Barolo-Braised Short Ribs + Brovia Barolo ‘Villero’ 1999 + essie ‘Good as Gold’ Half Moon – Feel the Fear

Barolo braised shortribs

It’s been months.

So many months that it may be more accurate now to say “years.”

For years now, I’ve been mentally constipated, unable to produce a single, solid thing of any substance. A story. A blog post. A paragraph. I’d even take one complete sentence. And when once I thought that social media was to blame for the adoption of random, fragmented outbursts as “communication,” now I have trouble stringing together 140 characters. Oh sure, I have thoughts and ideas, hundreds of tiny morsels gurgling inside my head, and every once in a very long while, a few coalesce, but only with enough mass to get stuck right there, just inside, where I can feel the irritation, but not enough mass to fully stimulate the bowels of my brain to pass a fully formed, fully developed product. I sit for hours, struggling, sweating, crying, a death grip on the arms of my desk chair just trying to squeeze something, anything out, and when (if?) I finally do, it’s a miserable little pellet, nothing but an over-processed instagram photo with a desperate, extension-seeking caption.

I can’t say I’ve tried everything, but I have made valiant attempts at remedying this thing. This “situation.” I went on a dining rampage, trying a new restaurant every three or four days to give myself more fodder. I started recounting my online dating experience, hoping that blogging it out loud would be as easy as rambling on and on in morning-after update emails to girlfriends. I even went so far as acupuncture and massage to release whatever stress was blocking the flow of my creative energy. They all worked in their own way, but it was barely enough, and totally temporary. As with so many ailments, I seemed only to be treating a symptom, rather than addressing the underlying, root cause, which, just this past weekend, I finally identified.


Good lord, it took a lot of everything to figure this out. I have tremendous fear. Fear of…? Fear is a broad concept, but is precisely its wide-reaching scope that explains most of why I haven’t been able to sit down at my computer and just let my heart and my mind cry and gush and spill, and as he has said, just bleed. I’ve been too afraid of making mistakes and being wrong and saying too much and stumbling over my words and overstepping bounds and hurting someone. I’ve been too afraid of being myself and exposing my soul and getting rejected and getting hurt…

I’ve been so afraid of the embarrassment that comes with not just failing, but trying really hard and still failing, that I’ve subconsciously held myself back from trying in the first place by diagnosing myself with writer’s block. “I just can’t write because I can’t, so I won’t.” I’ve also diagnosed myself with being too busy. And not having skills. And not being ready. And being strong enough to be alone.

You can’t fail if you don’t even try. You can’t embarrass yourself if you just sit silent in the corner. You can’t get hurt if you fold up your fragile heart and lock it away in a steel case.

You can’t food poison anyone if you don’t cook for them.


Maybe for as long as I haven’t been able to produce a coherent piece of writing, I haven’t been able to cook. Oh, I can cook. Oh, I “cook” almost every day. I cook myself two cups of coffee with home-squozen almond milk every morning. I cook myself a bowl of push-button brown rice with an imported jar of tuna and avocado. I cook myself a glass of rosé every evening to lubricate my senses and help with the mental constipation.

But I mean I haven’t been able to really cook. I mean tear five pages out of a magazine and go to four different markets. I mean throw open every window in the kitchen and blast the “guilty pleasures” playlist on spotify and stand at the kitchen counter for three hours by myself shelling fava beans and pulling leaves off of two bunches of parsley and pounding out a pesto and rolling out pasta and prepping chicken and drinking three quarters of the bottle of Burgundy that was for the chicken.

I mean really fucking cook the hell out of a day or two or three, even if you forget the chives and make mistakes and cover them up with butter and cook forward anyway, because finally sitting down with eight people and twice as many bottles of wine and laughing your head off and catching your breath during the silences and suddenly realizing it’s 2am and ignoring the clock until okfine it’s 4 am, and you know… I’ve been too afraid that no one will care and no one will come and no one will have fun and it won’t taste good and someone might get salmonella and everyone will whisper about how awfully I cook and I will die, just die, because I failed.

So anyway, all I have to do is have that fear surgically removed and everything will start moving along smoothly!

Right. It doesn’t really work like that, now does it?

I’m not sure yet how to conquer this nebulous, meta-, emotional fear, or any kind of fear, really. Therapy? Hypnosis? A twelve-step program? They say one of the best ways to overcome fear is first to acknowledge it, then simply to face it. But what does that even mean? What does it mean to “feel the fear and do it anyway?” Does it mean staying in on an unremarkable Friday night in July with a near full moon in Aquarius in the sky, writing about how afraid you are that you spent an embarrassingly inordinate length of time braising short ribs, painting your nails to match the wine, photographing it all, then posting it to your blog at a time that has historically shown that no one will be surfing the internet, let alone reading your blog?

God I hope not. Just the thought of that level of failure is terrifying.
brovia barolo villero 1999

brovia barolo villero

essie good as gold mani, brovia barolo villero

essie good as gold mani, half moon

essie nail polish good as gold

Barolo-Braised Short Ribs {recipe}

Don’t use Brovia to braise your short ribs.

serves 4


3-4 lbs beef short ribs (I always say go with more)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 oz pancetta, cut into ½-inch pieces
grapeseed or canola oil if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
1 bottle Barolo or other full-bodied red wine (1 750 mL bottle is just a touch over 3 cups)
1 tablespoon veal or beef demi-glace
1 sprig each of fresh rosemary and thyme
1-inch piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind


Generously season the short ribs with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven that will eventually fit all of the short ribs and vegetables over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta until crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Leave 2 tablespoons of pancetta fat in the pot. If there isn’t enough, add a little bit of grapeseed or canola oil to make 2 tablespoons. Working in batches, add the ribs to the insert and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer browned ribs to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot. (If there isn’t enough fat, add grapeseed or canola oil to make 2 tablespoons.) Turn the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits. Add the remaining wine and the demi-glace and bring to a simmer. Add the short ribs, the pancetta, rosemary, thyme and cheese rind. Turn up the heat to high to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 3 hours, occasionally stirring the liquid and turning the ribs in the braising liquid.

Transfer the ribs to a separate bowl and cover. Pour the entire contents of the pot through a strainer into a smaller saucepan. Simmer the strained braising liquid over medium heat for about 10 minutes, reducing until the consistency of a thin sauce. Place the ribs on a serving platter with deep sides, pour sauce over, and serve with mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, polenta, or whatever.

Leftovers can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. They taste better the next day.


~ short ribs: Marconda’s Meats in the Farmers’ Market at 3rd and Fairfax
~ wine: Brovia for drinking, any red for cooking
~ manicure: paint your entire nail first with essie ‘Blanc’ and let it dry completely, use round hole-punch reinforcements or other small round sticker at the base of your nail to mark off a “half moon” (like a stencil), paint over with two coats of essie ‘Good as Gold’, let dry a few minutes, then carefully peel off stickers, add top coat.
Barolo braised short ribs on mashed sweet potatoes

Barolo braised short ribs on mashed sweet potatoes

mashed roasted garlic sweet potatoes

beef shortribs

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Egle sandboxmonster July 30, 2013 at 9:28 am

Fear, good old friend, always sitting there next to you, whispering the things you can’t do, the things that are simply impossible. But deep down inside you know that it’s not your friend and that things are possible, still to break the bond which goes too many years back is very hard. I feel it too, all the things you wrote seems so familiar, yet the attempts to get rid of fear don’t always work and it fells like the struggle will go on forever. Maybe it will or maybe it won’t, maybe it’s a part of who we are and to rip out that part is not always a good idea. Or maybe it’s just fear talking. Sometimes it gets confusing, but like I said things are possible and fear is not a friend.


2 greg white July 30, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Loved this–great post and so true for many of us.


3 drakep July 30, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I love your work, Sarah and this post feels real. I’ve learned:
“Anxiety comes from wearing masks meant to appeal to others.” And,
“Clever, as with ‘charm’ entertains and repels at the same time”
Perhaps — time to cook, write and share from the heart (just for yourself).
We’ll all be fine.


4 Kristen July 31, 2013 at 6:58 am

I was just going through my Instagram feed after reading this and came across 34mm’s post: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” I had to share the quote. I thought it was beautifully put, just as your words are here. I think by writing this post you’re already a step closer to whatever you might be seeking.

Also, I have to say I fell in love with the first nail/wine bottle photo before I finished reading the text and I thought “My god that is a beautiful color!” Matched on purpose? Love it.


5 My Man's Belly July 31, 2013 at 10:24 am

Have we been channeling the same stream? I’ve been having a very similar conversation, with the voices in my head, for the past few weeks. Not so much with the writing, but another project I’ve been working on for months. (This is the first time I’ve admitted this out loud – so thanks for helping me do that through your post. :) )

Maybe we should get together, over a bottle of pink bubbles, and we can conquer this “fear” thing together. Safety in numbers right?


6 TheDelicious August 2, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Pamela: I am sure that my imaginary therapist would prescribe triple dose Champagne for this…let’s do it.


7 bro-via July 31, 2013 at 4:16 pm

It takes a brave man to admit they’re afraid. I am a brave man & it appears you are, as well. Here’s to braising more beef and blogging like no one’s reading.


8 johnbque August 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm

You need the big salami, that’ll fix ya.


9 Marlene August 2, 2013 at 11:55 pm

your website is FANTASTIC! I’m so impressed. thank you for sharing! I would love an “about” on your page telling us a little about yourself and your story. So happy I stumbled upon this :)


10 Oui, Chef August 6, 2013 at 5:58 am

Nice to see you back REALLY cooking and drinking till 4AM with friends. It feels good, doesn’t it?


11 Melanie August 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I have a ridiculous fear of giving people food poisoning. I tend to overcook my meats because of that to the point where they are totally dry.


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