Tortilla! Spanish eggs and potatoes… thoughts on “The Forum”

A terrific egg-and-potato dish from Spain, after this brief word…

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Should “The Forum” Creep You Out?

If you ever saw the 1997 thriller “The Game” with Michael Douglas, in which his character is enticed into joining an elaborate “game” that nearly ends in his suicide, you may remember one character, who’d already “done” the game, telling him how it had changed his life, with the line, “Twas blind, but now I see.” Of course the line’s from Amazing Grace, but it’s okay to reuse it, I guess, in a movie. Main idea? The “game” was such an incredible experience it was life-altering.

I swear “The Game” was inspired by “The Forum,” because you get a lot of the same life-altering, joyfully righteous language from people who’ve gone through it:

  • “It’s what was said.”
  • “It’s what happens.”
  • When you don’t have the keys, you can’t detect it.”

h-forumHappy grads of “The Forum”! Transformed! (from Landmark’s webpage)

“The Forum” was a kind of spin-off from est (Erhard Seminars Training) in the late 1980s, and a bit later became Landmark Forum,” part of Landmark Education, and is still active. But when I learned of it in 1992 (I think), it was just “The Forum” so I’ll keep calling it that. No matter. So what is this “The Forum” thing?

Give us $600, we’ll sabotage your psyche…

It’s a three-and-a-half day “personal development” course that now costs about $600, where 60 to 100 people go to a hotel and are essentially locked down in a windowless conference room from about 8 AM to 10 PM Friday through Sunday, with a couple of breaks a day, where bathroom visits are not encouraged and where the Forum leader can haul you up on stage and proceed to batter your ego into tapioca and shrink your old self to a quivering puddle of shame and self-loathing, then slowly rebuild you into a “new self,” like with interlocking Forum-designed Legos, a new and revised self who’s not who you used to be but can now speak their language and is much more suggestible by “The Forum” people into doing their bidding to lure ever more victims customers for future “The Forum” events. Got that? So simple! And what a business model!!

Day 2: the “Phone Call”

Day 2 happens after your identity’s been ripped to shreds in Day 1 and you’re strongly encouraged to call someone you love, or loved once, or maybe could love someday, and “ask forgiveness.” Or, alternatively, to offer your own forgiveness to them. This is when Forum-goers surge into the hotel lobby seeking a private place to sob and make up with parents or children or exes or current spouses. I write this because a few people who were close to me, in the early 1990s, either placed or received these sob-soaked calls. One woman I know got one of those “I forgive you calls” from a man she was involved with. Like the photos below.

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“You’re calling from ‘The Forum’ to forgive me? Forgive me for what?”

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“The Forum” vocabulary is very specific. Forgiveness. Authenticity (you need to discover how to be authentic). Racket (a racket is a strategy of self-deception… an “unhealthy” way of perceiving yourself or the world). One of the problems with “The Forum” graduates is that they use language the rest of us don’t readily understand. “It’s what happens.” “It’s what was said.” “You need to be authentic.

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“Why do I need forgiveness? What did I do!? It must have been awful… I am such a crud!”

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Now to be fair, and also because the Landmark people are notoriously litigious, there are huge legions of “The Forum” graduates who can’t say enough about it and how it’s changed them for the better. Good! Nice work! Welcome to your new lives!

But many others – and you can see them on YouTube – found the experience at least unsettling, and at times horribly strange and even abusive. Among them is comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding, who seems to have found his weekend experience with “The Forum” quite distressing:

 

That’s all on “The Forum.” Never had the pleasure, never will, too weird. Pfffthhtht.

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Tortilla! (“little cake”)

Leaving the Land of the Lost, we’re back in the kitchen…

From our beloved The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook comes a beautifully simple and satisfying quiche-like tortilla recipe from Spain, where tortilla means “little cake” instead of a thin flatbread. This calls for eggs, potatoes, oil, onion, garlic, parsley, and that’s it! Yes, it’s for breakfast, and lunch, and supper, and yes, you can tart it up with some hot peppers or cheddar cheese or crumbled spicy sausage.

DSC_0280small-aNot-so-little cake: the 8-egg tortilla in our brand new 12″ Texas Skillet.

You’ll need, for about 2-3 hungry people as a main course (or for 4-6, as a side dish):

  • a 10″ deep-sided nonstick pan, like a Texas Skillet
  • about 1 lb. yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped flatleaf parsley
  • 6 eggs
  • and optional: grated cheddar, canned chiles, crumbled sausage, crumbled bacon, etc.

If you’re using a 12″ skillet – which we did, because we rushed out and bought one so we could make this dish properly! – you need to increase the recipe amounts by 1/4 or 1/3 (we ended up using 8 eggs). Also, the cooking time will be a bit more. Main idea? You want the tortilla to be about 1 1/2″ high and firm enough to slice into wedges and serve from the pan.

What to do:

• In a smaller, separate pan, put in the potato slices and add just enough water to cover them. Heat to a boil, then boil gently for about 5 minutes. Remove the potatoes and drain.

• Whisk (don’t beat) the eggs and parsley and optional ingredients together, adding a little salt and pepper.

• In the big skillet, heat the olive oil, then add sliced onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes till they’re soft.

• Now add the potatoes to the skillet, stir in with the onion and garlic, and cook for another 5 minutes over medium heat, patting down the potatoes so they form a firm layer.

• Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes/onions/garlic (don’t stir them together), cover, and cook over medium low heat for about 20 minutes in the 10″ skillet, about 25 minutes in the 12″. Remove the cover and test the tortilla for firmness. If it’s too fluffy or squishy, cook a bit longer.

If your pan lid is transparent, as with Pyrex, you may watch with horror as the eggs billow up like a partly inflated soccer ball while they’re cooking. Not to worry! As soon as you remove the lid, they’ll deflate nicely and firm up.

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My wife and I had this dish last night. The resulting 8-egg tortilla was about 1″ thick instead of the more eye-pleasing 1 1/2″, so next time I think I’ll go for 10 eggs in the 12″ skillet, 1 1/2 lbs, potatoes, more onion and garlic, etc. It had a firm, nearly burnt “bottom crust,” so it emerged from the skillet with nothing broken. We also made it true to the recipe with no extra ingredients except some hot chiles, and I felt it needed something more, like cheddar, to give it a flavor boost. But if you want the genuine Spanish tortilla article, this is it.

There you have it.

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(All photos in this post by me, except as noted with the first one. Please don’t reuse or steal…)

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Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.