortune magazine. Ken and his wife, a professor, split their time between Brooklyn, NY and Chicago. You can follow him on Instagram @foodformarriage



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