I’m not sure that people are so into New Year’s resolutions anymore. It’s all about intentions now. I’m just as guilty as anyone.
I suspect the word “resolution” got a bad rap, because people (me! I!) assigned it to their own overzealous, underplanned Champagne wishes, then blamed the world for their almost-universal failure. They — we — okay, I — picked the biggest problem then gave it the shortest timeline to minimize the shame of entering a new year such a loser.
In the auld lang syne, while everyone else was off shredding their adorable holiday mini-pouches, my 50 pounds and I would look pensively out at the falling snow and make a mutual, respectful decision to start our health regimen once temperatures reached a safe 40 degrees.
While other writers I admired were off in the universe being their amazing writer-selves, I resolved on more than one New Year’s Day (and many days thereafter) to figure out what was keeping me from writing. (Turns out it was me. It’s always me.)
While other new mothers I met in real life and through the flower-crowned Elysian fields of the mommy-blogger Insta-verse vowed to spend the new year living in the moment, I couldn’t stop myself from wishing time forward to some fine day when I’d Gotten My Shit Together.
As you might guess, it’s a little embarrassing to admit to all this. I still struggle with all three of these. And yet I’m also glad they haven’t come true, at least not in the ways I’d hoped.
And in fact none of them have made it onto my hit list for 2017. I’m letting them breathe (as a professor once told me I should try with my writing, as it happens). Turning a pair of red bonkers laser-eyes onto simply being present, being inspired, or being motivated is futile. Like trying to remember the disjointed, beautiful details of a vivid dream after waking up.
No. This year I have a big, funky, gross intention. I don’t have the words for it. It’s ferment-y. Like rows of unlabeled backyard pickles or kimchi. Bubbling and alive and, you know, kinda icky. Blobby around the edges.
It’s big. Much bigger than I am. It’s a bit scary: it knows itself in all the ways I don’t know myself. Its self-assuredness intimidates me.
It’s 99% feeling, 1% ectoplasm.
Luckily, I started laying the groundwork for this intention back in 2016, back when we were children, back when I had the words for it. It involves this blog, but a lot more than that. It involves showing you more of me. Coaxing out more stories, more snapshots, more half-remembered tail-ends of dreams. More stuff that I don’t love to talk about because I always assume it’s not what you come here to read. Which, astonishingly and ecstatically, it turns out is precisely the stuff you love and latch on to. Doesn’t make the writing and the coaxing and the confessing any easier, but it does make the delivery that much sweeter.
It involves figuring out the space between (above? behind? all around?) being a food blogger and being a mom blogger and being a lifestyle blogger. What would that look like? Because I think that’s what this is becoming.
Even back when this was only a food blog, I always thought of it and talked about it as a cooking blog. See, food is great, and food is for everyone. So food blogs are photos of bistro burgers topped with runny eggs, macarons in a shop window, AND a beautifully bronzed roasted chicken on someone’s table. All of the above. But you know about burgers and eggs and macarons and you know where to find them, so this blog is not those blogs.
Cooking is also great, but cooking is an action. And it’s one that not everyone takes. And these days, it’s an action that not even I sometimes take, at least not in the way that I used to.
And you’ve been here for that part. The confusion. The mini identity crisis. Am I coq au vin or am I chicken nuggets?
Of course, the answer is that it’s both. I’m both. We — we, the women and men who every day reconcile the vapor trails of their dissipating, or maybe just evolving, economizing, grace-embracing taste with the unfiltered, earth-caked created/creative force that is children — we are both.
You can’t be a parent who also writes about cooking and not write about what happens to the cooking in your house once you become a parent. (I tried.)
You also can’t be a parent who also writes about cooking (or anything else, for that matter) and not write about what happens to your lifestyle outside of the kitchen. You want to talk about the cute things, sure. But you have to talk about the not-cute things. You have to talk about them because you know you’re not alone but sometimes it feels like you might be, and no one is saying the things that need to be said.
I suspect that’s where the elusive quest for balance lives: in our simultaneous surfing of multiple worlds; in our reconciliation of what we’re told is right with what we know is okay. So this blog is for us. One foot in each world.
No one masters it, I don’t think. But we can give each other crib notes. I also reckon this sort of surfing takes a lot of core strength. (See: other minor intentions for 2017.)
So in honor of having a foot in two worlds, here’s a recipe (rather more of a suggestion, really) for some beautiful bread I know I’ll be making frequently in 2017.
You see, the last thing I made on December 31 became the first thing I ate on January 1. After years of hearing friends and the Internet rave about Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread, we decided it was time to try it.
You bung together a few ingredients, all at the same time, no proving or kneading at all. (You like that “bung”? I’ve been reading a lot of Nigella Lawson lately.) You let it sit overnight — or longer, in a cooler spot, if you have/need the time, and which my bread-baking friend tells me makes for a more flavorful loaf since you’re letting it slowly ferment. When you’re ready, you pull it onto a cotton towel studded with all manner of crunchy stuff — seeds, oats, wheat bran, whatever — then let it rise after barely touching it a few times. All of it goes into a heavy heated pot in the oven. The result is, I kid you not, the most beautiful loaf of bread that’s ever come from my kitchen. (And that’s counting this kitchen plus like five kitchens from apartments past.)
I’m so close to saying that I’ll never make any other kind of bread again, but I know that’s not true. Kneading is satisfying sometimes, and there are some breads I love to make that I’m not sure would work with this method.
What I do know is this bread will probably win MVP of 2017, and that I’ll be making it frequently.
My loaf was paved with a mixture of my favorite seeds: fennel, caraway, poppy, and sesame. Just today I pulled out my jar of dill seeds for something else and thought, oh yes, these will be lovely on a future loaf. But really, you can use anything — or nothing, just some flour to keep it from sticking to the towel during the rise.
I linked above the New York Times recipe for No-Knead Bread, but found myself watching the (adorable, quick) tutorial video with Mark Bittman and Jim Lahey himself. In the video, you really get a good feel for how simple and hands-off this bread is. The ingredients and quantities below are also from the video (the NYT article has slightly different specs, but similar method).
– 2 2/3 cup all purpose flour
– 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
– 2 teaspoons salt
– 1/2 teaspoon yeast
– 2 cups water
– mixture of: any seeds you like, including sunflower, fennel, caraway, sesame, poppy, dill, even cumin; cornmeal; wheat or oat bran; oats; or just flour. You’ll need maybe 1/4 cup total, and sprinkle it across the towel before baking.
Combine flours, salt, yeast, and water in a bowl. Mix well, but don’t feel the need to overmix. Let sit overnight — about 12 hours — in a warm-ish spot (perhaps near your oven). Or let sit for longer in a cooler place, like a basement or garage.
When you and the dough are ready, prepare your rising spot by laying a clean cotton kitchen towel across a tray or sheet pan. Sprinkle your seeds, grains, flour, what-have-you across the towel evenly.
Sprinkle a bit of flour on a clean surface and dump (or otherwise coax) out the dough onto the flour. Pull gently on one edge of the dough, flipping it up over the rest of the dough. Do the same to the opposite side, then rotate a quarter turn, flip one side of the dough one more time,then roll the whole thing onto itself so the seam is underneath. By sort of cradling the dough in your hands, transfer it to the nearby towel and cover it with the sides of the towel, or just another clean towel. Let rise two hours.
About 30 minutes before the dough is ready, set a heavy enamel Dutch oven or cast iron pot in the oven, then preheat to 500F. (The NYT link says 450; the video says 500. I did 500 and it turned out lovely.) When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven, carefully flip the dough inside the pot so that the seeded side now faces up, cover the pot, and put back in the oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Slater with butter or olive oil or tapenade or jam or nothing.
Keeps for however long fresh,homemade bread keeps at your house. (In my house that’s a 2-day maximum.)