Scenes from a job interview

I’ve had my share of job interviews in this life. I’ve probably had your share too. The range of experiences is as vast as the number of application forms I’ve filled out while waiting to be inspected, interrogated, dissected and cross-examined. The first one I can remember was conducted within earshot (and nose-shot) of a fry-o-later by a 19-year-old “manager” wearing a plastic cowboy hat who asked me to lift a 50 pound bag of potatoes. Most have gotten better as time moved forward. Then again, I’ve had some winners in the bunch that would definitely make it into the job interview hall of fame ‘bizarre but true’ wing. My first nomination: Last year I was interviewed by an organization that required me to take off my shoes before entering the interview. Me…take off my SHOES! There I was, all decked out in my ‘interview’ suit, feet unshod, Pradas all alone in the foyer looking quizzically at me as if to say “but mommy…why?” In the interest of full disclosure I should probably tell you the job was to run the business side of a yoga institute. Still, how many of YOU have had to remove a piece of clothing for a job interview. All I can say is I was very grateful I went with the tights without the toe blowout that morning. But wait…I have an even better one. Again, clothing was shed, but this time it was my interviewer doing the removing. She removed her bra, or rather one half of it. She had to in order to breast-feed her baby….during the interview. Ok, so the meeting was conducted in her home (she was still on maternity leave) but even so, they don’t cover this in those career placement seminars. What exactly is the best response to “you don’t mind if I breast feed, do you?” Keep in mind that this boob (and attached woman) could possibly determine your future. My answer was “um, no problem”. I certainly didn’t want the “lactose-intolerant” box ticked on her checklist. You never know where that could lead. I was going to add, “sure, whip that puppy out”, but thought my zeal might be a little overkill. In the end they chose someone else for the job, and that was probably for the best. Could you just imagine what the board meetings would have been like?

Looking back on it all now I’m reminded of the blind date hall of fame my girlfriends and I used to submit nominations to years ago. Back then we would give the nominees nicknames, to protect the ‘unique’. Using that model I’d have to say “Ohm shanti-shoeless” was easier to adjust to than the “Big Nipper”, but the random ‘boobing’ far more memorable. As I get ready for the next one I’m reminded that no matter how well you prepare, always expect the unexpected. If you can handle that with grace you’re half way there. And if the unexpected happens? Just chalk it up to more experience, and I may have another good story to tell you over cocktails…

Job interviews rank right up there with blind dates in how far to the right my stress-meter jumps. And why not, they are basically the same thing. In my view, the way to go dinner-wise after a day of interviewing is carbs. Now technically, a big bottle of vodka could be considered carb-loading, but I think in this case I prefer the more traditional route – pasta. This recipe for Stuffed Shells with Pea and Ricotta filling and quick tomato sauce is just the ticket to soothe and restore. With a big fat dirty martini as appetizer, the stress melts away in no time.

Stuffed Shells with Pea and Ricotta filling

Makes 1 serving and can easily be doubled or quadrupled

  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 tsp heavy cream
  • 3 TBSP homemade ricotta or whole milk store-bought (don’t use low-fat – the resulting dish will be too watery)
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • 1 TBSP grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ to 1 oz. fresh mozzarella plus 1 TBSP grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup quick tomato sauce (recipe follows)
  • 2 oz dry large pasta shells

Cook the peas and garlic in boiling salted water until they are soft. Add to blender along with a 3 TBSP cooking water – blend together until smooth. Let cool and add to the ricotta, cream, zest, cheese. Taste for seasonings – you will probably be fine with salt but need a few good grindings of pepper.

Boil 2 oz dry of shells (about 7-8 shells) until they are just shy of al dente. Rinse and run under cool water to cool off just a bit so you can handle them. Pipe in the pea/ricotta mixture so the shells are full but not overflowing. Butter an individual gratin or baking dish. Put the stuffed shells opening side up in the dish – you can squish them a little so they all fit. Top with tomato sauce, then cheese combination. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs, then the olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until everything is warmed through, the cheese is melted and the top is browned a little.

Calories: 550/serving

Quick tomato sauce

Makes 1 cup

  • 5 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled or unpeeled (the sauce will be chunkier if you don’t peel, which is fine too.)
  • 1 fat clove or garlic squashed but not so much that it doesn’t hold together
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried marjoram (use dried thyme if you don’t have marjoram)
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh basil, plus one big or two medium whole basil leaves
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • A small pinch crushed red pepper
  • Large pinch of salt, and a few good grinding of pepper

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat (I use my nonstick – works well with this). Add in the shallots and a pinch of salt. Cook until the shallot softens a bit, add the squashed garlic clove, and cook for another minute until you smell the garlic. While you are waiting for the shallots and garlic, squeeze the peeled tomatoes into a bowl to break them up. (I suggest you do this in the sink, or it may look like you murdered someone in your kitchen – these babies squirt!)

Add the tomatoes, marjoram and chopped basil, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to the pan. Bring to boil, then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20-30 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Remove the garlic and taste the sauce for seasoning, adding more if necessary.

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