My unofficial goal with this blog has been to post a new entry every two weeks on Mondays. Tomorrow is a due date, and I have nothing. I had time, but I couldn’t think of something to write about, and work at my new job was busy and writing-intensive enough this week to make me feel like I should forgive myself for not writing at home. I was going to give myself a pass for tomorrow, but given how much time I wasted yesterday – a beautiful, temperate Saturday that I spent watching Call the Midwife on Netflix and running a failed errand for a replacement mop sponge – I ought to punish myself by crashing a blog entry deadline. I’m baking banana bread right now. It just went into the oven and I’m using the hour of bake-time to write this. To my readers, I’m sorry. I brought this on myself, and now I inflict it on you.
I recently wrote about how being an overly pragmatic person has its drawbacks. At the moment, one of those drawbacks is finding things to do with a 5 pound bag of unbleached flour. I bought it to make peanut butter cookies a few months ago, but flour goes bad, and 5 pounds is way too much for the amount of cookies I had in mind. Even without using the entire 5 pounds, I ended up giving away half of the batch. I hate wasting food. We live in perhaps the most privileged, wasteful country on the globe. Every time I see a leaky faucet or a tin can in regular trash or a partially-used 5 pound bag of flour in my kitchen cabinet I imagine the Roland Emmerich-style hell-scape that’s in store for future generations. No – that’s an exaggeration – but it does make me a little sad. Perhaps as it might have been in missing this blog posting deadline, I would have given myself a pass months from now when the flour expired and tossed it. I would have forgiven myself for it eventually, probably without therapy, which would have made my old therapist very happy, and maybe I would have scheduled an appointment so he could share in the accomplishment, and since I was already there maybe I’d dive into this flour stuff a little deeper with him to make sure there isn’t really any residual sadness there, thus negating the whole point of the visit. Thank god that didn’t happen.
As long as I’m going for too much honesty in this post I might as well mention that I’ve just taken my shirt off, which is something I do if I’m at home by myself and feeling a little anxious. It mostly has to do with keeping sweat stains off clean shirts that I intend to wear out later.
Transition!! I have a few dietary issues. I can’t eat dairy, nuts, seeds, or high-fructose corn syrup without suffering for it 40 minutes to 24 hours later. This started about five years ago and took some trial-and-error to figure out. I’ve always been a trim guy, but since this began it’s been impossible for me to put on weight. I’m at a comfortable, healthy size, but often when I travel I end up losing a few pounds by being overly cautious or misled by waitstaff about what’s in the food. My relationship to food became more complicated because food sometimes ruined sleep, dates, pleasant afternoons in the park, and, almost one time, a favorite pair of pants. For a while I scaled way back, cutting out things it turned out later I can handle, like fried food and red meat. Desserts were basically off the table. I could have sorbets and fruit pops. I dabbled in these with feigned enthusiasm.
A few years ago on my birthday some friends and I were at Jamjuree, my favorite Thai restaurant in Seattle. They told the waitstaff it was my birthday, and after the meal a scoop of ice cream was delivered to the table. I said something about how nice a gesture this was, but I wouldn’t be able to eat it. My friends pointed out that this was coconut milk ice cream – dairy-free. I was skeptical that I’d be able to tolerate it, but I tried anyway. It was delicious, and it turns out I can tolerate it just fine. This was a very happy discovery. It had been so long since I’d had ice cream, and I forgot how nice it is. For my fellow-afflicted, I recommend Bluebird‘s horchata ice cream and anything from Coconut Bliss.
TRANSITION!!! My mom made the switch from butter to Earth Balance a few years ago. For some reason, it took me a while to catch on and consider using it as a butter substitute in baking. Fortunately I started dating an amazing man last year who does all he can to make me happy. When I tell him I can’t eat something, the gears start going in his head imagining a way to make it work. He’s also a little brighter than I am when it comes to figuring out that a butter substitute can be used to substitute for butter. He’s gluten-intolerant, which makes us quite a pair. We got some gluten-free flour and Earth Balance and made the first of many batches of peanut butter cookies.
(I feel like I could put my t-shirt back on if I wanted to. I wonder what made me nervous. Is this really such a revealing blog post? I’m such a lightweight for personal revelation today.)
I didn’t think I had much of a sweet tooth. Even before things went downhill I usually found cake and soda to be sickeningly sweet. Michael, my boyfriend, encouraged me to look for tasty treats I could enjoy or that we could make ourselves with some tweaking. He’d ask questions at restaurants or read labels even when I told him I wasn’t that interested, and often it turned out that I was interested, but desserts sometimes taste better if there’s a bit of a martyr’s complex to work through on the way. I’m starting to get better at looking out for my own treats, and a happy discovery this year has been dairy-free chocolate. Trader Joe’s has a few good choices, as does Seattle’s Theo Chocolate.
Sidebar: I just had this flash of how this blog post would end. Sometimes when I’m working on a story and the ending becomes clear it is both a relief and disappointment. It means the story will fall into it’s neat little narrative box. Choices have been made. Whatever it might have been has given way to what it is. The mystery is over. Soon I’ll have to go back and consider whether or not it actually hangs together. Maybe it won’t. Maybe it was a big waste of time. In the case of this blog post, which I’ve committed myself to posting anyway, this has a high probability. I got up to check how much bake time remains as a stalling tactic. About 17 minutes, if you’re curious. I should also confess that some of this writing time has been interrupted by texting with my friend Anita about our dinner plans tonight.
Soon I will make chocolate chip cookies, but before that I thought I should make something else to put a bigger dent in all this flour. I do like banana bread, and I’m looking forward to having a loaf with chocolate chips that won’t make me heartsick with longing – or any other kind of sick. Banana bread can also pass as not-dessert more easily than cookies, which might help with the guilt of eating it. Should I have just made cookies first? When I think I should have, there’s this ghost of a banana bread loaf that appears in my mind crying over its own aborted conception. The cookies do not cry out like this. They know they’re arrival is inevitable. The banana bread, though – it was touch and go for a while. Charity for imagined baked goods. Maybe I should call that therapist anyway.
8 tbsp Earth Balance
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cups chocolate chips (optional)
Mix it all together thoroughly. Bake for an hour in a bread loaf pan at 350. Bake for additional 5-minute intervals if necessary until a knife pulls out of the loaf without any uncooked batter on it.