A recent e-mail exchange with a friend over the time of a social event reminded me of an article I read on the New Yorker about the ‘cavalier attitude’ that some Latin American cultures have towards punctuality. In that piece, author James Surowiecki argued that being punctual increases productivity and that “tardiness feeds on itself, creating a vicious cycle of mañana, mañana.” The exchange also reminded me of how how I have suffered with lateness both in my Brazilian years and after I relocated here 12 years ago.
During most of my adult life (except for a brief self-destructive period in my mid-20s) I have always been extremely punctual, and have always paid the price for it. I recall that once I was invited for a birthday party in Fortaleza, Brazil and the invitation read 6:00 PM. Taking in consideration that this was a 2-year-old’s party, I got there on time – and had to help with decorating the place. In another occasion, I invited some of my classmates at college to attend a Sunday evening gig – and they arrived as we played the final chord.
Last year, we made reservations at SOBs in Greenwich Village for Renata’s birthday. It was a late brunch, and we invited about twelve people- who all arrived over an hour late and almost caused us to lose the table.
Lateness really gets to me, though, when I am the one holding an event and have to deal with the issue. The most common case is when Renata and I invite friends to our home and then we get a message that someone missed the ferry. Shouldn’t be a biggie there, but after 7:30 PM on weekends, the ferry only runs every hour. As a result, someone who is already late for a 7:00 PM event gets there at around 9:00 PM, and then I have to reheat all the food I prepared to serve at a certain hour. Once things got so bad that a couple invited for a friend’s send-off that started at 8 arrived close to midnight when we were about to wrap things up.
For that reason I have been doing fewer and fewer events at home (especially after the last disastrous one, which I will keep for another post) and becoming more of a curmudgeon. I do believe punctuality not only makes people more productive but also turns evenings and outings more enjoyable. It is very irritating to make reservations for a table at a bar for 8 PM and have the server stare at me with a puzzled look for two hours.
Recipe: Spanish Tortilla (From the Food Network)
- 6 medium potatoes, diced
- 2 small onions, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- 7 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
In a medium bowl mix the potatoes, onions, and 1/2 teaspoon salt by hand.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Fry the potatoes and onions on low heat and cover with a lid for 5 minutes to let them soften. Turn up the heat for another 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the stove and drain off any excess oil.
Meanwhile break the eggs into a medium bowl. Add the remaining salt and milk and whisk until frothy. Add the potatoes and onions to the eggs and mix until fully integrated.
Clean the frying pan and return to stove.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil on a high heat and pour in the mixture, moving it around in the pan to help the tortilla to rise. Fry until golden brown, stirring occasionally until it has set. Then turn down the heat to allow the inside to cook. After a few minutes turn up the heat in order to brown the tortilla.
When it’s cooked place a large plate over the frying pan and flip the tortilla onto it. Return to the pan and fry the other side until golden brown.