Monday, November 24, 2008

Where I Am At


Please don't cut me off. I need to get these words out and fast because I'm about to make a somewhat impulsive decision, but I believe it's a good one and am going with my gut in the moment. Some spontaneous acts are meant to be credited -- not all, of course -- and when a conviction with solid foundations is actually stronger than the other half of me that would prefer to remain oblivious, I better not choose the unsteady ground.

So, here I am before friends, acquaintances, and lurkers (who are always appreciated on this blog) saying that this hungry soul is taking a break from blogging. I'm not saying how long it will last because I do not know.


What I do know is that I have enough obligations before me right now to keep me up all night playing with typography in InDesign, staining my fingers cadmium red while applying oil paint to masonite panel, and, oh goodness, let's not forget the people that I kind of sort of moved back to God-forsaken Abilene, Texas to spend some time with. It would be nice to see their faces, I think. (By the way, I can tend to exaggerate in regards to Abilene; all sarcastic comments are spoken in love.)


So, the whites of my eyes have turned slightly pink in their weariness and the worn, seeking heart that I mentioned earlier have banded together to convince me that this is going to be okay.

I'll let you know if my blogging picks up somewhere else un-food related because I have a weakness for the melody of clicking computer keys and will continue to document life's story through my camera lens.


That's where I'm at. It's brief and just touches on the surface of all that is inside my head and heart right now. If we happen to be in the same town, I'd be happy to sit down sometime and talk with you more about it.

I'll miss feeding off your creativity, too, but for now I'm going to take an absolute break and then maybe I'll be able to slip back into your life as a commenter. Or maybe a blogger once again. I'm not holding any options too tightly.

Love to you. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog, encourage me, and share in the enjoyment of life and food.


[Not to tease, but the pictures on here are just a random assortment that have been sitting on my computer waiting to be shared.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie and Whole Other Canvases

It must have begun my first year of college. I no longer had to add my name to the long list of students who had used and abused the old textbook before me, scrawling their name in its front cover and admitting ownership and responsibility for that year. Nope, as a freshman I dropped a stomach-sickening amount of money on thick Chemistry, Nutrition, and English Composition books to be able to claim them as my own as well as face the dilemma of getting rid of them (especially after realizing I didn't even want to study sugar's molecular structure; I just wanted to paint).


But along the way I realized that I could highlight and doodle and underline and still get a decent buy-back price from the bookstore. I started wanting to do that in all my books. I even began to hunt through used bookstores for pages with rich texture created by text arrangement and paper surface and they became a whole other canvas.

As an artist, I love the idea of a personal mark, and it's so nice to happen across this in a book someone else has held before me...a little anecdote in the side margin, an exclamation point stuck onto the end of a statement or recipe title.

So maybe one day when I am sorting through my pile of cookbooks or when I am heading overseas and reducing my earthly belongings to a suitcase or two, I'll have to hand off Dorie's cookbook and someone will pick it up and appreciate the yeses and the question marks and the adjusted cooking times and the reminders of fun variations and not just see it all as messy. That's what I like to think, anyway.

This week's recipe is certainly worthy of some black ink because, according to the comments on the TWD site, a lot of us had problems with ratios of rice to milk and achieving a pudding-like consistency. After reading through other people's experiences, I estimated most of my amounts and came up with a very satisfactory result.

You can find the recipe posted on the blog of this week's host for Tuesdays with Dorie, Isabelle, at Les Gourmandises d'Isa (and I would kill to know how to pronounce that with a convincing French accent). She notes her adjustments, but here are mine as well...

Instead of white arborio rice I used brown sweet rice and cooked it to al dente. I halved the amount of milk (it was actually watered down half-and-half; I rarely have milk on hand) and brought it to a boil with only a tablespoon of sugar. Then I added half a cup of rice and stirred it very attentively for about forty minutes. At this point I could push my spatula across the bottom of the pan and see some of the metal before it all sank back together, so I called it good. I distributed the pudding between two cups and stirred a teaspoon of vanilla extract into one (half a teaspoon probably would have been fine) and generously sprinkled cinnamon into the other.


There are no pictures of my finished product of properly thickened pudding because the sun has set, and with it my camera has said goodnight, but I can testify that they both turned out great (not that they're both gone; goodness no, this is one rich little dish). I think the cinnamon flavor is my favorite, though I could easily be won over by chocolate.

This recipe is basically the same idea as my mom's Norwegian rice porridge that we share for Christmas Day breakfast. And I may be a little biased, but nothing will ever ever compare.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Important Things


This blog's header used to have a subtitle that read "food and thought". I still believe the thought part is as important as the food -- the words just got sacrificed in the improvement of my design.

But tonight a friend reminded me why I started this blog.

In my first blog post, just over a year ago, I stated my philosophy about food and still stand by it. Food is something worth taking a stance on when it plays as much of a role in life as it does in mine. Somehow it has crept in and filled my spare time, determined my budget, turned my conversations, and motivated my artistic endeavors. If something shapes that much of my life, I like to make sure I have the right perspective and priorities.

So excuse me while I forgo sharing a recipe with you tonight. Hopefully this will not just be some selfish public journalling but maybe will benefit you as well.

And I think that just hit upon something important. Doing things selfishly is what starts to prick my conscience and makes me want to simply remove myself from those things, leaving them behind. But that can't happen with food. We are required to eat it to live, and it is only a small percentage of humanity that has the luxury of getting sick of it. Many other bellies, those that are perpetually hungry, have no concept of this.

So, I don't want to react begrudgingly or ungratefully when my life gets a little out of balance, and it feels like food and this food blog and my food photography and the comments I'm expected to make about food are to blame. I have thought about ceasing this blog at those times, and while I'm not signing any contracts for the coming year (or five), I'm not saying all of this to get to the word goodbye.


I am taking life in small increments right now.

Tomorrow I get to sit around a big, long table eating soup and bread with friends, and that's an image I love.

Less than two weeks from now, I'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with my mom, sister, brother, sister-in-law, and (the star of this year's holiday...) my two-month-old nephew. And as nice as roast turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie may be, it is not these things that get my heart racing for the plane ride that will take me home. It is the faces I'll get to see and the shoulders I'll get to rest my head on.

And now I'm really leaping ahead, but in July I'll be packing my bags and leaving Abilene, Texas with a university diploma under my arm. I don't know where I'll be yet or what sorts of foods I'll be eating or if this blog will even be possible in those circumstances, but I do not want to make the last two unknowns determining factors in my decision.

I always want life to be bigger than food. After all, I have soul cravings.

Just has I have a stomach that growls when it's meant to be fed, I have a heart that insists there's something more.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie and Wishing My French Blood Ran Stronger (again)


Usually yeast and I get along quite well. I enjoy the interaction of releasing its sweet, fermenting flecks into a big bowl of warm water or whisked flour and letting it do its thing over the next couple hours. There's always an element of risk, an intrigue of the unknown, and I can get excited about this because rarely do I dislike the final result. It's harder than some think to kill yeast and so, even if my loaf isn't as tight as it could be or as flavorful, I generally get a good rise. Like I said, yeast and I usually get along.

But something went wrong with the Kugelhopf I started on Sunday evening and eventually baked at eight o'clock Monday night. The directions I was following only addressed the use of a dough hook, not the manual method I was using, so maybe I didn't "knead" the dough long enough with my large spatula. I don't know exactly. It rose happily until I put it in the fridge overnight and then it never came back to life very much. Or maybe I was just too ambitious, placing it in a large bundt pan (large as in average size, I believe) and hoping it would climb all the way up the sides when it really only doubled in size and sat stubbornly at a level several inches from the top.

So, presentation was lacking and likely delicacy in the crumb as well, but from the slice I had at breakfast this morning to the one I nibbled on pre-dinner, this cake grew on me quite a bit. Per Dorie's instructions, I stuck my last slice in the toaster and smeared on some marmalade because it had already started to dry out. But it was still delicious.


Three things would encourage me to make this again...

1) It was my first experience with anything resembling brioche (something I've been wanting to try), and I think I like it even better because it's slightly less rich.

2) I boiled my raisins with rum and then let them sit for an hour, and anything that is compatible with rum soaked raisins makes me happy.

3) The yeast got the better of me in this recipe, and I will not be beat. (This is one of only a few areas where my competitive side comes out.)

So, if you're still confused about what on earth a Kugelhopf is anyway, here's a little bit of history.


A big thanks to Yolanda over at The All-purpose Girl for selecting Kugelhopf out of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. I'm always glad to try something new in the culinary realm. And thank you as well to the ladies who keep Tuesdays with Dorie running.

You'll find the recipe here: