I’ve done something a little unconventional for the second installment of Birthday Week, friends.
First of all, I unapologetically made Nutella and Bacon Stuffed French Toast. It is not a remotely healthy or responsible mid-week choice, but it is life-changingly epic, and sometimes, that’s all that matters. Second, I’m sharing a very personal letter with you that I wrote to my 13-year-old self. I always feel particularly introspective around my birthday, so I thought this exercise would be a good way to articulate a few of my more choice reflections. I know writing letters to one’s younger self became trendy on the internet like two years ago, but as always, I’m late to the party. Apologies.
Without further ado…
Dear 13-year-old Serena,
First of all, congrats on the boobs, girlfriend. I wish you wouldn’t expose so much of them in those Abercrombie spaghetti straps you’re currently rocking, but I get it. They’re awesome and new, and they totally help distract from that unfortunate pixie cut you’ve got going on. Nice work.
You’re probably panicking about your boarding school applications right now, but try to relax. You’ll eventually bust out an awesome essay about your karate skills, and admissions officers will love it. You won’t know which school to choose, but Mom will be incredibly patient and help you figure out that it’s Taft (which is very nice of her, since you’ve been a sassy biotch all year), and I promise you’ll be happy there. They have a frozen yogurt machine.
Hate to break it to you, but the high school years will be tough. Mom and Dad get divorced, you fight with Olivia a lot, and your experiments with alcohol and wearing Uggs with boot-cut jeans are borderline disastrous. The good news is that you’ll meet Fifi (who will be the best friend that you could have ever asked for), and you’ll work hard, geek out over English and physics, and end up getting into Harvard. The latter may or may not be because you bond with your interviewer over her surprisingly trendy outfit, but that’s neither here nor there.
Mom will finally let you get your ears pierced when you turn 18. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to wear danglies by graduation, you little minx.
Your senior year, you’ll fall in love for the first time. It’s weird and scary and awesome, and you’ll think that you’re going to marry the guy and have, like, ten thousand of his babies. You don’t. After your first semester at college, you’ll realize that long distance is hard, and the two of you aren’t as compatible as you initially thought. You will break up (and eat a lot of Entenmann’s pop’ems in the dark), but that relationship teaches you all kinds of valuable lessons. You’ll be softer, less self-absorbed, and more open to love, even though you won’t recognize it at the time. (I can practically feel you throwing up in your mouth right now. Sorry.)
As for COLLLLLEGE…It will be a whirlwind. For reasons that are still unclear, you decide to major in sociology and French. Blergh. You’ll read more than you ever thought was humanly possible (including Twilight, which you’d probably appreciate even more at your age than I did at 20), realize that you love to write, and become increasingly independent. You’ll also stress too much, party too hard, and sleep too little, but you’re young and resilient, and Mom buys you expensive eye cream, so enjoy it.
You will “kiss” and date a lot of douches during your collegiate years and frequently occasionally do keg stands in a skirt. You’ll be incredibly hard on yourself for these embarrassments, but please attempt to cut yourself some slack. It’s all part of your personal learning curve.
During the spring of your senior year, you will have your first panic attack. You’ll go to the hospital and tell the doctors that you’re dying, but you aren’t. Fortunately, your friends and family will be very patient with you as you try to get a grip on your anxiety over the next several years (yes, I said years), so make sure to thank them on the reg. All I can tell you is drink chamomile tea and NEVER take the time-release Xanax. You’re welcome.
After graduation, you’ll feel lost. It will seem like everyone you know takes a fancy job (mostly in finance and consulting), which will add to your anxiety and fear of being behind because you haven’t figured out what you want to do with your life. Chill. Mom will suggest that you travel, and you do. You eventually end up in Paris (where you and your boobs will go for the first time this summer!) and enroll at Le Cordon Bleu.
I know that the thought of yourself at culinary school probably seems ridiculous, and it kind of is. Honestly, I’m not sure who or what inspired this life choice, but the experience turns out to be the best thing ever. (Like, better than getting your braces off and going to the N’Sync “No Strings Attached” concert combined.)
Before you get too excited, cooking school isn’t all roasting chickens and drinking wine in cute aprons like you imagine. It’s hard, you have to wear a hairnet, and you’re a seriously hot mess for your first couple of months. You will destroy your hands with cuts and burns, cry a lot and have more panic attacks, but you’ll stick it out because something unexpectedly amazing will happen: you will fall in love with it.
As crazy as it sounds, you are secretly a domestic goddess. Surprise of all surprises, right? After a while, raw fish, knives and angry French chefs will seem less scary, and the kitchen will suddenly become your happy place. You’ll discover that you love food and cooking, and you’ll breathe a sigh of relief when you realize that you’ve found something you’re passionate about (besides celebrity gossip, teen novels, and your hair). Hallelujah.
At some point during your second semester at Le Cordon Bleu, you will start a blog called “Domesticate Moi.” (I’m not going to bother trying to explain the details of a blog to you right now because we both know you’re not so good with technology. As mom likes to say, “It’s sort of like an online diary with pictures.”) In the beginning, only about ten people will read it, but it’s a good creative outlet for you, and that’s what’s important.
After your first year in Paris, Fifi will introduce you to a dude named Logan. Long story short, you will make out, do some long distance courting, and fall in love with him. As soon as you graduate from Le Cordon Bleu, you’ll move to New York, and he’ll become your roommate. Living with a boy is strange, and your first apartment won’t have any doors (just a friendly heads up), but you’ll get used to it. He’s pretty funny.
You’ll do some random short-term jobs when you get to NYC, but eventually that blog you started in Paris will start to take on a life of its own. You change the “Moi” to “Me” (because you like to be accessible), start posting regularly, and give the site a sexy makeover. You’ll develop hundreds of new recipes, learn the basics of food photography, and shamelessly promote yourself on social media (which mercifully doesn’t even exist for you yet).
You will put Logan on a diet and write about it, which will lead him to believe that he is some sort of internet celebrity. (Just go with it.) Miraculously, more than ten people will read your blog every week, and you will start to believe in yourself as a chef/writer/entrepreneur more and more. That said, you will also constantly second-guess your life choices/self-employment, but your roommate, family and friends are remarkably helpful and supportive when it comes to your career. Like I said before, be sure to thank them for being so awesome. (And drink lots of tea.)
I’m sure you’ve read this whole letter, rolled your eyes, and thought to yourself, get to the point, Serena! Am I famous? Do I have an assistant? How’s my hair? I regret to inform you that you do not have a television show, hired help, or even a walk-in shoe closet by 27. However, the week before your 27th birthday, you’ll be on The Dr. Oz Show, buy a killer pair of blue suede pumps, and make Nutella and Bacon Stuffed French Toast, all of which bode well for your future. For the record, I think 27 might be our best year yet.
Now go drink a Clearly Canadian (they stop making that stuff soon), and stop downloading Ja Rule songs on Napster. It’s illegal.
Love you, mean it,
p.s. The French toast is one of the best things you’ll ever put in your mouth. It’s perfectly fluffy and filled with the gloriousness that is melted Nutella and crispy bacon. At the very least, you have that to look forward to for the next 14 years.
Nutella and Bacon Stuffed French Toast: (Serves 4)
8 slices thick cut bacon
1 medium-sized loaf challah, sliced into 8 pieces about ¾-inch thick
4 heaping tablespoons Nutella
3 large eggs
½ cup half and half
½ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
Maple syrup for serving
Preparing your Bacon and Nutella Stuffed French Toast:
-Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
-Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with cooking spray and arrange the bacon in an even layer.
-Transfer the bacon to the oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
-Slice the challah into 8 pieces about ¾-inches thick.
-While the bread is soaking, add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. When it’s melted and foaming slightly, remove each sandwich from the custard, holding it over the baking dish for a few seconds to let any excess custard drip off. Place the sandwiches gently in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. (Keep a close eye on your French toast while it cooks, friends! Burning it is a bummer.)
-When the first batch of stuffed French toast is almost finished cooking, place the remaining two sandwiches in the custard to soak. Melt the second tablespoon of butter in the pan and repeat the cooking process with the second batch.
-Serve your Bacon and Nutella Stuffed French Toast warm. Top with powdered sugar or drizzle with maple syrup and brace yourself…
- 8 slices thick cut bacon
- 1 medium-sized loaf challah, sliced into 8 pieces about ¾-inch thick
- 4 heaping tablespoons Nutella
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup half and half
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Maple syrup for serving
- Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with cooking spray and arrange the bacon in an even layer. Transfer the bacon to the oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Carefully remove bacon from the oven and transfer the strips to a paper towel lined plate to drain. When cool, crumble into small pieces and briefly set aside.
- Slice the challah into 8 pieces about ¾-inches thick.
- Now it’s time to “stuff” your French toast, which essentially means making Nutella and bacon sandwiches. For each sandwich: Spread one side of two pieces of bread with a heaping teaspoon of Nutella. Sprinkle 2 pieces of crumbled bacon on one of the slices of bread. Sandwich the two pieces of bread together, making sure that they are well sealed.
- In a shallow baking dish, whisk together the eggs, half and half, whole milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set it on the counter next to the stove. Place a large pan over medium-low heat.
- Add two of the Bacon-Nutella sandwiches to the custard mixture and let soak for 1 minute. Use a spatula to flip the sandwiches over and soak for 1 more minute on the other side.
- While the bread is soaking, add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. When it’s melted and foaming slightly, remove each sandwich from the custard, holding it over the baking dish for a few seconds to let any excess custard drip off. Place the sandwiches gently in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. (Keep a close eye on your French toast while it cooks, friends! Burning it is a bummer.)
- When the first batch of stuffed French toast is almost finished cooking, place the remaining two sandwiches in the custard to soak. Repeat the cooking process with the second batch.
- Serve your Bacon and Nutella Stuffed French Toast warm. Top with powdered sugar or drizzle with maple syrup and brace yourself…