Taking a break till Aug. 7th!
My laptop-overuse finally caught up with me & I am currently trying to rest and recover from tendonitis -- it really hurts to type! :( So sorry that I've missed 3 weeks of posting now, but I'll be back with a new recipe on Aug. 7th! ~Allison
I am so excited that it’s rhubarb season. And I wasn’t expecting to be excited about anything this month other than counting down the days until I finish my PhD. (30 days until my dissertation defense!)
Despite my looming deadline, and feeling overwhelmed and anxious because of it, I’ve bought every nice-looking stalk of rhubarb I’ve come across so far this year, and haven’t let a single one go to waste.
Lately whenever I open the fridge door, the jumble of rhubarb stalks stuffed onto the top shelf reminds me to bake. So I’ve been baking. And I think the baking is therapeutic. I’ll probably owe a good chunk of my degree to butter, sugar, and flour. (And, of course, to all of the home cooked dinners Paula and I have made in this kitchen, where I’ve lived for 6 of the 7 years of my PhD program.)
If I hadn’t set aside time and money to cook (and eat) my way through the stress, I think I would have dropped out of grad school long ago. Restaurant take-out and quick frozen dinners are fine every once in a while, but I’m sure I would have been miserable if I hadn’t started reserving evenings and weekends for the therapeutic, money-saving, healthy, and wonderful act of cooking.
This got me thinking. Besides the obvious people I’ll acknowledge in my dissertation (my advisor, my professors, Paula, etc.), there are also many… let’s say entities I’d like to acknowledge, even if these won’t make it into the official dissertation.
I give you, in no particular order, My Unofficial Dissertation Acknowledgments:
We all have our weaknesses. Some foods inspire an insatiable hunger slash lack of control. (And some foods are even designed to do just that.)
Paula and I invented/discovered this pizza a few weeks ago and — although it says below that it “serves four” — we practically polished off the whole thing, just the two of us.
Not that this is a quality you should look for in your food, but rarely have I felt such little control in the face of something that I’ve cooked myself.
Lack of control when facing down an open bag of Cheetos? Yes. Orange flavored tic tacs? Also yes. A homemade dinner that’s at least 50% kale? There’s a first time for everything.
I love sandwiches and toast—they are the perfect compact foods. Since renouncing store bought bread because I was learning to bake for myself, I haven’t been able to eat sandwiches or toast at all; I just wasn’t good at making tall, airy loaves of sandwich bread.
For the longest time, I only had sandwiches or toast if I bought them while out. When Allison and I go out for brunch, I tend to order things that come with toast. (I think I can count on one hand the number of times I didn’t get toast when out to breakfast.)
Back when I used to make baguettes quite often, I would slice them thinly and have tiny turkey or peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, but baguette bread is a sad replacement for the whole wheat loaves that would call out to me whenever I walked passed the bread aisle in a grocery store.
I have a secret strategy when I don’t want it to rain on my vacation: I pack an umbrella. Then I carry that umbrella with me everywhere—fully prepared for the rain that never shows up—and I usually end up having to splurge on supermarket sunblock the first chance I get.
Once my parents and I were caught, umbrella-less, in a San Francisco downpour. We had no choice but to keep on slogging through it, until we got to a drugstore on Market Street and bought an umbrella. And just as we left the drugstore, the rain stopped.
I’m sure this was only memorable to me because it proved my oddly superstitious conviction that the weight of an umbrella in my bag is often enough to ward off the rain. I’m sure there are thousands of counter-examples that I’ve failed to remember, since they didn’t support my theory… but I still can’t help but think it tends to be true.
I’ve recently discovered a similar phenomenon, also weather-related, but in this case the question is not to pack, or not to pack, an umbrella. The question is what to have for dinner.
I’m writing a short-ish post this week, since that’s all I have time for—too much going on with my dissertation right now!
(And, as I mentioned last week, I guess I’m still not willing to sacrifice time spent on cooking, so something else had to give…)
Simply put, charoset is the main reason I love the Passover holiday: chopped apples, walnuts, dates, and wine, with a little cinnamon sprinkled in. It’s quite sweet, but still somehow manages to be addictive and refreshing.
Charoset recipes often call for the super-sweet Manischewitz wine. (I’m pretty sure my parents have a bottle of this wine, which I believe is used once a year. For charoset.)
I prefer to just use whatever red wine we probably already have open, along with extra dates for sweetness, or better yet, a little pomegranate molasses.
My dissertation stress has been catching up with me recently, more than ever before. So much that I actually considered not posting a recipe this week.
I have all sorts of big and little deadlines, self-imposed and otherwise, and I sometimes fall into the trap of too much calendar-checking—trying to conceptualize too many future obligations at once. This always leaves me feeling overwhelmed: while working on one task, I can’t help but feel guilty that I am not working on others. (As absurd as that sounds.) So inertia takes hold and instead of getting to work, I do nothing, while feeling increasingly… awful.
The one thing that helps—other than working on the dissertation (but even that doesn’t help sometimes)—is cooking.
Paula loves Campbell’s tomato soup, but to me it tastes metallic and sweet. Far too sweet—like it’s been loaded up with sugar. (It’s mystifying to me that Paula can’t taste the sugar in it at all!)
I’ve put up with my share of canned-soup buying and even cringed through eating it, since my reward was grilled cheese sandwiches on Paula’s homemade bread. But every time, I’ve told her that I wanted to try making her a from-scratch tomato soup that she’d like even better than Campbell’s.
This was not supposed to be that soup. This was just a recipe I came up with in honor of my new immersion blender. (My last one broke after only three uses… six years ago.)
It’s just about as different as you can get from Campbell’s—that was the last thing on my mind when I was creating it—so I had no idea that this soup, warmed up with aleppo pepper and thickened with creamy red lentils, would be the one.