I am always finding and being reminded of the reasons why I love what I do, wholly. These past few weeks have been a beautiful, glowing affirmation of the wonderful community that I entered into when I decided to take on the title of "foodblogger." As you know, one of our own suffered an unimaginable loss recently, and we all felt it too. So did many others. People from all over the internet, friends as well as those who'd only recently heard of Jennie, offered support via heartfelt Twitter messages, and hundreds of caring individuals rallied together at her call to make a peanut butter pie in honor of her husband Mikey. We grieved along with her while celebrating his life.
But the harsh reality is that this sort of loss often calls for more than emotional support. So the blogging community didn't stop at pie. From Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef:
"As you can imagine, Jennie is overwhelmed not only by her grief, and the sudden responsibility of raising two children by herself, but she is also struggling with this financially. She just learned that she cannot collect widow’s benefits from Social Security because she earns too much money each year. The health insurance for her and her kids runs out in December and she just learned that the total she will have to pay will be more than her mortgage. It’s possible she’ll have to pay off the entire mortgage in one lump sum because the apartment was in his name alone. And more than anything, Mikey wanted Jennie to continue living her dream of being a food writer. And he wanted to make sure his kids were taken care of well. That’s why he worked as hard as he did. So we want to help. And we hope you want to help too."
I'm one of those cooks that likes to use every last bit of something. Well, I try to be one of those cooks. Okay, so the truth of it is more like: I really want to be one of those cooks. I have bones in my freezer from months and months ago that I fully intend to make into stock...one day. And if someone can give me a use for the liquid that I strain out of my homemade yogurt each week, I will be eternally grateful. See? I'm working on it. And a recent endeavor made me aware of one thing that I will now be saving to bring myself closer to full-blown domestic goddess status: egg yolks.
The past couple weeks have been good for me. I spent some time reconnecting with friends, reconnecting with family, and reconnecting with my city. I’ve been so busy going and doing that I haven’t had time to stop and think, and, in a weird way, I feel like this has exposed a major flaw in how I approach things. So I've decided to make some changes, to try and create more balance in my life.
Ah balance. This is something I have a very hard time with (I know I'm not alone). When I go into something, it's often in a head-first, all-or-nothing manner. If I’m focusing on working out and eating better, I go at it to such an extreme that the majority of my day is spent planning, recording, sweating at the gym, and cooking six separate small meals from scratch every two to three hours. The cleanliness of the house and my work suffer. If I’ve decided the apartment needs to be cleaned, I spend a couple whole days on my feet, scrubbing, wiping, sweeping, folding, vacuuming, mopping. At the end of it all, I want nothing to do with cooking and my sciatica is acting up so badly that I can hardly walk, let alone hop up on a stepladder and bend over to take photos of food. If it’s my work that I’m committing to, well, then you see more yummy recipes while the dishes pile up and my jeans get tighter.
The nice thing about getting caught up in my work, however, is that it leaves me feeling fulfilled. That is, until something comes up. I could be content to live my whole life holed up in this apartment, cooking, writing, and taking pictures. I know that probably sounds sad (and, admittedly, it’s a bit of an exaggeration), but I love what I do and I’ve always been the kind of person that enjoys solitude. That way of living, though—if one truly is living—isn’t sustainable. Friends reach out to make plans, some even get married, and others do incredible things like have babies. Being a part of any of that requires getting dressed in normal people clothes and opening up the front door.
And this is where that feeling of fulfillment lapses.
I'm sure those of you who follow me through Twitter or Facebook are aware that this week is unfolding in the aftermath of something tragic. I apologize for inundating you all with messages and re-tweets about this for the past few days, but, quite honestly, I haven't known what else to do. I had posts scheduled for this week, but every time I sat down to to write, I couldn't. It felt so trivial to talk about pasta.
If you don't already know Jennifer Perillo, you should. She and I met through our blogs and through Twitter. She's a smart, endeavoring woman, always making things from scratch, and she shares her heart as openly as she shares her recipes and kitchen tips. I've admired her since I very first found her words. As we started getting to know each other better online, one of us would occasionally throw out a "We should meet!" or a "Seriously, we should get together!" It's always easier to say and feel it than to make actual plans.
About two weeks ago Shauna was in town, swinging through NYC on her way to Big Summer Potluck 2. On the day she arrived in the city, she gathered a group together in Central Park for a picnic to celebrate Danny's birthday. Chris and I were there. In the days leading up, I was so hoping Jennie would be there too. She was, with those signature sunglasses perched atop her head. We met and hugged, happily, finally. I met her two girls and was nothing less than impressed. Not only were they every bit as pretty as their mama, but these two kids are a couple of the smartest and most outgoing children I've ever met. They were an utter joy to talk to.
Halfway through the picnic, Jennie's husband Mike joined us. We all said hi when he arrived and then settled back into snacking and chatting. The evening was comfortable and easy. It was so good to see everyone and to meet many people for the first time.
The picnic wound down naturally and we all said our good-byes. There were talks of "the next time you're in town" and meeting up "sometime soon for coffee". Next time. Sometime.
Welcome to month six of the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally! If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are interested in reading more about what the Rally is all about, check out the post from our inaugural run when we all shared ratios and recipes for pancakes. This month we’re sharing our recipes and ratios for white or yellow cake.
I used Rulman's ratio, which you may recognize as the standard pound cake ratio. He differentiates between the heftier pound cake that one might bake in a loaf pan and the lighter type of cake that we're working with today by mixing technique. A pound cake comes together using the creaming method (beat butter and sugar first), whereas this type of cake, “sponge cake”, is made using the foaming method (beating the eggs and sugar until pale and voluminous). Whichever you’re looking to make, though, the ratio stays the same:
1 part flour : 1 part butter : 1 part sugar : 1 part eggs
I find inspiration for recipes everywhere—food magazines, blogs, the market, dining out at restaurants—but I’m going to be up front here and tell you that this idea came directly from my husband.
Several weeks ago, we were on an ice cream run and noticed that Ben & Jerry’s makes a Boston Cream Pie flavor. Chris almost grabbed a pint, but was afraid that it wouldn’t taste quite enough like its namesake and that he’d find himself disappointed. Ice cream may make you feel guilty, but it shouldn't be a source of disappointment. “You should make a gluten-free Boston cream pie,” he mused as he reached for something else. A great idea. I filed it away.