Posts tagged ‘Cookies’
I just finished my junior year of college. Which seems impossible, and exciting. I’ve signed the paperwork on my first two apartments—one in New York, where I’m interning this summer, and another in Cambridge for my senior year. On top of everything else, I’m finally 21. But for some reason I can’t stop thinking about 17.
I haven’t posted in a long time. I didn’t forget or stop trying to. But my life has gone through a lot of changes in the last four years. I moved to the opposite coast, took classes, interned, worked, met new people, studied abroad, and lived on my own for the first time. I was in college and there was so much to do! So much to figure out about myself! And there were so many reasons why I wasn’t blogging.
Occasionally I tried to bake, but it felt like going through the motions. I couldn’t explain why it no longer made me happy, it just didn’t, even before my blogging hiatus began. The last thing I wanted was for 17 and Baking to feel like homework, so I didn’t force it. I wanted to want to write. I just didn’t expect it to take this long.
For months, I could explain to everyone—especially myself—why I “couldn’t” blog. My freshman year dorm didn’t have an oven, ingredients were expensive, I didn’t have the free time I did in high school. But my explanations were starting to sound like excuses. For what, I wasn’t sure.
I began noticing I felt unmotivated about other things too. I’d stopped taking out my camera, even though I loved photography. I kept writing for classes, but the joy and creativity had noticeably packed up and gone a long time ago. I didn’t feel like hanging out with friends or going out on the weekends. I didn’t want to waitress. I just wanted to cozy up at home and watch TV.
At first I thought feeling like this was a natural part of growing up. In addition to all the changes in my life, I stressed about my career, my future, and my “potential,” which I worried wasn’t turning into “reality” fast enough. I convinced myself I no longer enjoyed baking to avoid facing a much more unpleasant truth—that I didn’t really enjoy anything anymore.
I didn’t feel sad exactly, but I felt empty a lot of the time, and for no real reason. Boredom and anxiety pushed out positivity and ambition. Sometimes I realized I didn’t even know why I was upset. The bewilderment and frustration was just as bad as the unhappiness itself. I felt like I was living in my own empty exoskeleton.
Depression is terrifying. There’s no denying that. But I’m learning it touches a lot of people and is nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s also not necessarily a life sentence. Though I can’t explain why, I’ve been feeling better these days. The fog is still there, but I can see beyond it, and I’m excited by the hazy future I can make out.
A few weeks ago, I felt like baking, so I made these blueberry thumbprint cookies. There isn’t a cute memory or anecdote to recall. I couldn’t even tell you why I rolled them in cornflakes (for texture? I don’t know. I didn’t question it.) But I did feel a little better, watching them cool on the counter. I didn’t get my hopes up, but I smiled a little when none of the cookies made it to Day 2.
And today, I found the motivation to publish this post, which I’ve been writing in my head and second-guessing for months. I’m not going to question that either, just keep looking forward.
I don’t know if it was a mistake to let the blogging slow down for so long. Ultimately, I try not to blame myself. I’ve realized it wasn’t something I could just chin up and power through. But it is something I can start again, if I want.
I don’t feel 17 anymore and I won’t pretend to. But that doesn’t mean I’ve outgrown 17 and Baking. Instead, I’d like to think it can grow with me. There are so many things I have yet to do, places to visit, people to meet. There are more wonderful things to look forward to than ever before. I’m going to start with 21.
Last Thanksgiving, with only a few weeks left in my study abroad program, I packed a bag and flew to Barcelona. Although I visited a dozen countries that semester, for the first time I was traveling by myself.
It seemed daring and spontaneous when I booked the ticket. But as I walked into the rich Spanish sunshine, my nerves kicked in hard. I didn’t speak Spanish. I didn’t have companions. I hadn’t even read a travel guide or looked at a map. Nope, I went in blind and alone, a recipe for disaster.
Continued after the jump…
My dad picked me up at the Seattle airport when I flew home for winter break. Throughout the semester I’d grown used to the unfamiliar – a different hostel every weekend, foreign customs, menus I couldn’t read. Seeing my dad’s face and falling into a bear hug made everything else disappear, like I’d never left home at all.
I breathed in the chilly air and looked out at the silhouettes of pine trees. Dad unlocked the car and I threw in my bags, a little white carry-on and the replacement backpack I bought in Rome. He raised his eyebrows as I slammed the trunk shut.
“Only two bags?”
“Dad, I’m only home for a month,” I said, rolling my eyes.
I didn’t understand the strange look that passed over his face. He’d later tell me that was the moment he knew I’d come back different, even though I didn’t see it then. How much can a person change in three months, anyway?
But now that I’m back on campus in Boston, little things are different. Last year I didn’t just love living in the freshman dorm with a roommate – I needed that sense of community so I wouldn’t feel lonely, so I’d feel a connection with people. But I think I left Europe with something else entirely. These days I’m living in a single, and I’ve finally learned that living alone isn’t the same thing as being alone.
My parents are living alone. I worried about my mom when I saw her over winter break – she was eating really simple meals and bundling up instead of turning on the heat. For the first time in my life, I wanted to take care of my family, instead of just relying on them to take care of me. And I found that the littlest things in the world made her happy.
Like grocery shopping. My mom and I opened our eating horizons this winter. No more instant noodles and steamed spinach. And while I can’t wait for summer produce – delicate asparagus and heavy, thirst-quenching peaches – the winter has a lot to offer. We discovered cara oranges, faint pink and tangy. Pomegranates cracked into a thousand faceted rubies and acorn squash caramelized in the oven, its skin curling like parchment.
By January, my mom was back in the kitchen. She baked bread for the first time in months. The juicer returned to our kitchen counter (my favorite is apple-carrot, heavy on the carrot.) One afternoon she bought a strange fungus from a Chinese grocery store, learned how to cook it, and introduced it to our table for the first time.
Then she said, “I want a signature dessert so I can bake when you’re not here.” This coming from the woman who once told me my buttercream frosting tasted like cavities.
Then I remembered these amazing peanut butter cookies. They’re naturally vegan – no eggs, butter, or milk – and use whole wheat flour. Plus, the recipe swaps canola oil for olive oil and refined white sugar for maple syrup. The dough comes together in one bowl, and the cookies are as simple as preheating the oven and owning a teaspoon.
The first time I made them, I brought an oven-fresh cookie to my mom. She examined it from top to bottom, took a hearty sniff, and finally tried the tiniest bite. Fifteen minutes later, we’d consumed nearly half of the cooling cookies, and agreed that they were far too dangerous for their own good.
We made these cookies together. I showed her my favorite way to scoop flour (fluffed with a spoon, leveled with a knife) and the best way to avoid over-mixing. She rolled teaspoons of dough into balls, flattened them with a fork, and sprinkled salt and sugar over each batch. All I did was taste test.
My mom makes these cookies for holidays, for dinner parties, for friends. She even baked six dozen of these gems for a cookie swap at work. When people asked if I’d made them, she got to smile and say, “These ones are actually mine.”
When winter break ended and I flew back to Boston, there were still four jars of peanut butter and three pitchers of maple syrup chilling in the fridge. And by the time I’m home again, asparagus and peaches and all my favorite summer produce will be in season, but there won’t be anything I look forward to more than a peanut butter cookie.
[Also – if you’re reading this before 1/22/12, I’m going to be a guest tonight on Olivia Wilder Talk Radio! Click here for more info and the number to talk to me on air.]
For a long time, I’ve wanted to live in a city.
Two semesters in college have confirmed this. Sometimes I think Boston won me over just as much as the college tour. I see the parks as my quad, the neighborhoods as my library. When the sun dips, I love walking down the endless streets – light concentrates in the spaces between brick buildings, bathing the whole city in gold.
I like the way the sidewalks breathe at night. Even in the dark, people are everywhere, and insect wings glint under the streetlights. I love the way honking cars and buzzing neon signs become lullabies. In the morning, I wake up with the city. The bus exhales beneath my seat and happy smells waft out of the bakeries. Every day is new and full of possibility, of discovery and change. I feel alive.
My boyfriend I- isn’t like this. He appreciates the pizza parlors open until 2 am and enjoys late-night photography in Chinatown. But in the “real world,” he could never live somewhere with that many cars, with so many people.
He visited Seattle for the first time last week. I made sure we checked out downtown record shops and college student hangouts. But I-’s favorite things about Washington?
He loved driving east towards Fall City, where thick trees threaten to swallow the road. He’ll remember Snoqualmie Falls, the semi-decayed bridge we were too scared to cross, and the pie we ate at a tiny North Bend diner. He was impressed with rocky Mount Si and snow-capped Mount Rainier. And he liked our floating bridges.
He also liked my backyard. It’s large in proportion to our little house, wrapping around three edges of our home. One section is a grassy stretch, another features the stone path and garden Mom and Dad built two years ago, and the third area holds our herbs and vegetables.
There’s something magical about growing our own produce. Since our lettuce heads unfurled, I’ve eaten more salads than ever. We get on our knees to find the ripest strawberries, which are more tender and sweet than any grocery store berry. I like slicing them in half, pouring coconut milk over them, and sprinkling the top with raw oats. Food tastes better when it’s just picked, still sun warmed, still breathing.
Before we planted them in our garden, I’d never thought about red currants. Each berry is tiny, translucent, and unbelievably crimson. They’re a little sour and pop between your teeth. The morning every berry suddenly turned ripened, I picked currants until my fingertips and lips were perfumed red.
I have to admit that I don’t really know what to do with them. My mom and I picked every currant in a race against the birds, and now we have cups and cups of a fruit that remains a mystery to both of us. Our batch is a little too tart to eat raw but we don’t have any experience with cooking them. Mom simmered some into a syrup, and I swirled some into ice cream.
It takes a lot of currants to make not-so-much puree. I threw in a few of our strawberries to add sweetness, and some honey when strawberries weren’t enough. I layered the red berry puree with my favorite vanilla ice cream. The berries are so deep and vivid against the creamy white, freckled with black seeds, that I see galaxies and constellations in every scoop.
I spent an afternoon making gingersnap ice cream cones, and after an hour in the kitchen I was ready for fresh air. I went into the backyard to photograph them, and realized I didn’t want to go back in. The ice cream just tasted better outside. It made the berry swirl brighter and the vanilla more exotic, standing in the sun without a skyscraper or printed ad in sight.
I miss the bustle of living downtown, but I’ve learned something else. I want to eat like I’m tucked deep in the country. I don’t know how I’m going to make it work back in school, without soil or farm-fresh produce in sight.
For now, I’ll keep eating lunch outside, listening to the leaves rustle and feeling more alive than I have all summer.