Posts tagged ‘raisins’
It takes exactly two minutes to walk from my dorm building to the restaurant where I work.
I know this because I usually tumble out of bed, still sluggish from my afternoon nap, and throw my work clothes into a bag. I half-jog, looking down at my watch at every intersection. In the basement I twist my hair into a side ponytail and tuck a bundle of pens in my apron. I step onto the floor, barely on time.
You’d think I’d learn, but I frequently forget to eat before realizing my shift is in five minutes. Most days I arrive at the restaurant on an empty stomach, thoroughly unprepared for the physical and perhaps emotional stress a nine-hour waitressing shift demands. I’m not really supposed to snack while working, and I don’t have time anyway between running plates and dropping checks.
It takes me six minutes to walk back from the restaurant. I’m considerably slower on my feet by the time I’m through. Eight months experience and I’m still unused to the soreness that seeps into my body at the end of the night. Sometimes the rumbling in my stomach distracts from the tenderness of each step home.
One night, after a particularly taxing shift, I walked straight to my boyfriend I-’s room and pounded on the door, still in chocolate stained work clothes. “I really need to eat,” I said. It was 1:15 am on a Thursday but he shook off the sleep and grabbed his keys. “Wherever you want to go,” he replied, and then we were back outside.
I picked a dumpling house in Chinatown, one of my favorites. I like it because the food is steamy and succulent, I find the Korean pop music they play hilarious, and best of all, it’s open until 2 am. He wasn’t really hungry, and I over-ordered: fried rice, beef kabobs, eggrolls and dumplings. But just before the waiter grabbed our menus, I- added, “And an ice cream sundae too.”
For whatever reason, the sundae came out before the meal. Just a few scoops of store-bought vanilla ice cream, with a quick drizzle of chocolate syrup and a ruffled dome of spray-can whipped cream. For a second, I considered not eating it. But then my hand automatically reached for a spoon and dug in, beyond caring. I don’t know if it was hunger, exhaustion, or the happiness that overcame me sitting with I- in that empty restaurant, but the first bite comforted like cool watermelon juice in August. I scraped the spoon against the bottom of the bowl.
The food that followed was predictably satisfying, but when I look back on that night, what I remember is the sundae we demolished.
Since then, I- texts me throughout my shifts – “Do you want Chinese, pizza, or Mexican when you get back?” Whenever I can, I try to bring him something back from the restaurant in return. Usually, it’s a cookie. The cookies at our restaurant are tangible temptation beneath a glass cake dome. They don’t often last, but if any remain at the end of the night, I snag a peanut butter cookie for myself, a sugar cookie for I-, and triple chocolate for I-’s roommate D-. Mine usually disappears in the six-minute walk back.
I’m a quiet fan of the cookie. They’re irrefutably a childhood staple, considering that at 19 years old, I experience nostalgia when I eat them. I think of the butter cookies my grandma and I made for holidays. The coconut sugar biscuits my Chinese teacher offered during recess. Gingersnaps return me to the 8th grade, sitting Indian-style on the kitchen floor with my nose against the oven’s glass window, watching the tops crack.
As much as I like them, I don’t bake many. I get bored scooping mound after mound, or I get frustrated with the capriciousness of roll-out cookie dough (it’s too soft! Too cold! Too sticky!) With that kind of time, I’d prefer to pipe buttercream onto cupcakes or delve into yeast-risen territory.
This rugelach, though? Worth it, worth it a million times.
As cookies go, these ones are a considerable amount of work. The dough needs to be chilled, requiring some forethought. Then you have to roll out, sprinkle toppings, slice, and bundle into crescent-shaped pillows of brown sugar and apricot preserves. An egg wash coat and dash of cinnamon before the rugelach bakes.
But the resulting cookie is pure heaven. The apricot preserves bubble and transform into a sticky sweet filling, alluring as honey and perfect with milk. The walnuts add just the right textural crunch. Throw in the moist chew of dried cranberries and the soft flakiness cream cheese introduces? An all around winner. Even better than those peanut butter cookies.
Maybe, when I get my hands on a real kitchen and kiss finals week goodbye, I’ll make these cookies for I- and D-. They might not know how much effort goes into them, or how long I spent with floured palms. All they’ll know is that it only takes two minutes to polish off an entire plate, and an afternoon to shake off the smile.
Nobody in my class ever actually said that they expected senior year to be a breeze – but in all honesty, we were all sure that it would be a free ride. Senioritis kicked in halfway through sophomore year, we have easy classes on our schedule, and besides, we’re seniors now. Doesn’t that mean teachers are supposed to give us a break?
The first couple weeks of school were easy enough. The homework was nothing but syllabuses for parents to sign and simple worksheets that reviewed instead of taught. I had plenty of leisure time to bake, browse my favorite blogs, and take long walks with my camera pressed to my cheek. School was a short occupation for a few hours a day, but never on my mind once the final bell rang.
Unexpectedly, those unassuming “pass classes” began assigning huge chunks of homework that took hours to complete. I spent a memorable, horrible day studying for a psychology test, thinking to myself, “Oh, right… I’d almost forgotten what this was like.” Environmental science, which had seemed no harder than planting seeds in empty pop bottles, assigned a slew of projects and presentations without warning. And my stats class… oh, that’s a true nightmare. It may be my most hated class of all time, all four years of high school and all three years of middle school included. It’s that dull and unpleasant – and it’s the class that gives me the most homework.
But even if high school hadn’t just kicked into gear, I’d still be busy. College applications are proving to be one of the most intimidating, frightening pieces of work I have ever faced. I can’t help but feel like so much of my future depends on that application… no first impression has ever held so much at stake. And surprising as it might be, the toughest part of the application for me right now is the essay.
I know I have it in me to write a good essay. I love to write, I even want to go into writing as a career. And yet, every time I sat down to write an essay, I felt as blank as a peeled potato. Nowhere to begin, nothing to say, and no ideas to put into words. I wanted so badly to come up with something meaningful and vibrant, but all I could think about was, “Everyone is expecting my essay to be fantastic.” And the slow but steadfast pressure of it all seemed to compress every creative impulse in me. I spent thirty minutes looking at the cursor blink on the word document before finally giving up.
Feeling stressed and a little uneasy, I decided to work on a new 17 and Baking blog post. I assembled the photos, opened up wordpress, and started to write. I was halfway through the post, describing the warmth of toasted hazelnuts in my palms and the sweet scent of pineapple sage rubbed on my fingertips, when it hit me. Ten minutes earlier, my writer’s block had been so severe that I couldn’t continue. But now, with the stress of college and expectations lifted, I was free to really capture the words that formed in my head and the emotions that stirred in my heart.
Writing a blog post is so different than writing an essay. I don’t need to feel anxious about grammar, word choice, tones and themes and figurative language. I enjoy writing essays and writing comes naturally to me, but it would be a lie to call it easy. Writing an essay takes time, work, and a lot of thought on my part. But whenever I write a blog entry, the words simply flow out, fluid and easy. I never prewrite, or even plan what I’m going to say until I’ve sat down and begun to type. It takes no longer than 15 minutes to write a post, and it captures my voice so clearly that you, the reader, probably know me as well as anyone does.
I began to tackle my college essay the way I tackle 17 and Baking – I pretended each essay I worked on was a blog post. There was no need to be perfect, just to write what was in my heart. The words began to come out now, slowly, but without squeezing my mind through a funnel. I wanted to write about baking too, and for inspiration I went through every single post on my site, picking out the ones that were potential college essays in themselves. They’re all roughly a page long, describe me, my life, my passions, and my motivations, and talk about baking – something that I hope will stand out among a sea of “the big game” and “the day my grandmother died” essays.
Yesterday, I wrote a draft of the first college essay I’ve been happy with so far. I felt the knot loosen slightly in my stomach as I printed it out, and then I laughed and baked cookies to reward my perseverance.