I started this blog three years ago today.
It doesn’t feel like that big of a deal to me because I’ve actually had a blog of some sort for close to fourteen years now. My original blog, which technically still exists but is pretty hard to find unless you know what you’re looking for, was started on 1/13/2004. I finally gave up posting there in 2009, then started my half-assed cooking blog in 2010. The half-assed cooking blog also still exists but I haven’t posted on it since July 2015. It was starting to feel like a chore, and it was also making me feel really inadequate in a lot of ways. Like, food blogs are all about good photography, and I had neither the time or the inclination to teach myself how to be a food stylist. I’m also really not good at measuring when I’m cooking, and I don’t always think in a linear fashion, so recipes are pretty hard for me to write…and that’s pretty much what people read food blogs for. There are only so many times someone is going to want to read about how good my meatloaf is before they’re like “OK, prove it. Either feed me meatloaf, give me your recipe so I can try it, or STFU”. In the end, I opted for S’ing the F.U.
I started How Bad Can It Go because a friend drew some casual similarities between my then Facebook-based rants about being a little touched in the head and the way Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) wrote about her own experiences with mental illness. The comparison was wildly flattering. I immediately started envisioning how I’d blog hilariously (but also earnestly) about my struggles with anxiety, depression, and ADHD for maybe a year or so, then be ‘discovered’ by some publisher. I’d be given a book deal and afforded the opportunity to tell my day job they could shove off.
Let’s just say the offers haven’t exactly been pouring in. Or trickling, even. Nary a drip. Not even the merest hint of moisture in the air. Dry as a 5,000 year old Egyptian’s desiccated, mummified femur buried under 47 feet of sand, in fact.
But that’s OK. I’ll keep on keepin’ on, because hey, how bad can it go?
On Sunday, my lust for pie landed me at Urgent Care.
If you follow me on any other social media platforms, you may already be familiar with this saga. For the benefit of those wise subscribers who don’t follow me elsewhere, and for the sake of posterity, I’m about to re-tell the tale here in long form. Probably too long.
Anyway. Here goes.
We used to have this neighbor – he moved out a couple years ago. We called him Crazy Gary. I feel pretty OK with labeling him as crazy since I’m sort of crazy too and also he was definitely, obviously a little bit not right in the head. Which is fine, nothing wrong with being crazy if it works for you and you’re not hurting anybody…which I’m relatively sure he wasn’t.
Crazy Gary lived in this little house on a bit of property that’s bordered on two sides by our quiet, dead-end road. The other two sides are bordered by our landlord’s property, which is mostly a woodchuck wonderland of lawn and vegetable patches. Crazy Gary was a hoarder and a tinkerer. He had every kind of engine you could imagine sitting around in his tiny back yard, and could often be found fabricating strange hybridized lawnmower-garden tiller-tree trimmer things out of like, spare bike parts and twine. The guy was clearly some sort of mechanical genius. What he was NOT, however, was a responsible custodian of the house he lived in. The house actually belonged to Crazy Gary’s absentee mother and I guess she eventually got sick of the place being trashed and full of boxes of greasy sprockets whenever anyone went to check on it, so she had him evicted. Technically the house is now for sale as a ‘fixer upper’, but it’s really more of a ‘faller inner’. They cleaned out a lot of Crazy Gary’s hoard (like four huge rolling dumpsters worth, plus I don’t even know how many truck loads. It took them a couple weeks), but there are still piles of junk hanging around. The house has some broken windows. One of the exterior doors came unlatched at some point in the winter and now the woodchucks are using it as a clubhouse. Most mornings when I drive by on my way to work, there’s at least one woodchuck out on the front step sunning itself, giving me side-eye like “yeah, you keep moving, bi-ped. This place is four legger territory now.”
Point being…the property is abandoned.
Which conveniently relieves me of any qualms I might have had about appropriating the odd armful of stalks from Crazy Gary’s huge, beautiful rhubarb patch. It’s not stealing if it doesn’t belong to anybody in the first place, right? And it’s just going to go to seed and spread further across the lawn if someone DOESN’T harvest it, so really, I’m doing them a favor, right?
Sunday afternoon was actually the first time I made a rhubarb run this season. It had been ready to make delicious things with for a few weeks but I kept either forgetting or running out of time in the day (you don’t go into woodchuck country at night. They’re like bats but worse. 10 gold Internet doubloons if you get that awkward and unskillful reference), or just plain lacked the ambition to walk the 50 yards out around the corner and pull some. But this past Sunday the weather was glorious, I was in a mood to cook, and the siren song of pie was just too much to ignore…so off I went.
My bounty and I made a quick stop at the compost pile to get rid of its leaves and stem ends, and then it was back to the kitchen to transmute this bunch of inedible hell-stalks into a toothsome pie.
Rhubarb pie is dead simple to make, especially if you’re a pastry slacker like me and use store bought pie crust (life is too short to fuck with pie crust from scratch. Don’t come at me with your tips and tricks because I’ve tried them all and they work fine, I just completely detest rolling out pie crust and I’m not going to do it. Save the wear on your finger joints. I love you). The majority of the work is in slicing the stalks and mixing them with sugar. Super easy.
One of the things about my ADHD is that it often takes me on tangents. The beat up jalopy of my mind is always taking turns down sketchy, winding side roads, often on two wheels at a high rate of speed, when it is least convenient. It can get very frustrating because I feel like I’m not the driver but rather, just one of those little smiley-face balls people sometimes stick on the end of their radio antennas. Sometimes I’m just along for the ride and I have very little say in direction or velocity, and that gets exhausting. I’ve mentioned before that one of the things I find helpful in terms of regaining a feeling of control over my brain is to make things. The creative process burns a lot of gas for me (big on the automotive metaphors today, I guess. Crazy Gary would approve), which helps slow things down a little. Making also often involves repetitive motions: the under-and-through under-and-through of knitting, the stab and draw of the needle and thread when embroidering…and of course, the methodical motions of chopping up ingredients for a dish.
Some people are afraid of very sharp knives, but anyone who has spent any time in a professional kitchen will tell you that the sharper the knife the better. Sharp knives are safer to work with, and they’re far more satisfying. There’s a specific swish that a good sharp knife makes when it cuts through veg, a specific feeling when I’m motoring through a stalk of whatever and making nice even cuts. It’s like everything else falls away, including the static in my head, and I’m in a state of flow. It’s just the knife and the veg dancing across the board, with my hands guiding via pure muscle memory. I don’t have to think about anything when I chop. I just have to show up and make the motions. It’s like a tiny glimpse of nirvana.
Another thing about ADHD is that it there are no guarantees. Something that helped you relax and focus one day might not work the next. And that hyper-focus, that Zen-like state of flow where everything seems like it’s happening almost without you, like some beautiful out-of-body experience where you get to just sit back and watch? That can vanish in an instant, in mid-motion, leaving you feeling lost and bemused until you realize, oh yes, I’ve fallen out of The Flow and I’m back on planet Earth.
And the thing about sharp knives is, they’re made of metal and thus very unforgiving. They have ZERO fucks to give about your mental state. They demand constant respect and utmost focus. A sharp knife can do a lot of damage if you’re distracted for even a split second.
Which, as you may have guessed, is how I ended up crumpled in a kitchen chair with my head between my knees, trying desperately to not pass out while I squeezed a wad of paper towel against the side of my left index finger in an attempt to staunch a rather alarming flow of blood.
The knife was in my finger, completely through my flesh and out the other side before I even registered anything. I tried to give it a quick rinse under cold water but I could immediately tell that it was deep and bad, so I went for paper towel and pressure instead. I’ve cut myself plenty of times in the past and I knew all the things to do – hold firm pressure on the wound, keep my hand above the level of my heart, sit down and stop pacing. I breathed my way through the massive urge to throw up and the torrent of cold sweat that an adrenaline come-down always leaves me with, then I made my way to the couch so I could put my feet up. Mark wasn’t home and Keppo was pretty sure that he could fix everything by adamantly licking my face, which was as endearing as it was ineffective.
The blood wasn’t seeping through the paper towel, but the wound was getting re-opened every time I moved the paper towel to try and see if the bleeding was stopped. After about 40 minutes or so of repeating that cycle, I finally admitted that I may need stitches. I probably COULD have driven myself one-handed to Urgent Care, which is about 30 min away almost entirely by interstate, but I was still feeling a little wobbly from shock so I called my dad for a ride instead.
About twenty minutes after I went in, I emerged from the Urgent Care facility with a finger held together by superglue and steri-strips, and wrapped with elasticated gauze to roughly the size of the average corn dog.
I’m grateful that I didn’t need stitches. I’m even MORE grateful that I didn’t sever an artery or a tendon. I’m still going to keep my knives sharp, but I might not do any serious slicing or chopping while I’m home alone for a while.
And I’m definitely going to steal more of Crazy Gary’s rhubarb.
We had this lunch conference at work today.
Well, I say “we”, but nobody mentioned it to me until I was already warming up my leftovers from home, so I’m filing that under my not being invited and I therefore did not partake.
So, the place where the food came from always includes a load of cookies…REALLY GOOD cookies…when they cater a lunch for us. Usually when we have one of these things, it’ll be like an hour of people yakking in the conference room, then they’ll all eat, then they’ll fuck off back to their desks and leave the leftovers for us admin peons. So even though I didn’t partake of the lunch proper, I had a pretty reasonable expectation of being able to scam some of those fantastic cookies after everyone cleared out and went back downstairs.
Except, today, the people putting on the conference hung around.
And hung around.
And hung. The fuck. Around.
Every time they moved around in there I’d perk up and think “ooh, this is it! Cookie time soon!” BUT NO. They would settle back down and talk more. I’ve been waiting for my cookie opportunity for MULTIPLE HOURS while these dicks sit around jawing about who even knows what. Nothing important, that’s for damn sure.
It’s now 3:40pm EST and they are FINALLY starting to pack stuff up in the conference room and move toward getting the hell out. Hooray! COOKIE TIME, YES?
Uhh, no. Because you know what happened? My boss gave the leftovers to the lady who put on the conference.
INCLUDING THE MOTHER FUCKING COOKIES.
ADLKH OIJLKJFS SLKJSF DLKJSLD (insert image of me foaming at the mouth)
Literally all I wanted out of today was some of those cookies. Granted, I didn’t know the cookies were even going to be a thing until 12:30, but still. I looked forward to those damn cookies all afternoon.
You know what he said to the lady?
“Here, why don’t you take these cookies home, no one here will eat them.”
No one! No one will eat them! COOKIES! Are you MAD, sir? Have you taken a turn? DID YOUR MOMMA DROP YOU ON YOUR HEAD AS A BABY?!
Needless to say, I’m very disappointed.
And I’m probably going to buy cookies on the way home from work.
Peanut butter is basically the perfect food.
Unless you’re allergic to peanuts, in which case, we probably shouldn’t ever share close physical contact because I’m basically 68% peanut butter. Plus I don’t like strangers touching me, and respecting boundaries is important. But mostly because of the peanut butter thing.
Peanut butter is one of those foodstuffs that I don’t buy very often because, if it’s in the house, it calls my name until I have consumed it. All of it. In as short a time as possible. I’m like a peanut butter Hoover. All I need is a spoon and some privacy, and I can actually do without the privacy if necessary.
This sudden and frankly uncalled-for exposition about my peanut butter habits, by the way, is being brought to you by my having an apple left over from something I was baking earlier in the week. Because you see, if an apple isn’t being cut up and incorporated into a dish or baked good somehow, then its only other purpose is as a vehicle for peanut butter. I mean…I know there are people who eat apples out of hand without slathering them in peanut butter first, and that’s fine. It’s WRONG…but it’s fine. More peanut butter for me.
Apples aren’t the only foodstuffs I’ll use as peanut butter delivery devices, oh no! Bananas, banana bread, biscuits, brownies, carrots, celery, crackers, cookies, dates, ice cream…I’ve gleefully smeared peanut butter on, or stuffed peanut butter in, all of them. I’ve put peanut butter on pancakes, muffins, even tortillas (both flour ones and corn ones. The corn ones were a mistake, but hey, mistakes are how we learn).
The most holy form of peanut butter consumption is on toasted bread, of course. I have a deep and abiding love for English muffins and I feel their highest calling is to be toasted and smeared with peanut butter. Second to English muffins would be a good whole wheat or sourdough. I’m not afraid to put peanut butter on rye toast if my hand is forced, though. You think I won’t do it? Oh trust me, I will, and it will be DELICIOUS.
The only person I know who likes peanut butter almost as much as I do is my dad. Maybe it’s a genetic thing? Maybe our DNA has made it so that our brains register the taste of peanut butter as a magical explosion of delicious joy? Maybe we’ve got some kind of peanut butter werewolf curse, where instead of turning into werewolves on the full moon, we…just really like peanut butter a lot. That one might need some work. BUT STILL. You get my drift.
My preferred brand of peanut-based crack is Teddie, preferably the super chunky variety. Teddie is just roasted peanuts and salt. No added sugar, no hydrogenated oils, 100% amazing. This post isn’t sponsored by Teddie, but I’ve never in my blogging life wished more that a company would see me promoting their product and decide to send me some.
Teddie, if you’re reading this, drop me a line. I’m sure we could work something out.
We don’t go around the table saying what we’re thankful for at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.
We don’t say grace, we don’t make toasts. There’s no pontificating about the ‘founding fathers’ at our table because that’s not what Thanksgiving is about for us.
Our Thanksgiving is about laughing as much as it’s about eating.
It’s consistently sitting down to eat at least an hour after we said we would, no matter who is doing the cooking…and being totally fine with that because no one has anywhere else to be.
It’s dogs begging for table treats and people picking at leftovers long after they’ve proclaimed they couldn’t eat another bite.
It’s my husband and my dad watching football together – except my dad falls asleep about ten minutes after he sits down.
It’s my mom and I putting away leftovers and immediately doing all the dishes because that’s how my Nana rolled when my mom was growing up and some habits are worth keeping.
It’s three kinds of pie when we said we were only going to have two, because come on. More pie is ALWAYS better.
Pilgrims and Native Americans don’t factor into our Thanksgiving in the least. Some people might say that’s wrong – that we’re not remembering why we’re here in the first place, that we’ve lost the true meaning of the holiday. I don’t feel the least bit bad though, because I’ve got the three most important people in my life at my table eating and laughing together for another year. Life is short and often brutal, and time is our dearest commodity. Spending it with the people I love is always what I’ll be most thankful for.
Also, did I mention the third pie?
You CAN’T feel bad when there’s three pies available. Well, not mentally, anyway. Physically…maybe.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends…whatever that means to you.
A couple weekends ago Mark and I drove down to southern New Hampshire to attend a beer and chili festival with a group of friends. The beer and chili festival was exactly what the name implies: a festival in which you get to walk around trying many different beers and many different versions of chili. The chili was all you could eat, in fact, and was included in the price of admission. Chili = zero dollars in this scenario.
Remember that. It’s going to be relevant later.
When you first go into the festival they give you a sample glass and ten drink tickets, the idea being that each time you go to an exhibitor’s booth and get a sample of their beer, you give them one of your tickets. When you’re out of tickets, you’re ostensibly out of beer. Except…none of the exhibitors were actually taking tickets. Some of them had containers out to collect tickets, but not a single one of them were creating any kind of “you can’t have this beer until you give me a ticket” enforcement situations. So in essence, it was a no-holds-barred, beer-sampling free-for-all. With chili. FREE chili.
We entered the festival and proceeded to work our way around the small tents, sampling chili and beer. We got almost to the end of the lawn area where we had entered and I asked if it was time to perhaps circle back around to hit the tents we hadn’t visited in our first round. Our friends, who had been to this festival before, laughed and pointed down along a paved walkway at the end of the lawn which led to another, larger lawn with several GIANT tents set up on it. Turned out there were a lot more breweries exhibiting at the festival than we had realized there’d be. Three giant tents worth, in fact! Excited at the prospect of sampling many more beers, we made our way toward the giant tents.
It’s worth pointing out here that New Englanders are known as a thrifty lot. My people aren’t big into wasting things, especially food and drink. Thus, the concept of getting oh, say, a sample of beer, and only drinking a few sips before dumping the rest out is kind of foreign to me. Also, how would YOU feel if you were a brewer giving out samples of your wares only to watch people take just a few sips and then dump them out? You’d be offended, right? You might begin to question your chosen profession, even. You’d surely be hurt. I try to do my best not to hurt people if I can help it, so I was doing my level best to finish off each beer sample entirely before I’d go for the next one. Even if I didn’t particularly like the beer. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in me drinking a fair amount of beer on a stomach that only had a few sample-sized portions of chili in it.
So, we were there by the giant beer tents and my husband started talking about wanting more food. Beginning to feel the effects of all the beer samples I had been diligently finishing off for the last hour or so (mustn’t waste, after all), I agreed that food would be a smart move. We assessed our options. The chili tents were waaaaay off on the other end of the park where we first came in, but there were a couple of food trucks vending quite close to the end where we were.
“But the chili is FREE”, I said.
“But the guy selling sausages is CLOSE. Plus: we got cash on the way here for just such a situation. Plus: sausage,” Mark replied.
“Damn you and your flawless logic”, I grumbled, and off we went to the sausage truck (which is an inherently funny phrase, but don’t derail me).
There were a few people in line ahead of us so we got a good look at the wares as others got their orders. The choices were a disturbingly long grilled hotdog, a pretty normal-looking grilled sausage with or without grilled onions and peppers, and french fries. The purveyors didn’t have any signage displaying pricing, but it was kind of too late at that point because it was our turn at the counter.
Me: “Hi, how much are your hotdogs?”
Sausage Man: “Sausages and hotdogs are $8”
Me: “$8…does that include fries?”
Me: “Oh. How much are the fries?”
Me, trying not to snort at that absurdity: “Ok, we’ll take just a sausage please”.
We stepped back from the counter while the guy made the sausage and I turned to Mark with wide eyes.
“Six bucks for FRIES?!” I hissed. He made some malarky argument about captive audiences and hand-cut fries but I stopped hearing the words coming out of his mouth because, six bucks. For fries. When there were seventeen (at least!) types of chili like 500 feet away. FREE CHILI. ZERO. DOLLAR. CHILI.
The guy gave us the sausage (hurrr), we ate it, I went back and told others of the outrageous pricing, then we all drank more beer and talked about more amusing subjects. A good time was had by all. (That whole story was really just background, so I don’t feel bad ending it abruptly.)
Anyway. Fast-forward to last night.
(I wanted to put a gif here of the thing they do on Wayne’s World when they change scenes, but you think I could find that thing anywhere? NO. Fucking Internet. Why do I even bother?)
Wait, what? Oh yes. Last night.
So last night Mark and I were running some errands and I was ranting about…I don’t even know, something…and at the end of the rant Mark pointed out that I was nearly as offended by that thing as I had been by the price of fries at the beer festival. Since the rant pump was already well-primed, that was all the nudge I needed to go off about those stupid fries.
“Six bucks for fries. THAT WAS INSANE. Do you know how much a 50 pound bag of potatoes costs? Like $10. MAYBE. And that’s RETAIL. If they were buying them through a wholesaler they were like half that. And it’s not even like there’s LABOR involved with making fries. With the sausages, I can kind of see the justification – you have to grill them, you have to slice and grill the onions and peppers, you have to put the sausage in the bun…there’s semi-skilled labor involved in that. But french fries? You dump potatoes into hot oil and you WALK AWAY for several minutes. You maybe go back and shake the basket halfway through cooking, but that’s it. There’s no labor. Nothing.”
Mark tried reason on me: “Well, someone’s gotta cut the potatoes, at least.”
“NO THEY FUCKING DON’T. They put them through a fry cutter! You set the potato on it, push the lever down, it forces the potato through a cutting grid, and VOILA, french fries. You don’t even have to PEEL the potatoes. The most you could argue is that they have to WASH the potatoes, but big fucking deal, how long does that take? Not $8 worth of time, that’s for damn sure.”
“You said $8, but the fries were $6.”
I side-eyed him as best I could while also keeping the car on the road, because I was driving through this entire thing, it’s worth noting.
“Six dollars, eight dollars…I don’t fucking care. They were too damned expensive and I am deeply annoyed by it. So…so shove THAT in your $8 POTATO HOLE,” I spluttered.
Needless to say, the $8 potato hole was still being brought up this morning. I don’t even want to think about how long it’s gonna to take me to live that one down.
It’ll be longer than it takes to make a batch of french fries, though. I can guarantee you THAT much.
A week or so ago, I had an avocado so perfect that I was compelled to take a picture of it for posterity.
If you’re an avocado person, you get it. A regular person shopping for avocados will be satisfied to test a couple to make sure they’re not rock-hard or mushy before making their selection, but an avocado person will stand in front of the display and feel up so many avocados that it starts to get awkward. Other shoppers will openly look askance at us. Some of us may in fact be on the produce section staff watch-list because of the ardent attention we pay to the perpetual pile of olive green wonderment that is the avocado display.
A perfectly ripe avocado is rare enough, but finding a truly flawless one is a rarer beast indeed. Feeling up an avocado for ripeness is an art, but there’s plenty you CAN’T tell just from feeling and looking at an avocado:
- has it been bashed around in transport?
- have pinholes in the skin caused the dreaded grey-green oxidation in the flesh?
- does it have those weird still-unripe spots where the flesh will continue to cling to the skin or the seed even though the rest of the flesh seems perfectly ripe?
You simply cannot know until you cut into it and see. That’s why it’s so exciting when you DO end up with a perfect one. They’re so few and far between that the perfect ones feel…miraculous. It’s what I imagine someone finding the image of Jesus charred onto their morning toast, or the face of the Virgin Mary outlined by the speckles on the skin of their banana might feel. Except, you know…somewhat less inclined to religious dogma.
I shared this picture of my miraculous avocado on Facebook and Twitter because I know I have a lot of similarly avocado-loving friends. In terms of “like” clicks, this picture outpaced basically EVERY OTHER picture I’ve EVER posted on Facebook, memes included. On Twitter, someone actually downloaded the picture and set it as the background image on their phone.
This avocado has clearly spoken to people. LIKE A MIRACLE.
So, after speaking with several other avocado disciples this morning, I would like to announce the formation of the Order of the Perfect Avocado, dedicated to sharing miracles of avocado perfection for everyone to enjoy. If you have a shining example of avocado perfection that you’d like to share with the world, you can tag it as #APerfectAvocado on Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr. We’ll find it and feature it so that everyone can bask in the green glow.
A couple weeks ago I sponsored a contest at work, with the prize being a voucher good for one batch of baked goods of the bearer’s choice, made by me. I bake for the office once a week anyway, but I almost always bake what I feel like baking rather than taking specific requests. The voucher for baked goods seemed like a fun way to make something I was going to do anyway seem a little more special. I even made up a fancy-looking certificate for the occasion.
The contest came and went, the votes were tallied and the winner happened to be the person who is often most enthusiastic about the baked goods I bring to work. She didn’t know ahead of time that the prize was going to be MORE baked goods, so when I presented her with the certificate she was very excited indeed. Suggestions of key lime pie, peanut butter brownies and several other possibilities were bandied about, but in the end she decided she needed a few days to think about what she wanted.
A couple days later she sent me a link to a Pinterest page full of recipes of her prize choice: Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical. I’m not a big Pinterest fan anyway (because gods know I don’t need yet another internet-based time suck in my life), and it seems like the number of cutesy Pinterest recipes that fail horrendously far outnumbers the ones that actually work. BUT…I said that I’d do the thing, so I was bound and determined to Do The Thing.
Several minutes of perusing the internet turned up quite a few non-Pinterest recipes, some of which weren’t even trying to be super cutesy, so I started to feel a little better about things. There were a couple that got all fancy with shit like browned butter and bourbon and whatever in the cookie dough…but fuck that. There’s no point in getting all artisanal when you’re taking the dough and mashing it around a mass-produced Oreo, in my opinion. Once I had that straight, things got a hell of a lot easier because it was a small logic hop from “I ain’t makin’ no fancy-ass cookie dough” to “hey, the grocery store has logs of pre-made cookie dough! I don’t have to make ANY dough at ALL!”
One quick trip to the grocery store later, I had procured a 2-lb log of chocolate chip cookie dough and a package of Double-Stuff Oreos. I preheated the oven, got my baking sheet lined with parchment, and commenced with what seemed like a quick and easy baking project.
And, to be fair, if it hadn’t been like 80 degrees in my kitchen before I even turned the oven on, things might have gone a little smoother.
The first couple were fine – I took nice neat slices of cookie dough, flattened them out a little with my fingers and mushed them around the Oreos to cover them. There wasn’t much finesse required. As the dough lost its chill things started to get messy, though. The chocolate chip cookie dough went from kind of Play-Doh consistency to…I don’t even know. Some kind of sticky, slimy, slippery goop. I had a total of four Oreos done at this point, by the way. It was like the light at the end of the cookie-making tunnel started speeding in the opposite direction. Feelings of desperation started to creep in.
Then, inspiration! I dug one of my flexible gel ice packs out of the freezer and put the log of dough on it for a few minutes. Things firmed up nicely and I was able to get on with the task at hand, though it was still slow going (that’s what she said? HAH). It ended up taking me almost forty minutes to wrap 15 Oreos in cookie dough.
Also, remember the part where I said I had bought TWO POUNDS of cookie dough? Yeah. I got 15 cookies out of that. I will admit that I probably ate two cookies’ worth while I was working (judge me all you want), but still, god damn. The label reckoned 1oz of dough per cookie, so I was using just over two cookies’ worth of dough to cover each Oreo. That means each one of these suckers is the caloric and sugar equivalent of THREE cookies. They should be called Diabetes Bombs.
All the recipes I looked at said to bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Maybe they like their cookies raw and impossible to move from the pan? I don’t know. Mine took like 20 minutes and they weren’t over-done by any means. Maybe my oven had just had enough at that point. Maybe it was like “this is ridiculous on SEVERAL LEVELS and I’m registering my disapproval by not coming up to the temperature you want. SO THERE.”
People at work lost their minds over them, declared them amazing, and wanted the “recipe”. I found them to be just ok, even when I tried one warm right from the oven. At first I thought maybe it was because I had eaten too much cookie dough while I was making them and therefore I wasn’t finding them appealing (which was true), but I tried part of one later on and then part of another one this morning and…nope. Still not super into them. They’re cloyingly sweet, which I’ve never been a fan of, even in desserts. Manipulating the cookie dough a bunch doesn’t do it any favors texture-wise, either. It all just seemed like a whole lot of unnecessary torturing of some perfectly good Oreos.
In the end, the person I was making the cookies for was very happy with them though, and that’s what counts.
You know on all those cooking shows and food blogs where they’re like “MAKE SURE YOU READ THE ENTIRE RECIPE BEFORE STARTING”?
That’s because of people like me – people who find a recipe next to a picture of something they like the looks of and immediately run to the kitchen to start throwing things in a bowl, only to realize halfway through that the recipe says some bullshit like “now let this sit overnight”, or “cook on low heat for at least four hours” and it’s already like 8pm.
Or, halfway through throwing things in the bowl they realize, “fuck, this calls for a whole bunch of turmeric. I don’t have any frigging turmeric. What do I have that tastes LIKE turmeric? Nothing, basically, because turmeric tastes like dirt”.
That’s right, TURMERIC TASTES LIKE DIRT. I’m not saying I don’t like it or that you shouldn’t use it. I’m just saying it tastes like dirt and you know I’m right so cool your fucking jets and keep your pants on or whatever. Jeezis.
Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yes, recipes being a challenge.
So, with my brand of ADHD, I can have a recipe right in front of me, I can read through it 14 times, I can fully understand the gist of what I’m making and how to make it, I can look at where it says, “1 teaspoon of dirt-tasting turmeric”…and by the time I reach up into the cupboard for the turmeric, I’ve forgotten what the measurement was. Turmeric in hand, I’ll look again but the recipe will now say “3 teaspoons of dirt-tasting turmeric”, because my eyes are reading half of one line and half of another. I’ll think to myself “that seems like a lot, especially since turmeric basically just tastes like dirt”, look at the recipe again, and it will be back to 1 teaspoon and I’ll wonder if I’m hallucinating a tiny bit (possibly due to high turmeric intake).
I usually manage to side-step my brain’s attention shortcomings while cooking by having a strong culinary instinct to begin with (I come from a long line of good cooks), being creative, and keeping my sense of humor about sometimes-ugly-but-usually-still-tasty food.
That’s not really helpful with baking, though. With baking, measuring is important. Paying attention to how your dough acts is important. Not changing 14 things in the recipe on the fly IS IMPORTANT. You can be the second god damned coming of Picasso and have the best sense of humor on Earth but your cake is still going to come out like chocolate-colored sawdust if you don’t measure your flour properly.
I decided I wanted to start baking bread after watching a cooking documentary about fermentation and the history of fermented foods back in the late winter. I’ve long been a fan of fermented foods and I’m a keen believer that the bacteria living in our guts are probably one of the most crucial (and most overlooked) contributors to our overall health. Fermented bread, aka: sourdough, has a much lower glycemic impact than commercial yeast bread, it has more bio-available minerals and vitamins, the gluten proteins have been chemically altered by the bacteria in such a way that they become less inflammatory to the gut and more easy for the body to break down, plus probably a whole load of other happy horse shit.
Point being, I was sold on sourdough. I wanted to make some and it didn’t seem that hard. All you need, after all, is flour, water, salt and patience. Or, if not patience, at least a will to succeed. At least, that’s what a whole bunch of websites told me.
And they weren’t ENTIRELY wrong…but they left out a motherfucking TRUCKLOAD of details, it turns out. Like, temperature is almost as important as measuring your ingredients…and I’m not talking oven temperature, I’m talking ambient temperature in your kitchen from the time you start mixing your dough until the time you put it into the oven. Also, bread dough acts differently depending on the humidity level in your kitchen. Different types of flour (just wheat flour, mind you…I’m not subbing like, crystalized unicorn tears or anything) absorb different amounts of water depending on not only whether they’re whole grain or not, but also whether they’re winter wheat, spring wheat, red wheat, and apparently what fucking PHASE OF THE MOON THEY GERMINATED IN. I swear to god it’s like the most ridiculously convoluted thing ever. There’s actual note taking involved, people. COME ON. “It’s just flour, water and salt”, my ass.
But somehow, it works (usually). And I love it. And not just because I get to have delicious toast in the mornings or give away pretty loaves of bread to appreciative friends. I’ve found working with bread dough to be so…I don’t know, meditative, I guess. It has its own rhythm and once you start a batch, you’re just sort of along for the ride. Except you can’t just be the co-pilot who sleeps the whole ride because you have to be aware of what the dough is doing, how it’s progressing. You have to be ready to move it from one phase to the next, but not until the dough itself is ready. It’s kind of like a pet that is independent and likes to do its own thing but that is also a little bit derpy and needs you to keep an eye on them so they don’t like, chew on wires and stuff. That got weird, but I think you get my drift.