What I Learned in 2011


I don’t bother making New Year’s resolutions anymore. What’s the sense of setting myself up for failure when January is but a few hours old? Guaranteed, two weeks into the new year I’ll feel like a loser. Instead I try to quiet my mind (a hard thing to do, what with all this ADD rattling around inside) and contemplate what I learned in the dearly departed year. From that furrowed-brow cogitation I cobble together a list of personal goals. Which, as I write this, probably sounds a lot like resolutions. But to me, resolutions feel rigid. Like my second-grade  teacher, Mrs. Firs, slapping her ruler–thwack, thwack, thwack–in time to some internal clock, just waiting to whap one of us in the back of the head for misbehaving. A goal is all shiny and bright–a bauble of hope. It doesn’t have the word not in it, as in, “I will not overeat” and “I will not curse like a sailor on shore leave” and “I will not look at some twentysomething with his whole life ahead of him and who already knows as much as I do at more than twice his age and find fault with his fashion choices.” Uh, not that any of these have ever applied to me.

This year, more than ever, a great many of the lessons I learned came from fellow bloggers. As a nod of gratitude to them, and as a way of getting my dolls and dishes packed up for next year, I thought I’d share some of the more inspiring lessons. 

From Michael Procopio, I learned it takes talent to toss off Dorothy Parker-worthy bon mots. I am Grasshopper to his Master.

From Ree Drummond, I learned quiet strength. And a wicked mashed potato recipe.

From Dorie Greenspan,  l learned everyone feels inadequate no matter how accomplished he may be.

From Heidi Swanson, I learned the importance of self.

From Faith Durand, I learned joy, and the pleasures of creamy limoncello.

From Monica Bhide, I learned how to be grateful when there’s not always a lot to be grateful for.

From Sean Timberlake, I learned what it means to be committed. In the interpersonal sense, that is.

From Hank Shaw, I learned what persistence looks like.

From Dianne Jacob, I learned about reinvention. (Madonna, you have nothing on her.)

From Beth Kujawski, I learned what support feels like.

From Gail Dosik, I learned perfectionism can be a good thing–especially if you don’t obsess about it.

From Jaden Hair, I learned ambition isn’t a four-letter word.

From Katherine O’Hara, I learned how to take responsibility for your actions with class.

From Jeff Miller, I learned about generosity of spirit…and ridiculously mind-bending algorithms.

From Kate Jackson, I learned it’s good to trust your gut. Its intuition as well as its hunger pangs.

From Ethan Adeland, I learned humility is alive and well and living in Canada.

From Elise Bauer, I learned what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a river of generosity.

From Garrett McCord, I learned you’re never too old to flirt.

From Jennifer McLagan, I learned how to stand firm in your beliefs while chewing the fat (literally).


And closer to home, and office:

From Renee Schettler Rossi, I learned gentleness can lead better than fear.

From Allison Parker, I learned courage. A lot of courage.

From Julie Dreyfoos, I learned the delight of loyalty.

From Beth Price, I learned what “chop wood, carry water” means.

From Jenna Rose Levy, I learned competence.

From Dan Kraan, I learned you can rethink the unthinkable, all while grilling venison.

From Leanne Hammond, I learned that a learning curve doesn’t have to be a mountain.

From Lindsay Myers, I learned how to jump on a very fast-moving bandwagon and not fall off.

From Rachel Kaufman, I learned it’s always the quiet ones you have to watch.

From Erin Carlman Weber, I learned you can never forget your first Twitter love.

From Jared Atchison, I learned there really is a Santa Claus.


From the The One, I learned the steadfastness and resiliency of love.

And from Chloe, Rory, and Raja, I learned once again that you can’t get a cat to do your bidding. (And I have the scars from Rory to prove it.)


I hope you can take a minute from all the tippling, dipping, and dunking of the season to think about what you learned this year. In the meantime, I wish you all a Happy New Year and a prosperous, incandescent, and delicious 2012.

David Leite's signature



  1. I agree with the whole idea of nixing “resolutions” as well. Instead, I’ve opted to create a list of inspirational reminders for myself on areas I’d like to focus on. This inspirational list is an image on my Macbook desktop so I have to look at it everyday to remain positive and energized. Happy New Year!

    1. Pauline, that is a genius idea! I find images of things I’d like to accomplish in the new year and add them to my screen saver on my MacBook Pro. So, like you, I see it change and it somehow seeps into my head. Here’s to a wonderful 2012 for both of us.

  2. David, I learned that you and your creative staff present your followers with wonderful sweeps.

    Although I have not won any, I take great pleasure in entering them frequently. Thank you offering them to us.

  3. Thanks, David for including me on your list. You are too kind. I have always loved your writing and find you to be a great source of inspiration. Thanks again!

  4. David, I love, love, love, this post. I have spent hours reading it, (Well, you know, one link leads to another, which leads to another, which leads, to… yeah, more.) I have run through a gamut of emotions,and have a feeling that there are more to come. I am really glad that there are good leftovers in the fridge, and what feels like an extra holiday-day to forge on.

    1. Thanks, Jackie. I’m happy you found the links useful. They’re some of my favorite sites and blogs. Happy New Year to you and yours. Oh, and enjoy those leftovers!

  5. What a wonderful reminder that people that we cross paths with affect us in so many ways, AND more importantly, we them. Will totally remember this moving into the new year. How will I impact those around me? What steps will I take to encourage others, and remember to point it out and thank others when the same is done for me? So lovely.

  6. I wholly agree with you, David. No false self-promises. Just a good, hard look at our education over the past year, and how to use it to our future advantage. I’m already looking into grilling that crocodile in my freezer! Cheers to a delectable New Year’s!

    1. Well, Dan, you’re the only person I know who just happens to have crocodile in his freezer–landlocked in the middle of Canada. Happy New Year to you and Jan.

  7. I’m still giggling. “Chop wood, carry water” is evoking an image of you visiting me in the rural South, maybe in a log cabin, with an axe in one hand and a bucket in the other…

  8. You have such a way with words and to see my name amongst them is a gift, thank you. You were a bright spot for me in 2011.
    All the best my friend, I hope we cross paths in 2012.

    1. Ethan, grazie. I look forward to seeing wonderful things from you next year. I so enjoy your spirit and your writing. And I know there’s a special person just waiting to enjoy it all….

  9. Love the list and cannot wait to check each and everyone out carefully. Indeed it is so very much more important to realize what one learned than to try to create lists for New Year’s resolutions which more often than not are never accomplished. And from you David, I feel fortunate to have the privilege in trying so very many recipes I would have never thought of even trying and enjoying seeing my daughters open even more so their taste buds thanks to such. You are a wonderful person and truly inspiring!

    1. Sofia, I think you’ll truly enjoy the blogs listed. Each of them are written by such great people with a unique perspective on the world of food. I’m glad we could be a part of your family’s opening up to new foods. Thank you for being such a willing tester. We appreciate all you do.

  10. You taught me to laugh at everything and to be rigorous at whatever I put myself at. Thank you, David! For being such a wonderful friend, influence, and inspiration!

    Also, if flirting is what I have taught you then I am concerned for myself. ;)

  11. What a touching post. I love how you have shared with us what you have learned and focused on the positive instead of the negative of not reaching a goal. I feel so fortunate to have found your site over the last few months. I know I have mentioned it before, but I really do love your recipes. I find very few people that have the taste palate that I enjoy but your post always hit home with me. Thank you for sharing your talent to those of us in the foodie universe. Sherron

    1. Sherron, thank you for all the kind words. And I’m glad you find something pleasing in our recipes. I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year. May it bring you much joy, love, happiness, and great food. Keep up the good work!

  12. David–

    A truly wonderful piece, full of love, learnings, and the kind of wisdom that makes us who we are. I will remember this in the weeks and months to come, and will look back at 2012 with the same sense of gratitude because of the ability to learn and grow from another.

  13. Thanks, David! What did I learn this year? Wow. Quite a bit, actually. And some of it was from you. Happy New Year, and remember, when you are ready, we have a date in a marsh, wearing camo and carrying shotguns that awaits…

    1. Oh, my dear Hank, it’s taken me the better part of a year to get over being present for the slaughter of our holiday turkey. Not sure i’m up to guns and camo, but I’m not ruling it out.

  14. Oh, David – the list of things I’ve learned from you would be longer than a roll of toilet paper dragged across the house by cats. Thank you so much for letting me be part of the LC family. It’s been a ton of fun! I look forward to seeing what 2012 will bring.

    1. Leanne, such an image! Well, good to know it was a long roll of toilet paper. We’re so enjoying watching you grow and wrastle with your new challenges. I can only imagine what you’ll accomplish in 2012.

  15. David! Out of all the kitchens I have been in and tables I have dined at this past year, yours is one of my very, very favorites, for the merry camaraderie as much as the glorious food. Can’t wait to start the year out in style doing more of the same next month! I’m so grateful for your friendship…one of the great joys of 2011 for me. xoxo to you and to The One.

    1. Kate, why, blush! I, too, look forward to our escapades in 2012. I think we’ll have a fabulous time. Thank you for your friendship, time, and help this year.

  16. Thanks for this wonderful reflection, David. I think perhaps instead of those rigid resolutions we all try to make and fail at, we should resolve to never stop learning and growing. That’s one New Year’s resolution we can all make happen and feel good about. Wishing you a wonderful start to 2012!

  17. Lovely tributes one and all. I have you and Allison to thank for the book club and as absent as I have been; it was all worth it as I remain touched by The Dirty Life and the story of resilience and dedication within…I thank YOU for that.

    And ruffled potato chips. Lots and lots of ruffle potato chips. :)

  18. You are a sweetie pie. And you’ve been through some career changes yourself, young man: Can’t remember what came before advertising executive, but you’ve also been a freelance writer, and now you’re an online media mogul! XO

  19. David, what a generous, thoughtful post from you, although I shouldn’t really be surprised at all. One thing I have learned in 2011 is that you are a very generous and thoughtful man. I am very glad to have found your site where I have laughed, learned, shared and enjoyed a small measure of your friendship this year.

    As for new years resolutions – I avoid them like the plague as they seem always doomed to obscurity. However, this year I have decided to try once more in a very modest fashion. I read a great deal, but often forget what I’ve read or who wrote it (although if you can get your hands on Tom Mueller’s “Extra Virginity”, do so) so I intend to keep a strict written record of what I’m reading in the new year. Hopefully, this time next year I can look back on what I’ve enjoyed with a good deal more clarity than I currently have!

    I hope you and your one have a wonderfully happy and healthy 2012!

    1. Amanda, I’m so glad you found the site, too. You’re a happy additional. I wish you and yours a most wonderful 2012.

      BTW, love the reading journal. Great idea.

      Get more deliciousness at New Year’s Resolutions or Personal Goals? | Leite’s Culinaria

    1. Me,

      Likewise, I’m shoo-ah. Your friendship has been a delightfully bright spot in my life this year. And watching you grow more comfortable and confident with your writing has been a great, great pleasure. I expect to see even more in 2012.

  20. Hello David,

    I am in the middle of completing your wonderful recipe from your vavo Costa. Its aroma is so intoxicating, and I know it will be delicious. During the past few days I have been cooking for my daughter and my son who are visiting from San Diego. When she arrived at home she said, “Mommy this house smells like vavo’s (Serpa) house.” I smiled knowing that when all the tensions of the world are around us, a good plate of food made with basic ingredients and love from mommy and grandmothers will transport the next generation into new creative areas in the life and festive times with their new families and friends. Your book has helped transform another generation of Portuguese Americans into the kitchens of their grandmothers. Thank you for your nice writings and the delicious recipes.

    Best wishes, your cousin,

    Margaret Serpa

    1. Oh, Margret, you made my day! To have your children experience that immediate connection to their grandmother–through the cooking of my grandmother’s recipe–makes me delighted beyond words. Our heritage is special and unique, and it’s carried, in part, in our food. Our grandmothers, mothers, and aunts were the keepers of that tradition–now it’s our turn.

      P.S. what recipe were you making?

  21. What a thoughtful and thought provoking post David. I will definitely have to take some time to think about all that I’ve learned from those around me. It’s a great way to reflect back on the year and count our many blessings that we don’t always appreciate. Thank you for sharing your list and Happy New Year!

  22. Wow David–I thought I was doing well putting one foot in front of the other. Some of us learned a smidgen (you are reading smidgen here right?) from reading your blogs, too–to keep a sense of the child about you.

    To you and those you love, have a happy and healthy 2012!

  23. Such a lovely list David . . . For those of us watching from a distance, you’ve also mastered kindness, graciousness and wonderful mentoring skills . . . Happy New Year David . . . Looking forward to your 2012 list

    1. Thanks, Smith Bites. I’ll never regret being assigned that airplane seat from San Francisco earlier this year. It meant I met you and your husband and was introduced to your wonderful blog. (I’m jealous of the photographs!)

  24. Well, this is a very good idea. (As if you would have any other kind of idea?)

    And I am beyond touched to be mentioned in such auspicious company. Thank you.

    From you, right this moment, I am learning that I don’t have the facility with words to adequately express my fondness for you and my gratitude for our connection.

    1. Beth, well, you really were quite nice when I was on Martha Stewart Radio, and you certainly have been a great LC booster.

      I hope others pick up the idea and run with it, making it their own.

  25. David, how ironic that so many of the things you say you’ve learned from others this past year (including from me), are things I’ve learned in equal measure from you! Thank you for taking time to reflect–and for making this reflection a lovely public acknowledgment as well.

    From you, on an ongoing basis, I learn the virtues of focus and decisiveness on the job, learn that the cream does indeed rise to the top in all sorts of ways (of course, you’re the creamiest), and also that the courage you mention serves nothing if you’re not willing to use it in the service of goals and dreams.

    Thanks for a lovely place to work this past year, and for all the tricks I know you have up your sleeve for LC in 2012.

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