Sunday, January 06, 2013

The saga of the sourdough

I wasn't planning to have New Year's resolutions. After all, it's just an arbitrary, manmade decision, right? I planned not to make any resolutions, specifically; however, they began to form in my head. I'm beginning to see that the idea of a fresh start seems to organically form at this time of year.

There's the lengthening of days. By the time the solstice weekend hit, I was feeling a little bit of winter despair. If I slept in until 9:30 or 10, then took my time making a leisurely breakfast, then took my time cleaning the kitchen, then took some time to answer e-mails from friends while I finished my coffee--well, by the time I took a shower, only an hour or so was left of the day. By the time my hair dried enough to go out in the cold, it would be night, and the nights have seemed particularly dark here in Portland lately, on both rainy and dry nights.

Then there's the end of the holidays, the banishment of the stress they induce no matter how much one tries to pare down and keep things simple. For me, "the holidays" and that stress begin in October, because that is when Handsome Man's birthday is. Planning and purchasing for his birthday seamlessly runs into planning and purchasing Christmas gifts--because I handmake a lot of gifts, I have to start early. Thanksgiving brings a spike of more planning, purchasing, and stress. If I ever had to start a new life somewhere, where no one knew me, I might pretend I didn't know how to cook, so I could get to be the person who shows up at potlucks with a baguette still in its paper from the store, a hunk of Camembert, and a bottle of wine. [This is where one--particularly HM--might interject that no one expects me to always show up with completely homemade dip and homemade bread or crackers to dip in it, or a homemade pie complete with homemade crust, etc.] Anyway, I think Thanksgiving brings, for people who are considered good cooks, its own set of stress. I think I'm not alone in this; I once read that Thanksgiving is like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the end-all-be-all judging event, of cooking. Here is where one is (or believes him-or-herself to be) expected to out-do oneself with selection of recipe and ingredients and preparation and presentation and anything else you can think of. One convinces oneself that this is fun at first, a whole day or even week of doing what one likes to do and an opportunity to show off! and then ultimately finds oneself scowling, secretly, at the thought of those for whom the day is just a day to eat.

I did not feel that way this year. We went to Hawaii.

And then the December holidays, leading up to and including New Year's Eve. Parties upon parties, at which one must show up, replacing weekend unwinding time with a place one has to be, and also if you are one of those I just described in my Thanksgiving paragraph, there are dips and baguettes and crackers and tarts and such to be made and transported, sometimes twice in the same weekend! If you've made and distributed Christmas cookies in the past, since 2007, you might feel an obligation to make them again. This might be nuts. Does anyone even remember you've made these cookies since 2007? Does anyone even like those weird egg-free cookies!?!?!?!?

This is not to complain or say that I don't like the holidays period between mid-October and the end of the year. I love them! But I think I'm not alone in saying that they are exhausting, for all of the reasons I've outlined above. In between happy, fun outings, there are moments of drama in which the above might be ranted while a mixer starts smoking or a handblender tips over, spilling a bowl of batter while simultaneously flinging bits onto the ceiling and walls, or a store runs out of a particular gift, or you get an e-mail on the 24th informing you that the gift you ordered two weeks ago has not yet shipped.

And so, as Christmas melted away, becoming yesterday, then a few days ago, and more and more just a memory, I found myself dreaming of the things I would do once everything settled and the chance at maintaining a routine returned.

And then I realized I was drafting New Year's Resolutions.

No real, distinct final drafts of resolutions have formed, but I do find myself making lists.

What does this have to do with sourdough? Well, last year, I believe I failed to write down or finalize any resolutions, other than one. I declared that 2012 would without a doubt be the year I knitted a sweater, not the year I said I was going to make a sweater and ran out of yarn or misplaced the pattern or forgot what row I left off on and didn't have the heart to rip the whole thing out and start over.

I thought about goals I had made since...perhaps 2007! that had been unmet. In the time that 2007 became 2008, I proclaimed that during the five weeks of winter break, I would accomplish many things! including making pasta from scratch. Again, in 2011, when Mark Bittman posted this extremely easy-sounding pasta recipe, I proclaimed, THIS WILL BE THE YEAR. It wasn't.

Instead, 2012 was the year. The year I learned how to make sweaters, and even completed a second. (Unfortunately no photos exist at this time.) The year I made pasta, in the form of unstuffed vareniki-diamonds to construct a baked pasta casserole.

Really? This is the best picture I had!?

It was the year I made pasta a second time, not Mark Bittman's easy handkerchief pasta but pizzocheri, the mostly buckwheat noodles about which I learned from this Not Eating Out In New York post. I had bookmarked it and planned to try pasta and potatoes and cabbage in the rainy season, but finding myself with time and buckwheat flour, felt I must make it with the proper noodles.

Finally, it was the year I learned how to make sourdough, thanks to a cookbook I will tell you about later this year. I began the sourdough on December 30th. The following appeared on Facebook, posted in real time. Note the clock in the background. What I posted on Facebook was not staged or added after the fact. It was truly a saga recorded on Facebook.

First, I was proud of my sourdough starter!

"First sourdough starter!" I proclaimed to Facebook.

Perhaps leaving your starter on top of a warm oven is not wise.

I moved the starter to a cool shelf. And yet...

A handsome man has been included for scale. Yes, he gave his approval to have a picture posted on my blog yet again.

Lacking the gallon mayonnaise jar described by my cookbook, I found a new home for the sourdough.

This is how, on the morning of January 1st, I was able to make the same cookbook's recipe for Sourdough Hotcakes. I typically have problems making pancakes; often I make the batter and let someone else do the cooking and flipping as mine have turned out burned, undercooked, or with big lumps of baking soda in the middle. These sourdough hotcakes were easy, turning out perfectly fluffy and golden. Pre-heating my cast iron skillet and the oil might have played a role in this, too.

Happy 2013!

1 comment:

LS said...

OK - you do not have to make cookies, but we do remember your cookies from 2007. Who could forget them? :)