Tuesday, July 26, 2005

the things we did and didn't do

Big ups to Maisnon, who's demolishing on the bar at this very moment!

No Coldplay in this post, I promise- in San Francisco, you can lose several hipster points for liking Coldplay. Meanwhile, the stores still seem to be selling their new album well here. Anyways, oodles (who, incidentally, has recently started a blog that has an awesome layout/colour scheme) commented about pictures of my baking skills (her words, believe me, not mine). In truth, she has managed to catch me red-handed here. The way that scientists tend to publish the experiments that were successful, the way that pharma companies tend to disclose only the clinical trials that show benefit to patients, I have been in the habit of posting baking that has gone right.

When I was in graduate school, I remember one of my fellow students musing over the idea of starting The Journal of Failed Experiments. It sounds like a joke, but he was actually quite serious. Professors and graduate students could add years to their life if they were not stuck running into the proverbial brick wall on experiments that others had probably already conducted without success. If you could look up what not to try, you could be free to expand your imagination to the realm of the other. There is an oral history of failed experiments that develops when you are in graduate school; a post-doc will look over your shoulder, shake his head, and grin- "I tried that in 95... went to sh*t. Never works." The smart graduate student takes such quips to heart, chases after the post-doc and quizzes him for as long as he will tolerate it. The arrogant graduate student rolls his eyes and claims he has good hands. And then he gets schooled. And everyone laughs. Hey, no one said graduate school was fun and games.

So, here are two experiments from this weekend. The first was for a barbecue on Saturday. I was staring at a box of chocolate cookies from Trader Joe's, and I had this irresistible urge to pulverize them. Normally, this might be cause for going on medication of some sort, I know. In this case, it amounted to this (I'm done with apologizing for my camera skills- you all know they suck by now, you'll just have to use your imagination):
The chocolate crust also has hazelnut in it, courtesy of TJ's. And the cheesecake, though you can't tell from the shot, has two layers. The bottom layer is milk chocolate cheesecake, the visible layer is white chocolate cheesecake. You can also see a nice shot of the view from my kitchen. I know, que exciting.

I was relatively happy with the cheesecake since it's the first time I've really made cheesecake, and the recipe was 85% concocted by me. A good sign came at the end of the barbecue, when about a fourth of the cheesecake remained. The hostess looked at me timidly as she was giving me the container I had brought, and asked "Do you mind if we keep the rest of the cheesecake?" While I found this sweet, I also wondered who, in their right mind, would take back something they brought to a barbecue? Do people really do this?

Sunday, after about a million errands, I settled into the task of doing something with the maple sugar. This story had a very different ending, I am sad to report. In looking back on it, I made some bad decisions. I went for a thin cookie recipe, when I should have gone for something more substantial. As a result, the cookies spread into a lacey mess. It might be nice if you were trying to make a bowl in which to put ice cream, but as a cookie, it was a loser. So, here is the sad result of an experiment gone awry:Oh, but do you think I will hang my head in defeat? Ha! I have taken beatings much worse than this in the lab. A new bag of maple sugar has been purchased. I looked at the crappy cookie last night and thought, oh, it's on now. It's me vs. maple sugar, the score is currently 0-1, and the next round is some time this week when I get a chance to come up for air. I have a feeling this could quickly turn into an expensive battle- choosing maple sugar from Rainbow Grocery as my opponent is not the smartest move.

All of this is a nice distraction from the real world, where it's a lot harder to brush yourself off from your last failed experiment. But that's some whining for another day. I'll just leave you with this little IM exchange instead:
    PG: Heard you went to Beauty on Friday.
    Brimful: Yeah, it's awesomely cheesy, from the music to the drinks (Prell cocktails)?
    PG: It's okay. I'm surprised you were there- everything else you do is so grandma
    Brimful: What?
    PG: Getting up at 6 am?
    Brimful: Uh, on the weekdays- I have a job?
    PG: Ok- baking?
    Brimful: Ok tell me this-
    Brimful: Would a grandma tell you to f*** off?
    PG: (radio silence)
Truth is, I do have some tendencies that might make you think I am Suzy Homemaker. But as I should have told PG: frankly, darling, I don't give a damn.

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