I haven’t had a lot of time for self reflection lately. It’s been kind of go-go-go with no real time-outs for true contemplation, relaxation or vacation. The rain outside my window of last post has turned to snow (see below) and back to rain again. In terms of cooking, my main meals have been a combination of my greatest hits here. I’ve made the cozido de grao a bunch of times recently with different meats, the herb crusted salmon, kofta, but I’ve incorporated some new elevated dishes, like baked herb butter snails that seemed too fancy to post and kale with eggs and quinoa that seemed too healthy and simple to post. I’ve created an awesome new Chinese meatball using five spice, sesame oil, fish sauce, soba noodles and cilantro. I have no idea why i didn’t document all of them. I’ll recreate some of them this week in a post so you can see how I’ve been keeping it real over here lately.
But today, I’ve got another sweet, rather than savory focus. I’ve been saying for quite a while that I’m not a baker. It’s clear now that I’m actually evolving. There was a time when watching myself really mess up a baked good would give me a little thrill of sadistic pleasure. It seemed like an interesting quirk, the kind of mistake that affirmed just how freaking difficult it was to make something truly great. Too much flour, too little sugar, mixing the batter without precision, the tiniest mistiming or temperature fluctuation could produce catastrophic results. You take something for granted until you’re reminded just how fragile it is, how rare.
Lately, though, I’ve sensed a wanton resentfulness in the skill level that I lack in the baking arena. I want to be a part of the community that achieves great things. I guess you can say my evolution in the kitchen is reflective of my evolution as a person. Lately, I’ve been growing in so many different ways. I’ve gotten into very good shape, built a life in a new albeit temporary home (NYC has a way of forcing you to move every few years), I’ve made steps toward new athletic goals. I’ve been able to pay off a significant amount of my choking law school loans, established firm boundaries with some people, while loosening them in relation to others. I’ve been reading more and writing less, but wanting to do the opposite. I have to start thinking about what I want and don’t want and what I need to do to get there. I also realize that in every decision I make I close the door to the infinite opportunities that could have existed just before I made the decision. That awareness has sort of brought me to a bit of a stopping point. This is not a crisis of confidence. Nor is this as simple as self doubt. It’s a symptom of having choices and a self reflective personality.
What can happen when your life is changing is that even the familiar can look strange. The fragility of your life as you know it becomes acute. You wake up in your own bed next to the person you’ve known for years and wonder how you got there. You come to an intersection on the way to work and wonder what would happen if you turned the other way. “What if I…?” becomes a familiar refrain. Sometimes the contemplation of these things alone is frightening. But it’s an important place to visit once in a while. It’s making good decisions that help the smaller choices take care of themselves and help you hold onto your sense of yourself when you reach this point.
How do you do this? It’s hard, especially when your intuition feels compromised. Routine is helpful for me (thus the repetitive meals), remembering what you love, recognizing false starts, talking to good friends, singing karaoke with the people who know who you are, being mindful of thought patterns, listening to your gut, a little booze and a bit of good luck.
So while relishing in (and/or clinging to) my routine I tried to build up my skills with a simple and delicious chocolate chunk banana bread. I didn’t have enough ripe bananas, but even using regular ones it was still so good it was gone within a day. It gave me something fun to focus on, something substantive to stir, and an opportunity to learn some new computer and photo skills (see gif below!).
Wishing everyone all the good things for this new year. Lots of great food with spices, herbs, sauces and grains with tons of both sweet and savory inspiration that lead you to the places you need to be…and greatness, even if it lies only in the process.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter room temperature
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 bar dark chocolate chopped into thick pieces
- 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 6)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Add the chocolate. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes. Add confectioner’s sugar if desired. Refrigerate when cool.