School, Seattle, The Northwest… The World?

October 9, 2009 at 10:40 am 1,595 comments

I think the first time it happened was near the end of April last year.

I was standing in line for lunch, feeling bored and hungry and a little irritated, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and faced a girl I didn’t recognize, whom I’d never met before. She looked a little nervous and said, “Sorry, I just had to ask – are you the girl with the food blog? My mom and I really like your photography.”

It was such a strange feeling and such an unexpected moment, to be recognized. It didn’t feel like fame, but I had no idea how else to put it. I thanked her, gave a real smile because I was grateful and honored, and went on with my day in a much better mood. But it’s happened over and over again since then.

On Facebook, I have an album called “Food Photography.” It has around 250 comments and is “liked” by 40 people, many of whom I never talked to until they complimented me on my baking. I’ll be sitting in environmental science when someone will quietly complain, “I’m so hungry!” and give me a meaningful look. The sophomores who ride my bus smile at me and ask if I’ve made anything neat recently. And teachers stop me in the hallway to say they’ve heard about my blog, and could I please write down the address for them?

Even though I’m a senior and my high school is relatively small, I’m not well known. I have classes with the same people over and over, and I’ve never been much of a social butterfly. And I know I’ve said this before, but it’s true – when I first created 17 and Baking I didn’t tell anyone about it because I thought it was embarrassing. I didn’t think it would be cool to have a food blog. I thought people would think I was weird. So I kept it to myself and tried to hide it from the world.

I only showed it to one of my friends when I’d written about him, and I thought he would get a kick out of seeing it. To my surprise he ended up making a blog of his own (suited to his own interests) and linked to mine. Unlike me, though, he wasn’t shy about sharing, and soon many of my classmates had seen his blog – and through it, mine. (If you are interested, he has a great economics blog called the Marginalist.)

To my surprise, people didn’t think it was uncool or strange. Food is universal. Food brings people together. Because really, when it comes down to it, who can resist anything warm and fresh from the oven, whether a sweet chocolatey cookie or a soft chive-studded cream cheese biscuit?

As I began to write this post this morning, I received a message on Facebook from an old friend I haven’t talked to in four years, N-. “Hi Elissa,” she wrote. “I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, but my big sister goes to Berkeley and she loves to bake, and she likes your blog.” N- continued on to tell me that her sister decided to have a bake off with her new roommates. One of them suggested a certain cookie recipe from “this blog… seventeen something…” to which N-‘s sister (whom I’ve never met) exclaimed, “That’s Elissa!”

It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever heard, to have spread not only through school and the food blogging world but to college students in California simply having a bake-off. It lifts me off my feet and makes the sun shine out of my heart. Thank you for reading my blog – thank you, thank you, thank you!

Normally I wouldn’t, but I’ve got to ask – if you’re reading this, please leave a comment! Whether it’s your first time visiting or I’m welcoming you back, I’d really appreciate it if you left your location. I’m just curious to know where my readers are. I’ll start… Seattle, WA!

I don’t often opt for savory over sweet, but breakfast is one of those things where I crave salt over sugar. I’d had my eye on these Chive Biscuits for a while when I decided to make them. Part of the appeal was the inclusion of buttermilk and cream cheese. More than anything, that made me think of soft, flaky, and savory biscuits. They didn’t get as tall as I expected, but with chives from our own backyard and a squiggle of clover honey, they felt like home.

Cream Cheese and Chive Biscuits
From Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
Makes 12 biscuits

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
4 ounces cream cheese, cold, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and chives. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter and cream cheese until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.

Pour in the buttermilk; using a fork, mix in buttermilk until incorporated and the dough just comes together. The dough will be slightly sticky; do not overmix.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured fingers, gently knead about four times, until all the crumbs are incorporated and the dough is smooth. With a lightly floured rolling pin, gently roll the dough to a 8-b-11-inch rectangle, about 1 inch thick. Using a bench scraper or long offset spatula to lift the ends of the dough, fold the rectangle into thirds (like a business letter). Give the dough a quarter turn. Roll out the dough again (to the same dimensions), and repeat the folding process. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Return the dough to the work surface. Roll out as before, and repeat the folding process. Give the dough another quarter turn; roll out dough one more time, again into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Using a sharp knife, divide the rectangle into 12 equal squares or rectangles. Place on prepared sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the biscuits are golden and flecked with brown spots, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

Printer Friendly Version – Cream Cheese and Chive Biscuits

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    Im a big fan and so happy to see you started to post again. Looking forward to reading more posts from you :)

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    San Francisco, ca

    Love your blog, both the recipes and the stories.

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    Very interesting blog, came across it via Pinterest

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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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