When last we met I regaled you with my personal problems with food — mainly that I don’t eat at the right time, have issues with menu planning and meal preparation, yada, yada, yada.
I feel like such a whiner — but, I have one more thing to say about that. Sometimes, meal planning and preparation can be fun, a great motivator, the very thing one needs to help plan around — and here is where lovely dishes that bake come into play.
The first, and my favorite, is bread.
Winter is the perfect time to establish a bread-baking routine. It’s rather like cutting wood, it warms you twice — once in the baking, again in the eating. Ummm. Plus, your house will smell amazing. The aroma of bread spreads through my senses. I love the feel of a warm artisan loaf, it’s weight and crisp crust begging to be broken, buttered and devoured. Sight, smell, touch, even sound, whether you break it or slice it with your heavy serrated knife, the inviting crunch of crust. And of course, taste. I can barely write this. I want to jump up and go start a sponge.
If you don’t bake, you are wondering, ‘what in the world is a sponge — and how does she start one?’ A sponge, sweet novice, is the thing that makes yeast breads possible (well, that and a dozen other things, like carbon dioxide, but this is not about the science, so . . .) the mixture of moisture, yeast and sugar (honey, guave, molasses) and a little bit of flour. Do you make pancakes? Then you know that adding the baking soda causes the batter to bubble. It’s like that, sort of.
The All-important Sponge:
First you dissolve the yeast in luke warm water. Luke-warm water (or milk) feels neither hot nor cold. It’s supposed to be at least 85 degrees and no more than 105. I mention this because for yeeeeaaaars I failed at bread-baking because I couldn’t get the temp right. I figure 98 is perfect, so if the liquid feels cold, I warm it, too warm, I wait for it to cool. Some recipes call for oil or butter. I wait until the sponge is active to add them. Salt, too. Yeast works better without salt.
Once the yeast is dissolved, add the sweetener (yeast eats sugar) and some of the flour. There are no measurements here because it varies with the batch size. A sponge will take a few minutes to get bubbly. During that time you can prepare your other ingredients. Then it is just a matter of adding flour until it can no longer be worked with a spoon. Then kneading (which also qualifies as exercise!!) until the dough is soft and elastic, coating with oil and setting to rise.
Now you can write. Probably for an hour!
I feel like I should repeat that over and over for an hour. This is a great feeling. You are being productive and writing!! By the way, you may not sweep, do dishes, clean toilets, or watch soap operas. You may, first thing, put a load of wash in the robot-machine. But return to writing immediately.
Then, when the dough has doubled, punch it down, knock the air out, flip it and put it to rise again!
Now you can write. Probably for another hour!!
See how this works. You may now put the washed clothing into the dryer. But return to writing immediately.
A second rise, then loaf shaping, then, at last, the baking.
I swear, this really works!! And in the end you are rewarded with a warm house, warm loaves, and words written.
Now we must also prepare food to go with bread, and we want to accomplish the same goals, delicious food cooked, more words written.
Casseroles & Soups:
These are my go-to choices for food that makes itself, after some preparation, and comes out of the oven, or off the stove ready to eat AND if you work it right, with enough for another meal or two. Oddly, I don’t have photos. They must not be as photogenic as bread.
Briefly, casseroles and soups share the same ingredients and process, just that one possesses more liquid. First, vegetables must be cut and saute’d. Begin with onions, sweat them in olive oil in the bottom of a big pot if you’re making soup, a skillet for the casserole. Add carrots, celery, garlic, and any other root vegetables, except if you’re making potato soup. Then you’ll parboil the potatoes. Green beans, broccoli, etc. Cook up a pot of grain or pasta, or if you’re adding barley, just throw it in later. Protein — if you’re doing beef I cook it first, chicken can be added to liquid, or better, saute’d with your vegies. Toss it all together in a baking dish, toss into low oven and write/write/write!
Now, while you’re cutting and sauteing and stirring and measuring and all that jazz, you are also exercising! Making multiple trips to the refrigerator is called ‘walking’. Put on some music while this is going on and you have ‘dancing’. Bend to retrieve pans from lower shelves, reach to get bowls from above. ‘Stretching.’ Remember this. Cooking is exercise. And if you make food that bakes, it leaves time to write.
Food is good for our minds. Exercise is good for our minds. Both are good for the soul. And getting that writing time in is crucial to our self-worth, self-esteem, and prevents self-loathing. Am I right?
Let me know your thoughts, your tricks, your coping mechanisms!
Till next time, Happy Baking! Great Writing!
Today begins a short series on nourishment for writers. It will be presented in four parts. I hope all who read it will add their own tips and opinions, encouragement and problems.
My morning starts like yours — I awaken, turn over, decide to get up instead of allowing myself to go back to sleep. Stumble into robe. Pet cat. Make coffee. Turn on weather channel. Retrieve coffee. (So far you’re with me, right?) Here is where our habits diverge (unless you’re a morning exercise person — in which case we’ll get to my whine about wanting to be like you — but please keep reading). You may jump in the shower. You may eat breakfast. You may have children to corral and school to prepare for, etc. Me? I take my coffee to the sofa and open the computer. One to one-point-five hours later I look up. Herein lies my personal problem, and the reason I am attempting to discuss nourishment with you — because I start out every day with a deficit. Caprese Salad, tomatoes and basil from my pocket-patch, 2012.
The Affects of and Need for Food:
As I said, one to one-point-five hours later I look up. Hungry.
Starving. Okay, hungry — but angry at myself because I know I need to eat. My brain doesn’t quickly go to the ‘must have food’ thing when I get up. It jumps right into work. (This may or may not be my own writing, but one form of work or other, nonetheless.)
Besides being hungry, and angry, I’m also fighting weight gain. This happens to most writers I know. Unless you are an exercise freak AND a writer (a rare combo) the best thing you can do is eat to kick-start your metabolism, eat frequent small meals to keep your brain on track and your blood-sugar level, and yes, it prevents hunger. I know this. I know this the way I know the feel of my fingers on a keyboard. The keyboard it is more important to touch first thing in the morning than preparing oatmeal. I just don’t pay any attention first thing in the morning.
This failing has other repercussions, like throwing my food schedule off for the day. I eat breakfast at ten, I don’t want lunch when the crew is heading out at 11:30. At 2:30 I’m famished, but I have a meeting. At 4:30 pm I’m ready for dinner. If I don’t eat anything between dinner and bedtime, I can’t sleep.
Etc., etc., etc.
A couple weeks back I attended a conference. All the meals were provided. The food was good. Not great, but better than decent. Almost all of the meals were buffet-style. Some choices. I watched the vegetarians make healthy choices. I ate it all. Even dessert. First, I was hungry. But mostly I was so thrilled because I didn’t have to think about food, didn’t have to decide, shop, prep, cook, or clean. I was in heaven.
Which brings me to all of the other things about being a being that requires food to survive — the process. Sometimes I envy the birds who eat from my feeders; or the hawks sitting on the light posts at sunset waiting for rodents to wander into the dusky light; they do not make big food decisions. They encounter little need for variety, I think. (Can you hear one hawk saying to another, “I’m so tired of chicken and fish — let’s go have a burger,” or “the brown bunnies are so much tastier than the gray ones,”?)
Me? I have recipe books, online recipes stored in the cloud, magazine pages saved over multiple years, three separate areas on Pinterest and three grocery stores full of in and/or out-of-season produce, meat, boxed, ready-to-eat, frozen, dried, staples, organic . . . food. All in the name of variety. And I barely ever ‘use’ a recipe. Just look at the pictures. I know how to cook. But I have to decide. What. To. Eat. Which begs the question, what to make? Little explosions of frustration pop inside my head, like those caps you throw at the sidewalk, just thinking about it.
Does this happen to you?
On the other hand, I bake bread. I love to bake bread. I make great soup. There is hardly anything I love more than putting the seasonings into my homemade vegie soup, a dash of sesame oil, a dribble of tamari, some left-over red wine (yes, I have leftovers, sometimes) and a handful of barley for bulk. Yum! But first you have to get me into the kitchen.
Here is my proposal — I’m really trying — to set an alarm for four o’clock every afternoon. To begin dinner preparation then. Literally, to stop whatever I am doing and go make the meal I have planned.
That’s right. Planned. I will make a menu plan. Three to four days worth (maybe I can keep from changing my mind for that long), and shop for those meals in advance (not send my husband to the store for some critical ingredient I forgot to buy) and eat a well-balanced meal at home, neither too early nor too late. And make enough for leftovers.
Which I will have for breakfast — as soon as I’ve finished my first cup of coffee. Before I start work. No later than 8:30 am.
How about you? Any ideas for me? Or camaraderie? Let’s help each other, eh?
To A Healthier Us!
Pinterest Boards: Di-et, The Natural Pantry, Baked Goodies, Just Chocolate, Just Dessert, and one more I think — come see!
How does this work? Am I posting my friend Carrie’s blog? I hope so!!
This post has been moved to its own page!!
The time has come — I am forcing myself to share some writing with you, to engage the gears that will lead to a public presence of the hidden art. It’s taken years to achieve this bravery, but you can’t be a closet novelist forever, right? Not if anyone is going to read your work.
My goal, with this blog, (the very word causing quaking — oh, the responsibility), is to help you get to know my writing, to help motivate myself through these last deadly moments of final editing before putting the WHOLE THING out there, and to give us a new space to communicate.
On that note, I will not drag this out, but simply add — I am not quite happy with this blog template, so don’t be surprised if it changes from this format in the future. AND, without further adieu —
the opening paragraphs of
Quality of Light