Wednesday, October 19, 2011

everything is temporary anyway

I don't have any pictures to post, but maybe that's a good thing, because I seem to only be worse at taking pictures.

It's okay, because on other fronts, I am improving. At least, so I would be led to believe if the adage holds true that one can age like fine wine. Most of the time, for my birthday, I will bake myself a cake. It may sound pathetic, but I have always enjoyed it, and, well, who are we kidding? I pretty much do what I want.

I'm not so good at keeping to patterns and traditions and all of that. So I didn't bake a cake today. I made a pizza, with fresh mozzarella, and basil that I'd been growing for the past few weeks, and homemade whole wheat crust. All of it was what I wanted- the mindless rhythm of kneading dough, the fresh smell of basil leaves, the cute plump balls of mozzarella which spreads as you bake it. It wasn't a cake, but it was what I wanted and I made it.

It's been sort of an important thing for me this past year, reclaiming the certainty that I can be in charge of my own happiness, that I can stay content with life, that I can provide myself with the things I need to get by. Doesn't mean there aren't advantages and equal pleasures to sharing one's life. But it's always important to know that the basics hold true.

Anyhow, then I ventured, and had some failures. First, last week I was having a wave of nostalgia for the East Coast and EBF, and thinking about how no one ever sells maple syrup candy around here. Mind you, when I was growing up, the only time we ever got maple syrup candy was when we were visiting Vermont to show relatives the sights. But still, I loved the simplicity of maple syrup transforming into this simultaneously creamy and grainy candy that was bursting with maple flavor. I decided to give it a go on my own last week, and I forgot the first rule of maple syrup- use your biggest pot and keep your eyes trained on it. At least now I have a clean stove? Second, I was brewing iced tea today, as I do every week, but in my rush to do five things at once, I shattered an entire bottle of iced tea on the floor of the kitchen. On the up side, my kitchen floor is now clean?

Then I decided to go for the full experiment. I did not feel up to baking a cake today, but I have become increasingly interested in the aesthetic aspect of baking. I also had some leftover strawberry marshmallows. I had made them from fresh strawberries, and they were quite good. But it turns out, there are only so many things you can do with strawberry marshmallows, and I had not made them at a time of year compatible with hot chocolate. Anyway, the leftovers had gone slightly stale. But I had been reading recently about the concept of making homemade fondant from marshmallows.

I've never messed with fondant. For one thing, I don't know anyone who likes the taste of fondant, that smooth stuff that wraps up cakes, but that people invariably flick aside when they are eating the cake. Plus, most people I've known who have opted to tangle with fondant have bought the fondant from the store.

I did not want boring white fondant, nor did I want to make them from storebought marshmallows. I had my doubts that I could even get it to work. Truth be told, I'm still not sure I did. I have a little ball of fondant sitting in my fridge right now. It's smooth and elastic, and a pale pink. I suspect it has a hint of strawberry flavor.

Mostly, I was starting to imagine it. A chocolate cake, or a lemon one. Chocolate frosting, or vanilla. With little fondant flowers. Or a petite cake, the kind I actually like making most, a little 5" cake. Chocolate on the inside, a layer of strawberry jam and perhaps something chocolatey, fondant covering it. I have some ideas. Let's see if I can make any of them actually happen. But that's for my next day off.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

you must leave now before the sunrise above skyscrapers

Sorry, this has nothing to do with anything that I usually even mention on this blog, but I figure maybe 1-2 people are reading this thing anyway, so it's just echo-space for my silly ramblings. So ramble away I will. This afternoon, soaking up my day off, I could not resist the temptation, and went to watch Drive, because it's the sort of movie that seemed worth seeing in a theater.

It was. I won't gush about Ryan Gosling or the very strong supporting cast, or how the movie subtly enriches an otherwise unoriginal story. I am not much of a film critic, and ever since I went into medicine, I find myself drawn to increasingly mind-numbing entertainment, so one should probably not listen to my opinion anyway.

But the film is set in LA, a place of which I've never been particularly fond. I lived in Southern California for about a year. There is something the movie portrays that really struck a chord. The film is set right in LA, but the characters are quite isolated. They seem to have their little sphere, but are fairly solitary. Now granted, some of this is the constraint of storytelling and keeping things focused. But some of it also seems true.

I used to drive a lot in Southern California, it's a place very well-suited for driving despite the horrific traffic at times. There are so many people living here in California. In some ways, it wasn't even that different from my early days living in San Francisco, when I hadn't yet found my footing. Everywhere around, people, but yet, so many people were alone.

Me, I don't feel so lonely. I like being by myself most of the time, and when I don't, I'm fortunate in that I'm not in want of a friend when I'm in need. But it's an interesting juxtaposition, this concept of being surrounded, of being in densely populated places, and yet, being isolated.

Maybe I've been thinking about this even more because medicine is like that. All day long, inundated with people- fellow residents, attendings, nurses, patients and countless others. But it's a bit of a ruse, much like living in a city. During work hours, you are surrounded, but the work itself can isolate. Just something I'm pondering.


In other, more familiar news, big shock- I spent some of the day baking. I'm still fooling around with frosting cupcakes. I don't know why suddenly this has become a thing for me, but apparently it has. Anyway, here is my latest, weak attempt:

It probably would have helped if I had attempted this with something other than caramel frosting. I really should probably concentrate on actually getting the taste of cupcakes down before I start messing with the decorations, but as usual, I don't know how to do things in a stepwise process. Head first, dive in, make a mess, fudge it, shrug, and try, try again.