A Prince’s Crumb


The Little Prince (I should just call him “The Prince” now, he’s taller than me, though not even close to my Machiavellian status, ha ha) is barreling ahead in his Baking & Desserts class. Each week he has a choice of three recipes, and this past week he chose… bread.

“But, Mom,” he said, leaning in my office door, “I want it to be like yours. Will you help me?”

There were no fluttering eyelashes, but I felt the need to clutch at my heart just the same.

So now he knows about autolyse and has kneaded a giant hunk of dough; he’s heated the oven just right for proofing and used a bench scraper, how to rescue a dough too wet or too dry, and he baked a lovely, lovely loaf we had with dinner and then for breakfast the next day.

He’s very proud of himself, and my poor heart is so full it aches. I mean, just look at that lovely crumb! The well-shaped loaf! The beautiful crack in the top crust! The irregular holes!1

It tasted pretty spiffy, too.

I hope you had a similar victory this past week, dearly beloveds; I hope someone let you know just how important you are and how much they treasure something you do–something you might not think much of, but they think is just the bee’s knees and the cat’s pyjamas.

I am swinging between hope and despair, as I have been all year. But it’s nice to take a breath, and a bite of something with love baked into its very molecules.

I wish you a peaceful weekend, dear ones.

Keep Chipping Ice

I decanted a lot of sauerkraut yesterday; today I put a fresh batch in the crock. The world might be mad, but fermentation remains the same. The microbes do not GAF, as my kids might say.

The clouds have moved in. We’re looking at rain for the weekend, which of course pleases me to no end, since I have to finish this damn zero and it’s dragging. I feel like I’m waiting for the ice on a Russian river to break up, with that immense creaking and cracking you can’t forget once you’ve heard it. Soon everything will break and the torrent will carry me down to the sea of having finished another gat-damn book.

In other news, the portal fantasy I wrote at white heat during my lockdown nervous breakdown seems to be an actual book and not just a collection of disjointed mutterings. At least, so my beta readers and agent say, and since I can’t see the forest for the trees right now I’m going to have to take their word for it.

That is, after all, why one has beta readers and partly why one has an agent. You can’t see the book clearly when it’s less than an inch from your nose; you need a second (or third, or fourth) pair of eyes on the thing, yelling the description so you can guess. Trust is essential, and so is the commitment to be gentle and truthful at once. If not for my beta readers loving the portal fantasy, I would have kept it on my hard drive and not allowed it to go to my agent, which she says would be a great loss.

The dogs seem to sense I have finished my coffee and are lobbying hard for a walk. Despite the hour I can hear a leaf blower going somewhere in the neighborhood; it is gloomy outside and that is the way I like it. A new book is trying to push its way through the noise in my head, but I’ve enough to do without adding it to the pile; it will have to stay just a series of disconnected images and dialogue inside my head.

Fortunately, the half-formed stories are a refuge from both actual work and the raging torrent of bad news that is current events. I can crawl into the stories when I need some respite. I don’t know how people without that safety do it.

So it’s time to chaperone the fuzzy quadrupeds, haul my reluctant carcass on a run–the new shoes are doing all right, though I could wish for a bit more cushioning–and a whole day spent in a city under siege. Maybe I’ll begin to hear the distant song of cracking ice, maybe not.

Sooner or later, though, if I just keep chipping, something will happen. I have to believe that, or I might as well give up entirely.

Tasty Victory

I did chana masala for the first time! There are a million recipes for it online, and I found one that uses cocoanut oil for “blooming” the spices, which I wanted to try.

The chickpeas were soaked overnight and simmered with lemon rind, olive oil, onion, and salt for a long while; about a half-hour before dinner, I began with more onions and spices in hot oil, then the crushed tomatoes. The resultant stuff went into the chickpea pot for the last simmer. I was nervous about the whole experiment–there were a lot of chickpeas to throw out if this went wrong–until the very end, when I dumped in the garam masala and stirred.

That was what it needed, and finishing with a little lemon juice just made it OMG WOW. My faith was utterly vindicated and restored at once, especially since the kids both pronounced this something they’d eat again. (They’d better, we have a lot of leftovers.)

So at least this week has contained one (very tasty) victory. Heaven knows I needed it, and I hope your week had at least one victory as well, no matter how small.

Onward to the weekend, then, once I get today’s work finished. (There’s always a catch…)

Older, Better

One of the joys of adulthood is finding out that yes, I am good at cooking and yes, I do have preferences that are okay and can be indulged. Case in point: I made a totally bombin’ cherry tart-type thing, square because I didn’t want it round (for reasons of crust ratio) and it was exactly to my taste.

The Prince ended up eating most of it, but that was okay. Just cooking it and having a single warm slice of something that was exactly how I liked it was amazing.

Lots of people say they’d like to go back to childhood or high school and do it all over again. To hell with that. The older I get, the better my life becomes. Hitting 40 was the best thing ever, because all of a sudden the field where I grew my fucks was barren and I had not a single one left in the warehouse.

I wish you a marvelous Friday full of things you like, my friends. It’s never too late to make a cherry tart the way you prefer it.

Over and out.

Never Completely

I’ve taken to sprinkling a little rooibos chai powder into my morning coffee. The spice helps me feel a little more awake; the only problem is there’s no added caffeine.

Ah well. Nothing is ever completely perfect.

We’re having lovely weather. Sometimes in spring we’ll get a spate of 70F days, with pollen drifting golden in the air, and it’s so beautiful one almost manages to overlook the fact that it’s treegasms floating everywhere. As a result, people are taking walks up and down the street all day, which sends Boxnoggin into a frenzy of “DON’T COME INTO MY YARD, HOW DARE YOU WALK ON MY STREET, HOW DARE” several times a day.

He’s very protective, this box-headed van der Sploot.

I haven’t fully recovered from last month’s bug, whatever it was. If it was the current plague, we’re likely immune, but there’s no way to know without tests and there are no tests to be had. So I guess I just… wait, and worry. And try to get rid of some of the mucus.

There are good things about quarantine, though. I’ve found some new writing music; today I’m trying out this recipe. It’s hard to work unless I shut off the wireless entirely; the temptation to look at what’s happening in the world and feel that sick thump of worry and pain in my midsection is overwhelming.

It’s not that I want to slow down and Lookie-Lou at the car wreck. It’s that I want to help, and my inability to immediately fix this for everyone I love–or indeed, anyone at all–is a torment. Everything I see on the news makes me long to do something, anything to help.

I know I help most by staying home, by being careful, by loving the people I’m close to and taking care of my neighbors. But still… I wish I could do more.

Anyway, there’s subscription fiction drops to get out the door today and the open thread over on Haggard Feathers to attend to. Plus I should brush the detritus of shipping off my new African violets. (They were on clearance; I’ve got to get my scrawny, overlooked plants somehow.) I gave them yesterday to settle in their new homes and get a drink, now we clean them up a bit so they can breathe more easily. Growing medium tends to shift a little during transit.

But first there’s the dogs to walk–without having to take care of them, I don’t think I’d be able to get up in the morning and face all this–and my rooibos-chai-laced coffee to finish swilling. I’ve managed two days’ worth of productivity, but I’m not feeling quite back in the saddle yet. I’m feeling, in fact, like I’m on the back of some raging beast who very much wants to shake me off, and is doing its level best.

I had more to say, but I suppose it’s probably a mercy every subject has fled my head.

It’s getting hard to hold on, over here, and a little more difficult to get out of bed each day. How are you managing it, dear Reader?

Delicate Skin

Nabokov has a passage in Lolita about the skin atop real hot chocolate, and every time the cream in my coffee cools in this particular fashion, I think of it. I also put off stirring for as long as possible, studying the thin wall as it ripples and responds to heat. It never fails to fascinate me.

Such a delicate thing, skin… and yet it’s the largest organ, our first line of defense.

I know hand washing is a big thing now (justifiably! it should always be!) so our own skin might be feeling a little dry and cracked. Lotion up to keep that barrier strong, my friends. Hydrate, and take as much care as you can.

We can’t afford to lose you. Yes, you, the person reading this, whoever you are. Treat your skin–and your self–as gently as you can, please.

Ferment or Roast

A lovely daikon, sliced and placed in brine, then left to think about things. It ends up looking very pink, because I didn’t want to bother with peeling.

And it tastes marvelous. It took me a long time to start fermenting things, but now I can’t stop. I look at all sorts of vegetables and think “hrm, can I pickle that bitch? Or… maybe I can roast it?”

Ferment or roast. Either I drown the vegetable and encourage beneficial rot, or I toss it with oil and engage in controlled burning. And let’s not even talk about what I have planned for summer fruits, since I have all these canning supplies.

Food is weird. And with that thought, my darlings, I leave you to embark upon your weekend. Hopefully you have something tasty to snack on while doing so.