Posts tagged: baking
March 1, 2013

Forgetting and Remembering

I wouldn’t call it a health kick, because I ate three and a half slices of pizza last Tuesday night, even if it was with a side of kale. But I do find myself on the yoga mat more nights than not or watching my breath rise and fall even as I sit at my desk. I bought a cheap bottle of lavender essential oil on ebay and pour it into a hot bath with epsom salts a few times a week. And I find myself sinking into novels that take me out of myself. (World War II will put just about any set of travails into perspective.) I think what I would call it is a self-care groove. I am trying to make my home, my weekends, and the hours that bookend work as supportive and replenishing as possible.

“When there is a crisis,” a friend told me Tuesday night (before the pizza), “there’s enormous potential for change.” I find that true for myself in the past couple months as I’ve been met with emotional upheaval and stress, the specifics of which I’ll save for another day. But we all know what that feels like, in whatever form it’s taken in your own life, to be rocked to your core.

What I find so perverse about my own situation is how much I love its thick silver lining. A crisis can put everything into relief. What I care about, what’s important, what truly matters–those things stay. Connecting in meaningful ways. Cooking good, simple food. Taking thoughtful care of myself, my life, and the people in it. But whatever is toxic, draining, and inconsequential I just don’t have the energy or patience for. There’s no room for it right now. Even those words don’t quite capture the black and white sense that drives my life right now. Let me try again: life’s been edited down to my own version of the essentials. All that matters is what matters.

So what does that look like? I try a little harder to keep the house tidy so that in the evenings, when I light the taper candles in the windows and on the coffee table, there’s a real sense of calm in our home, a needed foil to whatever the day has served. I say no to social things sometimes, when I know what I need is to not spend $70 on a night out, but to make a big pot of grains for the week and climb into bed a little early. I wonder with one breath if my friends think I’ve gone boring, and with the next breath I let it go. There’s no room right now for that kind of worrying.  “It’s extremely clarifying,” my mom said to me one sunny morning on the phone. It was the word I’d been looking for.

There are times in my life when I’ve successfully done what’s best for me. As I get older, it seems a little easier (at times!) to not be quite so self-defeating. I find myself struggling a little less with the question that’s long plagued me: why is it so hard to do what’s good for you? But there’s something a little deeper going on right now. The choices I’m making feel important. I think what I’m talking about is life at its most nourishing. A walk in the park on a cold afternoon isn’t just me, squinting in the sun and navigating around slicks of mud. It feels like something more, like embodying my best self, or stepping into the flow, or doing what some part deep within me, beneath the shoe choice and the hair style and stretchy jeans, wants to be doing.

Sometimes I feel like this blog tracks my journeys as an Odysseus-like traveler, out into the world of distractions and proving oneself, and then home again to something more meaningful. I circle back to the same ideas over and over and declare “aha!” each time. But maybe that’s just the nature of navigating through this world looking for meaning. We remember what’s important, have moments of clarity, and then over time, forget again. Tara Brach said recently that there are moments of extreme clarity in life: when a baby is born, when someone is dying, when we say our wedding vows. But there are smaller moments too, like when we are chopping vegetables for a meal with friends, or when we allow ourselves a few moments before we launch into the day to sit quietly with our breath, or when we are riding the bus and look out the window and can hardly fathom the brightness of the blue sky. We remember.

There have been quite a few moments recently when standing at the cutting board in our poorly-lit kitchen I had such a contented feeling. One of those times was a couple weeks ago, when I had Monday off and spent the morning baking a cake for old friends coming over who we hadn’t seen in much too long. Peeling the apples, chopping them, listening to the low hum of the mixer beating eggs, oil, and sugar into a rich, sweet batter kissed with cinnamon–there was a sweet, steadying rhythm to it, not unlike how I felt on that walk in the bright and muddy park. Something inside our body knows, even before our heads do, when we’re on the right track.

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October 12, 2011

Sweet Suprises and Apple Pie

There is much to be said for what discomforts a change of scenery can ease. And because I have been nursing a cold with a sore throat that only tom yum soup, apple cider, and hot tea could make feel better, we went apple picking.

It was 80 degrees, and the pumpkins and hay bales looked completely out of place in the hot sun. Sebastian and I piled into a wagon filled with children and their parents and rode into an orchard where rows and rows of Piñata apples were––literally!––ripe for the picking. It was so pretty there, with tiny apple blossoms and lush, glossy leaves on the trees, dark green grass below our feet and a big blue sky above. We wandered between trees to the Empires, then the Golden Delicious, and finally the Suncrisps. Later, with our modest five-pound haul, we walked back to the orchard entrance and bought some cider donuts, still hot in their white paper bag. We shared a cold bottle of cider and sat in a shady spot in the grass. I wondered what had taken me so long to do what has long been on my fall fun list.

Colds lead to thick, murky thoughts and minutes lost to staring off into the distance. And so Sebastian had to figure out what to make with all those apples. Wouldn’t you know that the rookie would come out of the gates with a grand slam? My mom makes the simplest of apple pies: just peeled wedges, sugar, cinnamon, and dots of butter. What Sebastian baked was ultra-rich, and bubbled over with a caramel-like sauce. It might have been the best slice of apple pie I’ve ever had. We shared a single slice hot from the oven late last night and pronounced it a victory. (But I’m still partial to tarte tatin.)

I didn’t intend for this post to be about Sebastian’s triumph in the kitchen or to tell you about the killer apple pie recipe he found. Both were just serendipity! I set out just to recount this kind of magic moment in the weekend where even with an aching throat there was something so sweet about wandering, foggy-headed, through an orchard in the sunshine. Why did something so simple feel so utterly divine?

We play this game in our house from time to time, “what was your favorite moment?” And the surprising thing is that it’s never the fancy dinners or big to-dos we planned for, spent money on. It’s always something unassuming and random, like a nice walk, or seeing some hilarious dog, or reaching up into an apple tree, grabbing a piece of ripe fruit, and biting right into it.

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August 12, 2011

Jennie’s Peanut Butter Pie

I don’t know Jennie. But I know the reliable warmth of her writing and her creative recipes, and I’ve thought about her more this week that many of my real-life friends. Jennie’s husband died.

Just writing that makes me feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.

People like me, who love Jennie through the fibers of the internet, have felt achingly helpless. But I read her lastest post and felt grateful for some direction:

For those asking what they can do to help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.

Pie I can do.

I went to the grocery store this morning for the ingredients, and came home to bake. I tried to be mindful as I was mixing. Before this unimaginable news, I had been thinking about what it means to be married, how to share your life with someone and uphold the promises you make. I had been wondering about timing, and when to take the next steps in life. When is it time to buy a house? To have a baby? To take that trip we’ve been putting off? As I botched the cookie crust and struggled to spread the melted chocolate I thought, This is love. Making mistakes and making a mess. And extending the whole sticky mess as an offering.

If we walked around all the time, aware that at any moment our time with the people we love most could almost be up, it would drive us insane. So there must be some line we can walk, one where we are filled up with gratitude and so much joy for how lucky we are, but without making ourselves crazy over how fragile life is.

The pie smells delicious, and it’s sitting in the refrigerator right now. Tonight I’ll carry it upstate on a long train ride, resting securely on my lap. I’ll cut into the whole mess and watch it fall apart when the crust doesn’t hold, then pass out slices to old friends and my guy. And then we’ll dig in.

Time’s a wastin’.

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March 15, 2011

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (They’re Gluten-Free!)

I’ve been wondering what will come next. Cupcakes have had their day. Pies currently rule the school, but really, how long can that last? At first I thought I’d move to nominate the humble cookie. It’s simple, it’s unassuming, it’s individually-portioned. But then I thought how sad it is to watch a dessert rise and fall like a teenage pop star.

I like to see the cookie as trend-proof, like the perfect trench or red lipstick––perennially delicious and always in style. And really, that’s what I’m looking for: the wardrobe additions and the ways of thinking and the recipes that will continue to delight me––and maybe even improve my life––long after the dessert du jour’s reign is up.

These cookies are marvelously simple: super rich, not-too-sweet, and with the added benefit of feeling, well, sort of healthy, right? Just think of all the protein!

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