Nothing and everything

Today, I went to a spin class and got out of my head for sixty whole minutes. I came home and ate two bowls of cereal while reading “Shouts and Murmurs” in the New Yorker and trying to decide if it was funny or not.

I gave my plants long drinks of water and let them sit in the sunlight that stretches out in my kitchen window for most of the late morning.

I drank two cups of coffee—the first to become functional and the second for pure pleasure.

I sorted through a giant pile of things to giveaway and took my time doing it. There are so many memories wrapped up in things. Harley and Marley curled up on the floor next to me, and I caught myself staring at them long and often. This, too, for pure pleasure. It’s days like these when I think I’m entering the good old days. The best years of our lives only just beginning.

Someone recently asked me if blogging, or not being paid to write, means I’m merely “talking.” I bumbled (and blushed) through an answer that went something along the lines of: well, sure, I guess I’m only talking; but, hey, a lot of writers, no, successful paid writers I know have only “talked” at some point.

Later, I explored the inquiry and my answer further. And it’s not much considering how intensely I feel about the subject, but what I came up with is this: Even though there is next to nothing on the line for me at this point, talking, writing, is hard work and showing up to do it is important. If I don’t show up, how will I develop my skill or deepen my potential?

I’m reminded of a quote shared at the beginning of a weekend writing class I took back in 2014 at Quartz Mountain. The first writing class I had taken since my dad’s death when I walked away from the craft. Ira Glass said it best:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Maybe I am only talking and maybe I’m not. At any rate, here I am, fighting my way through, talking about nothing and everything.

Thank you for reading, whoever you are. (And Mom.) xx

Plain and cold, straight from the refrigerator

It’s Saturday, mid morning. Saturday morning might be my favorite morning of all. I imagine that’s the case for a lot of people. Sundays are fine, but responsibilities waft in and out of the room, more so than on a Saturday. Our Food Bar is open on Saturdays and, as it currently stands, Jamie and I are the only people running it. If that weren’t the case, I’ve decided that Saturday would be our official Special Breakfast Day. I first typed brunch, but, truth be told, I’ve never gotten behind the whole idea of brunch. I want breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and I don’t typically want breakfast food for lunch, which is sort of what brunch feels like. I can take it or leave it.

Holidays and get-togethers are good excuses for making special things, and there have been two such occasions in May that led to us putting effort toward breakfast. We don’t make special breakfasts enough. Come to think of it, we don’t make special anythings much these days since opening the Food Bar, and I find myself itching to change that. Growing up, my family had a standing weekend breakfast date that was most always made at home.

I can’t remember if Saturday or Sunday was our big-breakfast day. Either way, Dad always ran the show. He served up typical diner fare, consisting of eggs, bacon, biscuits from a can (that was so satisfying to split open, aside from peeling the paper back) with gravy, and pancakes. Dad and I liked our eggs the same way: sunny-side up with a runny yolk. He never expressed it, but I think he was glad about this. He was also glad that I liked to dip my bacon in the egg yolk.

Our pancakes came from a box of Betty Crocker’s Bisquick mix, and later from the upgraded yellow plastic containers with a blue lid that required that you only add water (he used milk), shake, and pour. Fluffy buttermilk pancakes without the mess. Despite their origin and the fact that he did nothing special to them, my Dad’s pancakes were always my favorite. They were not too big, not too small, always a perfect circle, and perfectly cooked, too; never burned, never too light or mushy on the inside. They were indeed fluffy, with little air pockets that let out a sigh under the force of a fork. We always had leftovers and I would eat the pancakes plain, straight out of the refrigerator. The trick, he would tell me every time, to perfect pancakes was in the pour and the bubbles.

As an adult now in charge of my own kitchen, I try my best to make things from scratch, so my pancakes have not come from those shake ’n pour containers. But, I still try to utilize the tips he taught me, and every time I produce what I would consider the perfect pancake, I get the feeling that he would think it was, too. I can’t be sure how he would feel about my mixes of buckwheat or coconut flour, but, I suppose we’ll always have our shared affinity for runny yolks.

Despite all this talk of pancakes, I haven’t come here to share a pancake recipe with you. No, instead, I want to talk about waffles. Alice Medrich’s basic waffle recipe, in particular. And despite my nonchalance toward it, I served these waffles twice this month for brunch. Baking without gluten is still something I’m exploring, and Alice’s recipes make it very easy for me — so long as I follow her wisdom and don’t try to make it my own, as I’ve learned the hard way with several pans of what should have been brownies. So when my mom suggested we make waffles for Mother’s Day for my Mimi (her mother), I consulted my current Baking Bible which is Alice’s book Flavor Flours.

As Alice explains, when it comes to gluten-free baking, pancakes, waffles, and crepes are much more straightforward than, say, a buttermilk cake might be. They are thin and therefore don’t require much in the way of added ingredients for structure, aside from eggs, as a lot of gluten-free baking does; and they include plenty of liquid to hydrate the flour.

I can’t say I have much of a history with waffles to pull from, so I can’t solidly tell you how these compare to anything other than an Eggo-style toaster waffle. But, I can tell you that these were the most memorable waffles I’ve eaten so far in my life. Buttery and golden with a fluffy center, they were slightly sweet, but also slightly salty which I really liked. I ate them with my fingers, dunking each bite in maple syrup (100%, not the regular, pancake kind) and nothing more. I strayed from the recipe only a teeny tiny bit by using almond milk instead of regular whole milk, but only because I didn’t have any of the latter on hand. I bet using it would make these waffles even better. I used a gluten-free flour blend by Bob’s Red Mill that my mom brought over, but Alice says the recipe is flexible enough that you can experiment with different flours. I know I will be. The recipe will look differently if you decide to use coconut flour or nut flour such as almond. I have not included the instructions for that here, so recommend that you try this one with only the flours listed.

The recipe doesn’t necessarily come together quickly, so you might want to allow yourself an hour to get them together before serving. Both times I’ve made the recipe, I’ve used the eggs straight from the refrigerator, as opposed to room temperature, and, as far as I can tell, it made no difference to the recipe. It is important, however, to make sure your butter and milk are only warm, as you risk cooking the eggs.

EggsWhitesWhipped

There were five of us eating, and the recipe yielded three or four waffles; forgive me, I can’t remember. But, I made the same recipe a week later for friends, only I doubled it and it worked nicely. For the second go, we had some batter left over, which, I’m very disappointed to say, did not get used. Because just like my dad’s pancakes, these, too, are very worthy of eating plain and cold, straight from the refrigerator.

AliceWaffles

Alice Medrich’s Basic Waffles
(Barely) Adapted from Flavor Flours

1 1/4 cups of any flour: white or brown rice flour, oat flour, corn, buckwheat
2 teaspoons baking powder
Slightly rounded 1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm, plus more for brushing the waffle iron (Alice says to use more butter for a more crispy, rich waffle, which I will most certainly be trying next time)
1 cup milk, almond or whole, warm
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon sugar

Whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the egg yolks, butter, and milk and whisk until smooth and well blended.

In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. (Using a hand mixer, this process took about five minutes.) Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until stiff, but not dry. Next, fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.

Heat the waffle iron, brush it with butter, and cook the waffles according the the manufacture’s instructions. Serve them hot, or keep them stored in a low oven (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit), loosely covered with foil, for up to 20 minutes. You can also let them cool completely, then reheat them in a toaster or toaster oven.