Sunday, September 25, 2011

we require certain skills

It did not get particularly cool, not in absolute terms. But it's September, and several days had hit the triple digits. And finally, I had a real day off. Oh certainly, I get one day off a week, it's required these days (cue the remarks from various members of the old guard chiming in with 'back in our day, we worked 3 weeks straight without a day off and we weren't allowed to sleep and there weren't any residents to consult' walking-to-school-up-hill-both-ways shenanigans). But this was the first day in a long while that I wasn't distracted wondering about what was going on with my patients, or using that precious day off luxuriating in the opportunity to catch up on laundry and bills.

No, yesterday, there was a slight breeze in the air, and it occurred to me, how fast it's all going by. It's almost the end of September. I still feel like I am at the beginning of my training, but yet some things are becoming intuitive. And I finally had a chance to breathe.

This is not meant to be a woe is me post. I chose this course, and knowing full well what it entailed. And though it's rigorous, I still make time to do what I please. I haven't broken my track record of once-weekly baking excursions (though, unlike in my previous blog-life, I rarely spare a moment to snap pictures of baked goods these days). But yesterday felt like the end of the summer. It wasn't quite the right time to start bringing out the apples and the pumpkins, even though in some parts of the country, it probably feels perfectly appropriate to do just that. I know it's technically more of a spring type of thing, but it felt suddenly like an orange kind of day.

So I bought myself some carrots.

It amazes me how many people love carrot cake. Me, I always had an aversion to it as a child, because I hate raisins baked or cooked into anything. So it was always a profound disappointment to start to bite into a slice of carrot cake and then suddenly be assaulted by soggy raisins. I wasn't too crazy about the overly sweet and thick, coat-your-tongue frosting either. In short, I was not a fan. Maybe there were just no good carrot cakes to be had in EBF.

I'm still a little suspicious of carrot cake, as it mostly to me seems like making a good spice cake. But for some reason, I was in the mood to give it a shot yesterday. There are a few important things I've learned about carrot cake over time. One is that you cannot use coarsely grated carrots. The extra time to shred them super-fine is a bit of a chore these days, but it is worth it. The second thing is that carrot cake is best when slightly spicy and sweet (the latter being an easy task given that carrots have natural sugar in them and then you add some sugar into the batter to push it over the top), but the frosting that accompanies it is best when slightly tangy and just mildly sweetened.

The stakes are a little higher nowadays. I laugh just writing that, because actually, no, they're not. But it reminds me of one of my patients, a 22-year old with sickle cell trait. I was encouraging him to take a walk around the floor today so that he doesn't get too conditioned and so that he doesn't develop clots from lying around all the time. He waved at his hospital gown from top to bottom and said, "I can't walk around like this, I got my image to think about!" It was actually a completely in-character thing for a 22-year old college student to say, but for some reason the nurses and I were in hysterics about it for the rest of the morning. It just struck us as humorous, to worry about your rep when you're in the hospital.

So no, the stakes aren't really higher; that's just as silly as what my patient said this morning. But there are certain things I make now because I know they're reliable. I save the experimental stuff for these true days off, because I know I'll have time to make some boring, standard cookies if the experiment ends in fiasco.

It's funny. When I bake, I miss some people, I really do. I'll bake something and think oh, he would have liked that or she used to ask me to bake this for her or it's too bad he's not around to taste this, it's his favorite flavor. But the lovely thing about baking, and maybe about life in general, is that new people show up. They don't fill the void, they don't replace anyone. They are just new, and somehow, room gets made for them. Just new people, who ask if I knew that carrot cake was their favorite kind of cake. And all I need do is shrug, push a cupcake towards them, and make a mental note to bake them some more at a later date.

p.s. in case it isn't obvious, it is about time for me to give up my ancient relic of a digital camera and upgrade. If anyone has a suggestion for a reasonably priced one, suggestions are welcome.

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