Living with uncertainty: eggs and the cosmos

November 17th, 2012 § 1

Probably one of the most private things in this world is an egg. Until it’s broken.

Until then, you would think that its secrets are its own. White or brown speckled. Until then, what lies within is uncertainty. That’s what M.F.K. Fisher says about eggs.

That’s also what Neil Turok says about living life. About looking at the cosmos. “When we look up at the sky, we are actually seeing inside ourselves”. Neil says to live life in uncertainty. I like that.

And so I pick up an egg. And I say to my heart, I say: be still my heart.

It’s true that separating eggs late at night might have led me to question my relationship with the yolk. It’s also true that poaching eggs might have led to regrets about my breakfast choice entirely. But then big regrets often come from big moments in our life. If you only have one big moment, and it didn’t turn out right, then you are more likely to regret it than if you have lots of big moments. And so I pick up an egg. And I tell my heart to be still.

I pick up an egg, and I crack it all over again. Because we just want more changes to get it right. And this is what living up to my potential is about anyway. It’s about living life being vulnerable. It’s about picking up an egg. It’s about being okay with uncertainty.

And so I pick up an egg and I tell my heart, I say, be still my heart. I drop the egg gently into simmering water. First running cold water over it so it won’t crack, of course. It will cook in this gentle heat. And I will give it as much time as it needs. Because living up to my potential isn’t about crossing things off of my list, it’s about living in uncertainty. And so I drop the egg in gently simmering water and I watch it cook. And I give it as much time as it needs.

There are many different theories about cooking an egg. And I think how we like our egg says a lot about us. This is why when I’m asked the question how I like my egg, I always take direction from Uncle Evans: “dolts should not consort with caring people.” And I say poached.

I drop the egg in gently simmering water and I accept its uncertainty. I trust the yolk will cook with wisdom. And I give it the time it needs. My heart is beating fast. And I remind it to be still. I say, be still my heart.

And so I poach eggs. And they don’t turn out the way I want them to, but then we just want as many chances to get things right. So I pick up an egg. And I crack it again.

And I tell my heart to be still again.

Side note:

November to-do:

+ Buy meat grinder.
+ Make your own sausage.
+ Make poached eggs. Eat while drinking coffee.
+ Only drink coffee if it can be enjoyed out of a proper mug.
+ Buy curing salts.
Make your own bacon.
+ Put up new deerhead on wall.
+ Figure out what frame sizes are needed for Ampersand wall and maybe even buy some frames.
+ Buy rubber boot tray.
Put up wine rack. 
Put up dot coat rack.
Read We Have Always Lived in The Castle.
+ Finish reading All That is Solid Melts into Air.
Read The Black Prince.
+ Continue reading Me++: The cyborg self and the network city. Continue working on thesis.
Again, attempt to make live active yeast.
+ Try to keep yeast alive. (it died again last time)
+ Make cinnamon bons. (on hold)
+ Make marshmallow. 
+ Make hot cocoa. Drink with homemade marshmallow.
+ Order cheese making kit.
+ Make Dylan 10 playlist. (in progress)
+ Wear oven gloves. Don’t burn yourself. (ongoing)
+ Buy a gold fish. Name it Wi-Fi. Keep it alive.
+ Take pictures.
+ Re-design this blog.
+ Run. Run. Run. (it’s becoming harder to keep motivated)
+ Don’t panic looking at list.
+ Live life being vulnerable.
+ Don’t focus too much on list.

I look at to-do list. I panic.

And I say to my heart, I say, be still my heart.

I heard the heart say love love love

July 25th, 2012 § 4

It’s complicated.

Things are complicated.

I wrote letters. I wrote them to friends. To colleagues. And to strangers who soon became friends.

I wrote a letter to Pear. For one whole month I wrote a letter a day. And it was complicated. I mean, my relationship with Pear has always been complicated, it’s true. He demands a lot of attention. He dances on the kitchen counter, moving his hips left to right. Right to left. And he refuses to march to the pie dish. And when he does, it’s only in defiance toward apples.

I wrote a letter to Pear. I said:

Pear, I say, if only life would lean our way,
Well, you and me, we’d run away to be wherever our adventure awaits,
And time would be a distant memory, nobody could tell us to stay,
Well, I’ve been dreaming ever since I’ve seen your heaven when you came my way.

I did an experiment and wrote a letter day for a month. And sometimes more than one letter. And some letters I wrote to Pear. I did this because I’m afraid of just getting by. Oh gosh, I don’t want to just get by. But then Pear just moved his hips and shrugged.

I look at the chart of my goals, at the list of lists, at the running shoes by my door, and at the stack of letters on my desk. And I think, Pear, let’s run away to have adventures. But it’s complicated. And life doesn’t always lean our way.

I wrote letters for a month and this is what I learned: There is no living up to your potential. There is just doing your life.

So maybe I can just focus on a single goal: being vulnerable in life. Or maybe living up to my potential is cooking, and eating, and dancing in my kitchen with Pear. And maybe all I need to do is just acknowledge this — this importance of vulnerability.

Living up to your potential is not crossing off everything on your to do list. So I focus on the struggle of life, which for me is the struggle to be good. That is my only potential. To be good and in the process be vulnerable.

So I become vulnerable the only way I know how: by making pie.

Though I do have a full proof recipe for pie crust, still, I watch the dough chill in the fridge. I cover the pie dish with it, and I think positive thoughts. I check up on it in the oven. And I hope everything works out.

I roll out dough, and I make a peach caramel pie. Pear is not happy about this. But then I’m trying to learn to be vulnerable and so am making something I’ve never baked before. Also, peach and caramel and pie is more than just right. It’s love.

I watch the pie in the oven, and I accept that the crust might not end up flaky and that the filling might come apart. But then life is about being good. So I focus on that. And on sharing this pie with friends. I focus on the memories following the pie and the love story between peach and caramel.

I focus on setting on a food adventure. Maybe Pear could come too.

So starting this Friday, I’m driving through the Atlantic provinces of Canada. I’m driving to New Brunswick. To Prince Edward Island. To Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. I’m driving. And I’m going to meet grandmothers. And grandfathers. And great aunts. I’m going to be cooking and hearing their stories. I will be cooking with grandmothers and capturing their recipes. I will be vulnerable. I won’t know how the pie will come out of the oven. And I won’t know what will happen in the kitchen of each grandmother. But I will learn a lot about the unique cuisine of Canada. I will learn about what it means to be Canadian. I will hear new stories and learn about family. I will learn to become vulnerable through food and to revel in the fact that life won’t always lean our way. Life is complicated.

I will be vulnerable. And I will be living up to my potential. Because after all, I made a pie.

You can follow my cooking adventures through the Atlantic provinces at www.cookingmywayacrosscanada.com and on Twitter with hashtag: #CookAcrossCA.

 

I say hello. Here is a piece of cake.

March 20th, 2012 § 0

Most people meet and greet each other with: Hi! They say nice to meet you. They say their name. They ask, what is your name?

They say hi.

I meet new people and I say: want to come over for cake? Here is a piece of cake.

Dear J, this one is addressed to you. It’s nice to meet you. Now let’s eat some cake!

 

We actually have not met in person, but this new friend has also joined Melly and I in writing letters for the month of March. She also has posted on her blog — how to make arm circles — things that she is into for the month of March:

+ Mindfulness meditation.
+ The civil wars. They are a band. She is not actually into wars.
+ Jeremy.
+ Reading the dictionary.
+ Ballet with jessica.
+ Yoga with jessica.
+ Jessica.
+ Walking long distances.
+ Jogging short distances.
+ Backyard wildlife monitoring.
+ Letter writing.
+ Letter reading.
+ Spring.

And so I eat cake. And I write to Dear J. I think you can learn a lot about people based on their lists. And so I say:

Dear J, 

It’s nice to meet you. Now here is a piece of cake!

And here is what I’m into:

+ Pistachios. Chopping pistachios. Eating pistachios.
+ Baking pistachio cake.
+ Also writing letters.
+ Also reading letters.
+ Creating soundtracks. This one is titled, these days are for whistling.
+ Learning to whistle so I can whistle along to soundtrack.
+ Trying very hard not to have this list turn into a to-do list. Making note to revise my to-do list later.
+ Reading.
+ Scrabble.
+ Nutmeg.
+ Advocating for nutmeg so it reclaims its indispensable spot in the kitchen.
+ Making lists. Making lists of lists.
+ Making a list about not making lists.
+ New friends. Inviting them for pistachios. For cake.

Dear J, this one is addressed to you.

 

Pistachio Pound Cake
Recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine April 2012 issue

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour plus more
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temprature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp finely grated lime zest
1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided

Direction

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Coast a 9X5X pan with nonstick spray. Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk 2 cups flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.

Beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy and then add sugar. Beat eggs in one at a time. Add juices and zests; beat until well combined and mixture looks curdled. About 2-3 minutes.

Add dry ingredients; reduce speed to low and beat just until blended. Fold in 3/4 of the pistachios. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup pistacios over.

 

Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.

Let cool completely. Run a sharp knife around sides to loosen and unmold cake.

Write a letter to a new friend. Then invite friend over for cake!

Side note:

Iranian New Year, Norouz, is here. Happy New Year! Now here is to a hear of pistachios. Chopping pistachios. Eating pistachios. Baking cake with pistachios.

Melly and Mojgan’s Mail Marathon. That’s what we’ve called it.

The Deal: To each write one letter a day in March (Monday to Friday)
The Rules: Letters to be hand-written and documented on our blogs
The Inspiration: Mary Robinette Kowal and her Challenge: “A Month of Letters”

You can read about all the letters I’ve written so far here. And follow Melly’s letter writing here.

I give this letter to the Saba wind.

March 20th, 2012 § 0

The breath of the Saba wind

scatters its gathered fragrance,

the old world once more grows young.

Judas trees give their scarlet cups to jasmines

and narcissus-eyes will gaze at anemones.

The shrill cries of the nightingale at the rose’s canopy

bear witness to deep pains of separation.

Saba. This morning breeze. This easternly wind as the messenger of joy, as signifier of new beginnings, of spring. It is a trusted messenger between the lover and the beloved. It brings with it a memorable scent. It causes flowers to bloom. And although I can’t claim to know much about  Hafez’s Divan, even a cursory glance at his poems proves Saba as a main character of interest for Hafez. Perhaps Hafez talks to Saba, to this morning breeze, as much as he talks to the beloved. Many of his poems start by addressing Saba and of particular note is the poem I’ve started this post with. The poem, as translated by exploringkhayyam.com, greets us with the promise of the year’s spring renewal; there is impermanence in seasonal changes; the seasons come only to depart again and this departure eventually brings sadness, pain or even anguish to all who reflect on the passing of time. The nightingale feels this eventual passage and it cries out. Being separated from the rose is too painful. No, it’s an outrage. The nightingale acknowledges spring’s end. It cries out.


The nightingale cries and Hayedeh sings of her lonely heart. She is cold and colourless without her flower. Without the sun.

But for now, we will revel in the Saba wind and its message of renewal. Of spring. For now, we will stop as the Saba wind scatters its scent over our flowers. We know they will bloom. Oh nightingale, don’t worry too much. That’s what we want to say as the Saba wind blows its way to us.

I have a particular connection with this easternly wind.

I have attempted to write a short story several times. Each time it begins with a girl. At the edge of a cliff. Contemplating her life. The Saba wind weaving through her toes. She is only a dandelion’s blow away from her death. Saba in this instance is her savior and also the one that just might lead her to her demise.

The story has remained unfinished.

Today I think about Saba though and I write a letter. I write a letter to Dear M.

Dear M, this one is addressed to you. And I’m giving it to the Saba wind to carry to you with news of spring and the sweet scent of vanilla.

Spring is only two days away and to say happy new year I write to Dear M. And then I write five more letters. Then I watch a film about the Saba, Lover’s Wind. This film was produced by French filmmaker, Albert Lamorisse in 1969, with eigthy-five percent of it shot from a helicopter spanning the historical monuments, cities, and villages of Iran. The “narrators” of the film are the various winds which according to folklore inhibit Iran — the warm, crimson, evil, and lover’s winds. Lover’s wind. That’s Saba!

I watch this film and I think about the wind, moving from city to city and taking note of the ordinary. Of our routines. Of our interactions. The wind takes note of it all. And it pushes forward. It picks up the scent of the beloved and it brings it to the nightingales. It scatters love and joy and news of spring onto flowers, and although time is fleeting, Saba’s kiss as it blows on our face makes us happy for the moment.

Dear M, 

This one is addressed to you. I write it happily and I give it to the Saba wind to carry as it moves west. As it brings news of spring. And I wish you all the best for the year that is to come. 

Dear M, this one is addressed to you.

 

Side note:

Iranian New Year, Norouz, is only two days away. I catch the Saba wind as it oves west and I give it a letter addressed to Dear M.

Melly and Mojgan’s Mail Marathon. That’s what we’ve called it.

The Deal: To each write one letter a day in March (Monday to Friday)
The Rules: Letters to be hand-written and documented on our blogs
The Inspiration: Mary Robinette Kowal and her Challenge: “A Month of Letters”

You can read about all the letters I’ve written so far here. And follow Melly’s letter writing here.

Pockets of Fun

March 15th, 2012 § 3

Today I wrote to a two year old. Today I wrote to Dear N.

Then some folding. Dear N, you are the most adorable two year old I know.

Then pockets of fun.

Then folded neatly. Then placed in an envelope. Then covered with candy.

Dear N, 

This one is addressed to you. Try to place the candy where it belongs on your letter, if you can resist not eating it. 

Dear N, I love you.

Side note:

Melly and Mojgan’s Mail Marathon. That’s what we’ve called it.

The Deal: To each write one letter a day in March (Monday to Friday)
The Rules: Letters to be hand-written and documented on our blogs
The Inspiration: Mary Robinette Kowal and her Challenge: “A Month of Letters”

You can read about all the letters I’ve written so far here. And follow Melly’s letter writing here.

Eggs, bacon, toast, and letters

March 14th, 2012 § 0

The best kind of happiness is the kind inspired by the inconsequential, by eating a pear, or listening to a good song. It’s inspired by brunch.

Dear Brunch Club, this one is addressed to you. And it’s best served with a slice of toast, eggs, and bacon. Today I wrote a letter to each member of brunch club. I wrote a letter with songs.

Dear Brunch Club,

This one is addressed to you, because in eggs and toast, in that perfectly brewed cup of coffee, and in the puns we see in everything, we have found happiness in brunch after brunch.

Dear Brunch Club, this one is for you.

Side note:

Melly and Mojgan’s Mail Marathon. That’s what we’ve called it.

The Deal: To each write one letter a day in March (Monday to Friday)
The Rules: Letters to be hand-written and documented on our blogs
The Inspiration: Mary Robinette Kowal and her Challenge: “A Month of Letters”

Today I wrote to the one…

March 13th, 2012 § 3

… who dances on my table. To the one who marches towards the pie dish. To the one who swims in caramel ever so sweetly.

Today I wrote to Pear.

Pear, nutmeg speaks so highly of you. It says, “I want to be sprinkled into the Pear dance party”. Nugmeg and Pear. Pear, you’re so sweet, juicy, so good in dessert-form, in salads, cooked in a savoury affair.

Dear P, this one is addressed to you. I write to you and I fold my letter into the jar of words. Dear P, I write to you wishing I had your address to mail this letter to. And I guess I could mail it to a pear orchard, but I think it is more beautiful to keep this letter in my jar of words.

Dear P, 

This one is addressed to you. You move your hips, dance on my table, and you march towards the pie dish. 

Pear, it is time now. It’s time to do the march. Pie. 

I glance at the cookbook which lies on my table. A friend got me this book given my recent obsession with Pear, despite the fact that Pear doesn’t play along with Apple. Despite the fact that Pear exhibits serious signs of jealousy. Pear, I do like you. I’m even thinking: maybe I could be something pear?

And so in late winter, I eat pears. And I write to Pear. And I write to my friend. So to you both, this one is addressed to you.

Dear P,

I write to you because you give me a cookbook about pears. About eating pears in late winter. A cookbook filled with stories of travel and adventure. Stories of taste.

Dear P, I write this letter to you. And I eat pears. And I dance along Pear as the march towards the pie dish continues. And I remember when Pear and I first met in the store:


Dear P, you also introduced me to Penelope Trunk. I followed her quest to find happiness. To define an interesting life. I made dough. I told bread my story. I decided the struggle of life should be the struggle to be good. I write to Penelope about this.

Dear P, this one is addressed to you. I write to you to say thanks for telling your story. I write to you about being good. 

I write to Penelope, I move along with Pear towards the pie dish.

 

Today I wrote to the one…

… who dances on my table known as Pear. 

… who is a friend supportive of my love of said Pear. 

… who is a career advisor and one I write to about the struggle of being good. 

Today I wrote three letters to three P’s. And then I made a pie. 

Side note:

Melly and Mojgan’s Mail Marathon. That’s what we’ve called it.

The Deal: To each write one letter a day in March (Monday to Friday)
The Rules: Letters to be hand-written and documented on our blogs
The Inspiration: Mary Robinette Kowal and her Challenge: “A Month of Letters”

Words in a Jar and a Letter

March 12th, 2012 § 4

It’s all about the stories. Food is many things to people, but to us gourmands, at the very root of food always lies a story. As with whisky.

Jonah Campbell’s Food and Trembling is a series of short pieces on food and especially Campbell’s relationship to food. His stories on food. Witty and complex, perhaps this charming book is for eaters, not foodies, as Campbell defends the rightful place of mayonnaise, revels in the crunch of the potato chip and its many flavours, and advocates for margarine. He does this while drinking scotch, weaving a couple of recipes in the book, and leaving us contemplating the paneity of the glutens in our lives.

And that I do. I knead dough. And I eat bread. And I contemplate the paneity of my life. This is also a book of words. Ingustable. Gulchin. Gustatory. Words flying out of the book as we read Food and Trembling. I try and catch them. Capture them in a jar of words.

I fold paper to be cut into thin strips.

And I write the very first word to go into the jar. Paneity.

Dear J,

This one is addressed to you. It’s addressed to you because a dough-obsessed, active live yeast fearing person like me now has a word to describe the state of her life based on the state of her bread! Dear J, this one is addressed to you.

Strips of paper are ready for words. Resting in their sleeping bag. Waiting for words to take flight. For words to be caught.

I continue to write. I write a letter addressed to Dear J and I look forward to filling this jar with words. With words on food. With words on hearts. With words oh home.

I look forward to filling this jar with words.

For now I read Food and Trembling, I enjoy a glass of whisky, and I listen to the Temper Trap’s Love Lost, because I have found my word on the heart, on love, and on bread. And I’ve caught it. I’ve captured it. I will keep it safe in a jar and will set it free when the time is right.


Dear J, this one is addressed to you.

Side note:

Melly and Mojgan’s Mail Marathon. That’s what we’ve called it.

On Day 8 I write a letter for all the words I can capture and cherish. On Day 8, I write a letter to Jonah Campbell.

The Deal: To each write one letter a day in March (Monday to Friday)
The Rules: Letters to be hand-written and documented on our blogs
The Inspiration: Mary Robinette Kowal and her Challenge: “A Month of Letters”

You can read about letters 1-7 here. And follow Melly’s letter writing here.

The cake that’s my granola.

March 11th, 2012 § 2

Turn on the radio.

Mornings are busy. Even when I wake up at 5:00am. Even when I create lists. And list of lists. And schedule everything. Mornings are busy.

I turn on the radio. Or rather I turn on the CBC podcasts I subscribe to. Brew some coffee. And take time to eat breakfast. This is a ritual I have just developed recently, being one to always skip breakfast. Now, morning time, breakfast time, is one of my most favourites.

The other day I decided to bake a cake in the morning and eat it for breakfast too. I referred to Ricki Heller, because, well, it seems like I might have become slightly obsessed with spelt flour despite my previous trepidations.

I set to make a blueberry coffee cake. Ricki says this cake is light enough to be eaten as dessert but then substantial enough to serve at brunch. I preferred to eat it for breakfast, with yogurt — cake as granola.

Blueberry Coffee Cake
Recipe from Ricki Heller’s Sweet Freedom

Ingredients

For the topping:

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/4 cup whole rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp light tasting oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 tbsp light agave nectar (I think you can easily substitute maple syrup and it would still taste good with the flavour combinations in this cake)

For the batter:

1/3 cup light tasting oil
1/2 cup light agave nectar
1/2 cup almond milk (you could just as easily use soy milk as well, but I like almond milk more)
2 tbsp finely ground flax seeds
zest of one lemon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (try and make it at home?)
1 cup whole spelt flour
3/4 cup light spelt flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Though if you are using frozen berries do not thaw them before tossing into the batter. Also, you can just as easily substitute any other berry here.

Direction

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 9″ square baking pan with parchment paper.

Prepare the topping. In a small bowl, blend the nuts, 1/4 cup spelt flour, oats and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix the 1 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp agave nectar. Pour the agave mixture over the dry ingredients and toss until crumbly. Don’t be afraid to use your fingers.

Set aside.

Mix the batter. Combine the 1/3 cup oil, 1/2 cup agave nectar, milk, flax seeds, lemon zest and vanilla. Set aside for at least 2 minutes.

In a large bowl, sift together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir just to blend. Gently fold 1 cup of blueberries into the batter.

Spread batter in pan.

Sprinkle the top of the cake first with the topping mixture, then with the remaining blueberries.

Bake for 45-50 minutes — rotating pan about halfway through — until a cake tester inserted int eh centre comes out clean.

Let this cool properly. This is a very light cake and so if you try and cut into it before it has cooled properly it will just fall apart. Or at least that’s what I found.

It makes for 9 large squares.

I clearly couldn’t wait for it to cool properly given that I had baked it in the morning with the intention of eating it that same morning and to still have time for my morning ritual. I still needed time to get ready to head to work. So, I cut into it warm. It was delicious. It was perfect when combined with some yogurt.

I also made some ginger coffee, meaning I rasped some ginger into my coffee and all of this somehow made me feel really on top of things.

March to-do:

+ Mail one hand written letter a day in March. I am absolutely enjoying Melly and I’s letter writing project. It has been fun and fulfilling!
+ Post about each letter on this blog. So far doing good!
+ Buy curing salts. Scheduled for next weekend.
+ Make bacon.
+ Put up new deerhead on wall.
+ Figure out what frame sizes are needed for Ampersand wall and maybe even buy some frames.
+ Buy rubber boot tray.
+ Put up wine rack. Dot Coat Rack is here. Scheduled for Tuesday!
+ Put up dot coat rack. Tuesday.
+ Write post about The Show That Smells.
+ Read We Have Always Lived in The Castle.
+ Finish reading All That is Solid Melts into Air.
+ Read The Black Prince.
+ Continue reading Me++: The cyborg self and the network city. Continue working on thesis.
Again, attempt to make live active yeast. Sigh.
+ Try to keep yeast alive.
+ Make cinnamon bons. On hold.
+ Make marshmallow. Scheduled for March 31.
+ Make hot cocoa. Drink with homemade marshmallow. To follow March 31.
+ Order cheese making kit.
+ Make Dylan 10 playlist. In progress.
+ Wear oven gloves. Don’t burn yourself. On going.
+ Buy a gold fish. Name it Wi-Fi. Keep it alive. I’m not sure this is going to happen.
+ Take pictures.
+ Re-design this blog.
+ Run. Run. Run.

Then and Now

March 10th, 2012 § 0

Just bake some cookies already!

That’s how it all started. I read Marina Endicott’s Good to a Fault and all I wanted to say to Clary (the main character) was for her to bake some cookies already! I was shaking my book. Cookies, I tell you.

In the end Clary did in fact do some baking. She made a twelve-layer chocolate torte assembled into a towering improbability of cinnamon-smelling dark and light stripes. Held together by chocolate air. That’s how Endicott described it.

Alas, everyone in the book was happy. Kids were singing Twelve layers dancing, Twelve lays a-laying. While the kids in Good to a Fault were singing, I was in the kitchen baking a chocolate torte! I was pouring some hazelnuts into the food processor. I was imagining a twelve layer edifice on my kitchen counter.

This is how this blog got started. A book. Imagined cookies. And a chocolate torte.

At first I didn’t think anyone would care about what foods the books I was reading inspired me to eat or make.


I was Melanie (I hope you’ve clicked on the audio link above, or you’ll ask yourself, who is Melanie?). I had put on a new pair of rollerskates. And even though Internet had gotten a brand new set of keys, avoiding me, I skated on. Melanie and I. We put on our rollerskates and we skated on.

But then @AliasGrace sent me a tweet. She asked what food I was going to pair with Nikolski.

She continues to ask me that question about the books I’m reading. She sends me recipe books. She encourages my writing. Dear K, this letter is addressed to you — with thanks.

It would only be befitting for me to bake some cookies as I write this letter. But then I glance at the books I’ve received from her and I think about all the recipes she’s inspired me to try. Because of these books, this summer I’m starting a new project, Cooking My Way Across Canada. I will be driving through the Atlantic provinces and visiting all the places mentioned in these books — cooking with grandmothers. Simply put, I can’t wait!

Dear K, this one is addressed to you, because you have encouraged me to continue to write and to take on new experiences. I put on my rollerskates. Melanie and I. We put on rollerskates. The Internet might continue to change its key. But it’s okay.

Back to cookies. What inspires a cookie? What encourages a cookie to sweetness? To smell like heaven? The vanilla bean.

And so this one is addressed to you Dear K. And here is how you can make vanilla extract.

Both Darryl and Tonya have written fantastically about how homemade vanilla extract will be more aromatic, more potent. And about how easy it is to make at home. All you really need are vanilla beans and vodka.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
Recipe from Buster Rhino’s BBQ

Ingredients

6 Vanilla Beans (Bourbon Vanilla Beans if you please)
Vodka 350 ml glass

I just bought a cheap bottle of vodka from the liquor store and made the vanilla extract right in the same bottle.

Direction

Cut the six vanilla beans lengthwise down the middle (expose all those wonderful vanilla seeds). Drop them in the bottle. If they don’t fit, force them, or cut them in half, or whatever just get them into the bottle.

Cover with vodka and seal. Shake every couple of days.

Wait patiently for about 4-6 weeks and you’ll have amazing Vanilla extract (shake before each use). At the 6-8 week point you can either pour out the vodka that is in there into another jar and start the process over again with the same beans (about 3 times) or you can just top up your extract until such a point as it stops being extract and starts being flavoured vodka.

I absolutely love baking with my vanilla extract. Sometimes I open the bottle just to smell it and put it back in its place. Sometimes I might do this several times in a day. It smells so lovely.

Dear K, 

This one is addressed to you. It contains my thanks with the scent of vanilla.

Dear K, thank you. 

 

Side note:

Melly and Mojgan’s Mail Marathon. That’s what we’ve called it.

On Day 7 I write to say thanks. And I say thank you with a scent of vanilla.

The Deal: To each write one letter a day in March (Monday to Friday)
The Rules: Letters to be hand-written and documented on our blogs
The Inspiration: Mary Robinette Kowal and her Challenge: “A Month of Letters”

You can read about letters 1-6 here. And follow Melly’s letter writing here.