Look at me all professional! I just made myself some sweet business cards through MOO even though I'm not sure what I do here constitutes legitimate business. But, hey, as long as you guys keep showing up, they might let me keep writing books and if that's not the awesomest business plan, I don't know what is.
In my earlier professional life, I was always too shy to give out business cards, if I had any at all. Perhaps I was worried people would be intimidated by my high-powered career titles like Administrative Sorceress. Executive Ass-Kicker. Editorial Ninja. Kung Fu Fact Checker. Trust me, the last thing you want in your entry-level position is someone with strong opinions about serial commas and an overactive sense of justice.
The truth is, I was more afraid that if I gave out my real business cards, which sadly never reflected the appropriate amount of badassery I brought to the table, somebody would immediately ask me for a cup of coffee. Because even though technically people weren't supposed to do that anymore, they still did. I wonder if that's why I never developed a coffee habit? Because I got so sick of grown adults asking me to get them coffee when they already knew where the kitchen was and they presumably learned how to pour their own beverages at some point in their hazy past. Can't you see I'm too busy with this very important filing to get you coffee? If these dumb forms don't get filed in the right place, you're not going to be able to find them later and who's going to have to deal with your caffeine-fueled rage? Me!
You know what nobody likes? An admin assistant with fricking attitude.
Ah, but soon I'll be a published author with fricking attitude. A published author who can't make a decent cup of coffee, but who, despite the state of the rest of the house, has the neatest files you've ever seen. (And business cards!)
This was supposed to be part of my Tuesday Tease series of lazy photo posts, but then it suddenly became Friday. No problem—I changed the title to Friday Freeze. Seemed apt. Then Friday came and went. Now it's Saturday. Saturday Sneeze strikes me as too disgusting of a post title to be paired with a bowl full of yellow snow, so you're stuck with the outdated title (and an image in your mind that you probably wish you didn't have). You're welcome!
In my forthcoming cookbook, there are several recipes for homemade snow cones. And by homemade, I do not mean pouring a package of powdered Kool-Aid over the snow. While the Internet assures me that this is a perfectly delicious way to enjoy snow cones, the Internet disappoints me sometimes. After experimenting with various homemade syrups, I came up with some excellent alternatives using seasonal winter fruits like citrus, pears, and quince (pictured is tangelo). I stored them in jelly jars in the refrigerator and then waited for the snow to come.
And waited and waited and waited. Mind you, this was last winter (2011/2012). The winter before that (2010/2011), we got 80 inches of snow. Last year, nothing. Well, maybe a few dustings here and there, but only enough to make one pitifully small grassy snow cone flecked with dirt and debris. Not appetizing. I thought about driving up to the mountains with a cooler. Instead I pulled out the blender. Bad idea. You can't make snow cones with a blender. Not with my blender anyway. Not unless you like soupy slush cones studded with frequent whole nuggets of ice. Yuck!
Finally, I broke down and bought a cheap $20 shaved ice machine. It worked well for testing purposes, producing an acceptable snow-like accumulation in small quantities. But I had yet to try my syrups over the actual cottony stuff from the sky. Until recently, that is. And, oh, it's such a treat!
Following up on my trip to Philly, here's a peek into the photo shoot for my cookbook, Wintersweet. Above are food stylist Ricardo Jattan and his assistant Curt working on that day's recipes. Below is Steve Legato, photographer extraordinaire. The shoot took place in his spacious, light-filled studio.
How it worked was this: Ricardo and Curt would make the selected recipes (about 40 in all) in the studio kitchen. Amanda, the book's art designer, coordinated with Mariellen, the prop stylist, to select the right plates and props from several tables' worth of platters, bowls, plates, trays, and linens. Ricardo, a successful movie production designer who does food styling in his spare time, would artfully arrange the dessert on the chosen serving vessel, selecting just the right honey-roasted pear to feature (known as the "hero"). That includes making sure the caramel drips seductively in all the right places and the nuts are scattered attractively. It's trickier than it looks. Here Amanda is razzing Ricardo for trying to sneak an unwanted mint garnish into one of the shots.
Meanwhile, Amanda and Mariellen set up the appropriate backgrounds on the set: sometimes old cabinet doors or boards, sometimes fancy papers. Steve adjusted the lights and made various other calibrations that I can't even begin to understand.
Photos were taken, adjusted, cropped, snapped again, adjusted again, props swapped out, frosting dabbed just so, snapped again, etc., etc. You might start with something like this:
…and end up with something like this:
See the swirls in that napkin? Those are not accidental. This is why I will never amount to anything as a food stylist. I unceremoniously plop the napkin down right after using it to smear some ketchup across my face.
Mmmm, whoopie pies! Frankly, I was in my glory sitting back and watching everyone else do the hard work. I didn't have to lift a finger. The process was fascinating to watch, and I had so much fun. Such a nice and talented group! A huge thanks to the whole crew, as well as my editor Kristen Green Wiewora at Running Press and my agent Melissa Sarver.
I know you're probably tired of hearing me drone on and on about this, but I cannot WAIT to see this book!!
Why Philadelphia in February?
It was the site of my dessert cookbook's photo shoot with Philly-based Running Press and Steve Legato Photography. Just between you and me, I wasn't going to miss that experience for all the tea in Boston's icy harbor, snow be damned, Amtrak train cancellations be doubly damned, school cancellations be triply damned. I fishtailed my way down my barely plowed street at 5 am on Monday and flung myself onto the first southbound train that came my way. Six hours later, I woke up in Philly.
This is the view from my little hotel, The Independent, which I loved (wood floors, high ceilings, close to all the great restaurants). I didn't have much daylight to work with for sight-seeing, but I did manage a fair amount of walking before and after the shoot through the Old City and Rittenhouse Square.
Philly reminds me a lot of Boston with its brick and cobblestone sidewalks in some quarters and streetcar rails grooving the pavement in others. The architecture is similar, too, with pretty little row houses lining the streets, but with more brick than brownstone and simpler, straighter lines. The urban vibe seems grittier and funkier than Boston, though, and certainly more diverse. There seemed to be painted murals around every corner. The grid system of an urban plan (roads chronologically numbered in one direction, named after trees in the other) is very easy to navigate by foot, and the drivers don't rev their engines if you're still in the crosswalk when the light is about to change. That was a refreshing change of pace.
My editor treated my agent and I to a lovely dinner at Tria, a wine bar with a welcome emphasis on cheese and probably the friendliest service I've experienced at any restaurant ever. The next night, I dined alone at Fish at the bar overlooking the open kitchen. The food was delicious: seared scallops with chorizo, cauliflower, and Marcona almonds, and monkfish with parsnip puree, lobster butter, fermented garlic, braised fennel, and radish.
The staff kept me well entertained, teasing me for missing all the important Philly sights: the Liberty Bell, Constitution Center, Independence Hall, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the latter of which seemed better known for Rocky's triumphant training scene than any art contained therein. Let it be known, however, that I did get to the Reading Terminal Market housed in an old train station, where I procured colorful farm eggs and an assortment of winter squashes for photography purposes.
But, of course, a large part of why I loved my trip so much was the photo shoot itself. It was amazing. What a fantastic, talented, and welcoming crew! They made even my most unphotogenic recipes look scrumptious, hermits included. Hermits!! The shoot deserves a post all its own, which you will soon get, but first I need to spend a little time with my family.
(To be continued…)
Yesterday, the kids requested that I make some ice cream. They love homemade vanilla, maple, and peppermint stick ice cream, but their other favorite, coffee, was up in the rotation. As always, I put aside my concerns about a high-octane jolt of caffeine right before bedtime and got churning.
After dinner, the 10YO was writhing around in his chair in total ice cream bliss (or total caffeine overload, not sure which). He began strategizing all of the ways we could get rich off of this ice cream—never mind that the ice cream market is already very well saturated, and I'm far too lazy for any kind of business plan that doesn't involve sitting in one place for long periods of time, speaking to no one. Still, he insisted.
10YO: Mommy, you HAVE to start a company.
7YO: No, Mommy. I have a better idea. Start a company, make a million bowls of ice cream, and then shut it down and lock the doors so we can eat it all!
Wow, you can't buy that kind of press. Especially on double veggie night!
Anyway, I'd give you the recipe for my coffee ice cream, but I can't because it's under lock and key. Nobody's going to buy the cow if they can get the delicious coffee milkshakes for free! (The cow in this analogy is my cookbook, by the way, not me.) The book will also have the aforementioned vanilla, maple, and peppermint stick recipes, as well as some of my other favorite flavors, like pistachio, brown butter pecan, and cinnamon date. Speaking of dates, the book is officially on sale October 22, 2013.
Meanwhile, here's a fun question for you. I have a recipe in the cookbook for a vegetable-themed ice cream. Yes, a vegetable-themed ice cream. Stop gagging! I'll have you know it got enthusiastic reviews not just from an objective recipe-tester, but also Husband, TeenNiece, and the 10YO (the 7YO, not so much).
Can you guess what vegetable it is?
I started the South Beach Diet on Monday. That means no sugar and no carbs for two weeks. Have I gone mad?
Yes. Yes I have.
The proof is in the pudding-sized pile of Butterfinger wrappers Husband came across a few weeks ago. I must have been so blissed out on mediocre chocolate and crystal peanut meth that I forgot to hide the evidence. Stealing from my own kids' Halloween buckets like a junky! For shame!!
It's no secret I've been having a hard time coming off the sugar-fueled roller coaster of the past year. Over the past two months, I've progressed to the point where I can go a whole day without sugar, two even, but by the end of the third, I'm wild-eyed and desperate and suddenly housing a jar of leftover chocolate fondue I found in the back of the fridge. A big jar. And I'm not feeling too good about myself afterwards.
That's where South Beach comes in. The underlying principle of the diet is to reset your physical and mental expectations for your sugar consumption. That means cutting out ALL sugar for the first two weeks, even the natural sugars found in high-glycemic fruits and vegetables as well as dairy. It's also means no carbs, which your body immediately converts into sugar. Meanwhile, you can eat as much as you want of everything else: meat, cheese, beans, eggs, nuts, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies. The idea is that once your system is entirely rid of the addictive substance, you don't crave it anymore. Then you can slowly add certain foods back into your diet (note: I don't think this works for cocaine).
Now before you start shaking your head at me like every single friend I've told about this bold move—as if Tom Cruise had suddenly appeared by my side with his manic, empty eyes and a mission— remember that this is just temporary. It's just for two weeks. I don't plan on living a carb-free, sugar-free life forever. I love those things and believe that most of them aren't bad for you in moderation. I just need to restore my original factory settings. The sugar cravings are driving me batshit insane, and something drastic needs to be done. They don't have any Betty Ford clinics for sugar addiction, as far as I know, so I'm stuck with the South Beach Diet and Husband as its bastard enforcer. It'll be a miracle if we're not divorced by Christmas.
After these two weeks pass, foods I fully intend to add back into my diet are: potatoes, whole grains, pasta, all fruits, and all the sweet veggies in my winter CSA share, like beets, squash, and parsnips. All of these will be fine once they don't taste like heroin to me. Thereafter, desserts will not be daily, and carby snacks discouraged. With any luck, I'll be able to return to my pre-cookbook way of eating, which has enabled me to maintain a stable, sustainable weight pretty much all my life thus far.
First step: clean out the refrigerator and freezer of all tempting items, including the pumpkin butter I like to eat out of the jar, and the various fig pastes left over from recipe-testing. Next, make the children eat the rest of their Halloween candy in one sitting. Hop to it, kids, you won't hear me say those words ever again. Ready, set, go! Third, have Husband hide the chocolates my neighbor brought back from Barcelona, and although you suspect he hid them in his own belly, try not to care. Fourth, send Husband to do the food shopping since he's the only one in this house who knows how to survive this diet AND lose 30 pounds AND keep it off. Fifth, get cooking.
Just don't mind my grumpy posts in the meantime!
I swore after finishing my cookbook that there would be no more desserts for at least a month, maybe two. I was tired of cooking on such an unforgiving schedule, and frankly I was getting sick of dessert. I know you hate me a little for saying that, but it's true. Sometimes a girl needs some fiber in her diet is all I'm saying.
But, let's see, in the two weeks since my deadline passed, I've made a cake, a lemon tart, a big batch of pumpkin butter, and not one, but two, apple pies. There may or may not be another one in the oven right now! What happened to taking some time off? Maybe do a cleanse, or reacquaint myself with some fitness equipment? Eff that: Momma needs some sugar. And by sugar I mean actual sugar. Keep your sloppy kisses and genitalia away from me!
Part of it is habit. I'm simply used to eating cake at 10 a.m. That's the new normal. Without that sugar infusion (and the subsequent ones at 2 and 8 p.m.), there's no telling whom you might encounter should you happen to knock on my door bearing campaign materials. Weepy Tammy? Bewildered Tammy? Murderous-Towards-Trespassers Tammy? (One valuable piece of information I learned is that when you answer the door, before the solicitor in question even starts to speak, immediately curl up your face and hiss like a rabid raccoon, never breaking eye contact, drawing out the sound into a low growl, and your interaction is over before it even starts.)
Another possible factor in my continued dessert rampages is that I'm used to being very busy. Previously, I was rigidly bound to a schedule I secretly feared was beyond my capabilities. I was almost too busy to eat the confections I baked. (Almost.) Now there's a hole in my day that can only be filled with doughnut holes. And wouldn't you know it, I have just the recipe! How convenient! Maybe I should test it again just in case? Yeah, I'm pretty sure there could be some improvements. The next thing you know, the sink is full of dirty dishes and I'm collapsed on the couch like a pregnant lady with a cinnamon-sugar mustache. Trust me, nobody wants to see that.
I have thus far managed to stave off obesity, don't ask me how, but I'm still a good 10 to 15 pounds heavier than normal. And though I had a good gym routine going for a while there, now I'm all, yeah, whatever. Who cares? The damage is done. Twice now the new fitness guy had to wake me up because I was drooling all over the electrical components of my cardio machine.
So I have some tough love ahead of me if I hope to rebuild my physical and mental strength and stamina. By the time the book comes out next fall (2013), I should be back to normal, whatever normal is for me. Meanwhile, I still have all of these goddamned pumpkins, and they really, really want to be in a pie!
Well, last month was one wild ride! Four hours after submitting my completed manuscript to Running Press, I slumped downstairs to the kitchen where the kids were waiting for me to pour the milk into their cereal (they don't seem to want to take that next, final step into breakfast self-reliance).
9YO: Mommy, did you finish your book?
Me: Mmmhmmm... (shuffle shuffle)
6YO: Yay!! Now we can play with Mommy all day instead of going to school!!!
Never has a more horrible idea been issued in so sweet a voice! I gave him extra hugs and kisses as I pushed him onto the bus, tugging violently on the folding door until it closed in one final jerk. Then I took to my bed in broad daylight and didn't get up again until the kids tumbled off the bus in the afternoon. I repeated that pattern for the rest of the week, interrupting it once to pull myself together for my birthday, and then dissolving again as soon as the coast was clear.
Now I feel like a million bucks! Ready for anything! Do you want another book written? Why, I'll start one right now! What do you want to read?!!
Meanwhile, click over to The Batmom for a peek into the kitchen of a gracious, last-minute recipe-tester (and one of my best writing buddies).
Then stop by Frowning Judgment for some thoughts on cheese overindulgence. I'm glad my concoctions could help push him over the edge onto the path of the righteous.
Again, I have to thank you guys for stepping up to help out when I really needed you. I couldn't have finished this book without you!
To everyone who volunteered to test a recipe in this final push to finish my book, thanks so much for coming to my tea party* **! I'll be in touch this week.
*Not to be confused with the Boston Tea Party, wherein you throw all of my desserts overboard into the harbor in the middle of the night.
**Not to be confused with the Tea Party political movement wherein you eat dessert and then throw immigrants out of the country in the middle of the night.
My book deadline is 10/1. I still have umpteen recipes to develop and all kinds of shit to write over the next three weeks.
It's not brain surgery—I know that. Nobody's going to DIE if my cookbook doesn't come out awesome(ly?). Except maybe the copyeditor. And my pride. But it does need to get done or I don't get paid and it doesn't get published. You can't have a fantastic first half of the book and then all blank pages for the rest. Sooner or later, your editor is going to catch on no matter how many well-crafted diversions you create:
Editor: Can you send me your final manuscript file again? There's no text.
Me: Oh, crap! Did I send the wrong file? Here you go...
Editor: It's still a blank document.
Me: That's weird. When I open it, I see 103 neatly typed pages complete with recipes. What do you see?
Editor: One. Blank. Page.
Me: What version of Word do you have again?
Editor: The same version I had three months ago. Do we have to go through this every time?
Me: Maybe you should check to make sure your text color is set to black and not white?
Soooooo, if anyone can test a recipe in the next two weeks, I would be immensely grateful!
Okay, you caught me. Cherry pie isn't actually going to be in my cookbook. Why? Because cherries aren't a seasonal winter ingredient (the theme of my book). Dried cherries, maybe, but not fresh sour cherries, which is what these were.
What happened was I had to retest this pie crust (which will be in the cookbook), and I didn't want to make the same winter pie twice when I had all of these lovely summer cherries sitting around. So voila. Cherry pie.
It was just too pretty to ignore.
If anybody has time this weekend to test a recipe, I could use some last minute help. Not only will your name go in my book, but you'll also have my gratitude AND you'll end up with something delicious. Unless you don't end up with something delicious. And I have to axe the recipe. But in that case you'll be doing everyone a public service!
Win win! (Sort of.)
According to my blog hosting service, Food on the Food recently hit one million pageviews! So, thanks again for reading this little blog. I know you guys have one million other things competing for your attention, so I appreciate that you find a way to squeeze a quick, silly read into your busy lives. Here, have a whoopie pie!* ** *** ****
*Offer good starting Fall 2013!
**And you have to make it yourself.
***After you buy the book.
****Hello? Is anybody still there?
The first thing I did when I made my deadline was to drag my neighbor out for Mexican, and then proceed to devour an entire Fiesta Plate all by myself along with most of my friend's refried beans, half a pitcher of sangria, and a giant piece of tres leches cake. Don't look at me like that—you can't celebrate a partially-completed dessert cookbook without cake!
That was followed soon thereafter by the peanut marzipan you saw in my previous post, because I can't go a whole week without sugar, you know that. Then came the huevos rancheros: warm corn tortillas strewn with cumin-scented black beans, fried eggs nestled on top, scattered with crumbled cheese and cilantro leaves, and ribboned with salsa or hot sauce. What can I say, I've really been digging Mexican food lately. I know I need to get back to work eventually, but right now, the fiesta continues!!
This is one of my favorite lazy meals because we always have eggs, cheese, a can of black beans, and a partially eaten jar of salsa on hand. If I have corn tortillas in the back of the fridge, I'll use them. If not, I leave them out. We eat this as often for dinner as for brunch.
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin (or more)
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and pepper
1 big can black beans, rinsed, drained
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
Fresh farm eggs
Cheese, crumbled or grated (e.g., queso fresco, cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella)
Small corn tortillas
Salsa or hot sauce
Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat until shimmery. Sauté onions until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and cayenne, and stir about 30 seconds. Stir in rinsed beans and a few tablespoons of water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with lid to keep warm.
In a non-stick pan, cook the eggs how you like them. I like mine over-easy (i.e., runny). Husband likes his with the yolks broken and completely cooked. My kids only like them scrambled. You can make a whole bunch of sunny-side-up eggs at once by cracking them into different quadrants of the same pan so the whites run together but the yolks are spaced out. Let them fry for a minute or two, then add a bit of water on top, cover, and steam until the tops are set. Then just use a spatula to cut between the yolks into portions.
Heat up the tortillas. I do this in the microwave in a stack covered with a damp paper towel. You can also do it in a hot, dry skillet for about 30 seconds per side.
To serve, arrange tortillas on plates. Scatter some beans on top. Set an egg in the middle and sprinkle with cheese. Spoon on some salsa or a squirt of hot sauce, and sprinkle with cilantro, salt, and pepper. Customize as you see fit, with sour cream, avocado or guacamole, or your own homemade pico de gallo when tomatoes are at their best.
Eggs: Allandale Farm, Brookline, MA
Tortillas: Cinco de Mayo, Lynn, MA
Turns out that the shooting pain in my left wrist that I've been ignoring for the past month is some kind of tendonitis/carpal-tunnel-type situation. Which is fanTAStic news for me leading up to my first manuscript deadline.
I nodded obediently as the doctor told me the first stage of treatment: Advil, ice, wrist brace, and not using my left hand for three weeks. My left hand is my dominant hand, by the way. It's my writing, chopping, typing, whisking, stubborn-peanut-butter-jar-opening hand. Then I went home and had this conversation with my left hand:
Me: Hey. Listen up. There's one week left until my deadline so you better man up. This book isn't going to write itself.
Lefty: The doctor prescribed rest. You told her you would...
Me: Pipe down. You already had a week of rest during the big Norovirus Extravaganza. I get one shot at a book. ONE SHOT and you're not going to ruin it for me.
Lefty: Ice! I need ice!
Me: You'll get your bag of frozen peas in a minute. First type this stupid post.
Lefty: Why don't you ever make the other hand do any work? It's not like she has anything better to do.
(Right Hand is sunning herself under my desk lamp in a skimpy bikini and earbuds.)
Me: What? That useless thing? The only thing she's good for is helping to keep me from sinking to the bottom of the pool, and she can barely do that, frankly.
Right Hand: Whatevs. (Rolls over onto her other side)
Me: Do you know what would happen if I put Righty over there in charge of operations?
Me: Sure, you'd enjoy a relaxing convalescence, but you'd return only to find that all five of your fingers had been chopped off. Is that what you want? God, I can't even read her writing. Would you look at the draft for this post? Does this say "bloody stump" or "broody crumpet"?
Right Hand: Another margarita, please!
Suddenly, another week isn't looking so bad!
I'm working on quite a few ice cream recipes for my book. Why ice cream for a winter dessert cookbook? Because, as reader Sara says, ice cream knows no season. In fact, it's the dessert of choice in our house year-round. We own an ice cream machine and actually use it. I love to churn up a fresh batch of ice cream made with local milk and cream knowing it's free from the dubious effects of rBGH and antibiotic residues. The results are excellent.
If your ice cream machine is currently hibernating, I daresay you will soon be putting it to good use!
I was fretting about my expanding waistline a few weeks ago when I happened to pass a bulletin board at the gym promoting the YMCA Lose It Challenge. Drop 10 pounds in two months by tracking your meals and exercise using the online application, Lose It. Normally, I don't like to micromanage my food consumption, but since this year has special circumstances attached to it, I need to start paying a little more attention if I don't want to gain those 30 pounds we talked about. Might as well make it fun, right? I signed up right away.
Based on my age, height, and current weight, Lose It calculated my recommended daily calorie intake, then revised it downward based on a 2-month, 10-pound weight loss goal. My job, it explained, is simply to document and input my meals and exercise each day, and try to keep my calories under that magic number. Easy peasy. I can do this!
A database within the application stores the calorie amounts for almost every food you can think of, from raw ingredients to several brands of frozen meals and fast food. So far I haven't been able to stump it, even with random entries like persimmons. I usually break out the individual ingredients for homemade meals, but, if I'm feeling lazy, I might sub in an equivalent meal from one of the restaurants they have on file.
Then there's exercise. Calorie-burning values have been assigned for all kinds of physical activities, including swimming, running, aerobics, yoga, walking, sit-ups, push-ups, canoeing, darts, Wii bowling, house-cleaning, snow-shoveling, luge (!) and, yes, even sex. I checked. Three different levels of sexual activity, in fact, from passive, light kissing to active, vigorous humping. Unfortunately, the values are much lower than one would hope. For example, if I wanted to burn 150 calories (the equivalent of 45 minutes of slow-moving tai chi), the Lose It number-crunchers estimate that would require active, vigorous sex for no less than 4 hours and 30 minutes. Poor Husband!
Anyway, I take a kind of perverse pleasure in accurately documenting my food and exercise down to the amount of cookie dough I ate out of the bowl and anything that might possibly count as physical activity. Calories burned are automatically subtracted from calories consumed, and then the number is compared to my target calorie intake. I particularly enjoy the custom graphs they provide so I can see the results in painful relief. Here's how I did last week:
The red is where I exceeded my calorie count. It's pretty obvious which days I was making desserts. My favorite is last Monday where I took my calorie count and tried to double it. Take that, Lose It, you're not the boss of me! I hope I really enjoyed whatever baked goods I was tunneling my way through that day.
So, yeah, not as easy as I thought with my crazy new dessert-packed lifestyle. I haven't lost any weight over these past three weeks, and the date by which I'm projected to meet my goal keeps getting automatically recalculated further and further into the future, but it should be noted that I haven't gained any weight, either. And, honestly, if that's all I accomplish, it will have been worth it.
It has come to my attention that when you're writing a dessert cookbook, you will put on a lot of weight. Seems pretty obvious. I, however, was under the impression that I possessed some sort of magical metabolism that could absorb the extra calories and channel this new wellspring of energy into learning a great new skill, like carpentry or Mandarin. Turns out, that's not how it works. Turns out the only skill that interests you is how to break your previous pie-eating record.
Before I started writing this book, I ate dessert only a few times a week. Okay, yeah, sometimes I'd have double portions if Red happened to make her lemon cream tart or BFF made her dulce de leche ice cream pie because they're such great cooks and they don't judge me like you do, Internet! And the holidays don't count, either, because sometimes you just have to eat a whole tray of fudge. YOU HAVE TO!!! (Storms off crying)
The occasional indulgence doesn't matter all that much, really, but now? Now I eat multiple servings of dessert every single day. In the past three months, I've gained 10 pounds. That's nearly a pound a week! You can't argue with the scale. In that same period of time, Husband lost 25 pounds. Twenty-five! He dropped it like most men drop trou—without any hesitation whatsoever. How did he do that? By not eating any of my desserts, that's how. And by adhering strictly to the tenets of the South Beach Diet. Can you believe that jerk? That sexy jerk? Fuck him! (Storms off crying)
Point is, I haven't weighed this much since I had another human being growing inside me. What's more, this book requires another nine months of gestation. At that rate, I'm set to gain 30 more pounds. While I'm not fat at the moment, if I do gain those 30 pounds (and I think it's reasonable to expect that I won't get any taller), I will meet the definition of "clinically obese." All while working out five days a week! (Shoves cookies into pocket then storms off crying)
What to do? What to do? I really can't exercise more than I already am. I can barely keep up this pace as it is. And I can't not eat dessert. I could eat less, maybe, but then I would argue that the quality of the book will suffer. Because sometimes, readers, if I can be frank for a minute, I just want to get the recipe done. Just get it done and say it's fine as it is, but it's not fine, it's too sweet or too dry or too mealy, so I make it again but then it's way too smooth, so unbelievably smooth it's creepy, and it's not until the 15th or 16th bite that I finally admit it to myself.
So hi, everyone, and welcome to the Emotional Rollercoaster of 2012. Because I can't just be happy. I can only be happy with an equal and opposite amount of angst.
I just finished a draft of the first chapter of my cookbook! This had me feeling pretty pleased with myself until I remembered that I have to do that nine more times. Things are going to get ugly come June, I can tell you that much.
So, what's it like writing a dessert cookbook? I won't lie. It's pretty awesome. Especially at this early stage where my editor isn't breathing down my neck, yet, and I can pretend that what I'm cooking and writing is exactly what she wants, and she's going to make sweet, sweet love to my manuscript! But I know that's all wrong. A good editor will poke holes in every aspect of what you've written, questioning the very foundation of your ideas, until the world as you knew it doesn't make sense anymore and slow death feels like a better alternative than all the nit-picking work you have ahead of you. Of course, after the revision process is complete, even you have to admit that your manuscript is a million times better than it was before, but by then all the hard work is over so it's a lot easier to be honest.
The biggest problem with a book that revolves around sugar, as you might imagine, is all the sugar flying around. Before I started this project, a five-pound bag of sugar could last me two months easy. Now I'm lucky if it lasts the week. My brown sugar spends so little time in the pantry that it stays soft and fluffy instead of turning into the usual stale bag of marbles. I'm single-handedly keeping Cabot in the butter business. And I don't even want to tell you how many empty containers of heavy cream are in my recycling bin right now, but it looks like all the neighborhood babies crawled over here last night and had a huge bender.
In order to stay on schedule, I draft 2-3 different recipes every week. Each one has to be made 2-3 times to get it to the level it needs to be. Maybe more if it insists on sucking. Often, that translates to seven or eight desserts coming out of my oven per week. In other words, 7-8 bowls that get licked, 7-8 cakes/pies/puddings to be tasted and compared to the ones before, each one tempting me with the sweet promise of a sugar-high and an equally dramatic sugar-low. My workout regimen can barely keep up!
The obvious answer to this problem of surplus sweets is to give them away, right? And I have many willing takers, including neighbors, teachers at my kids' school, and farmers at my farm. I'm more than happy to give away the good stuff. Proud, even. But who wants to claim credit for the crappy stuff? Not me. Even I have some pride. My creative process is messy and unpleasant. It's not good PR to be all, here, have another shitty cake and, by the way, buy my cookbook! Yet, I can't bear to throw food away. So what ends up happening is that the reject versions sit around for days cluttering up my kitchen counters until I realize that I need one of the baking dishes that's already in use. Before I know it, I've blacked out face-down over a tray of subpar bread pudding until Husband comes home and, after peeling my face out of the custard and clearing my airways, scrapes everything into the trash while I protest incomprehensibly.
See? It's not all fun and games, people. This is serious, serious business.
But I will say that I'm very proud of the work I've done so far. I can only hope that a diabetic coma doesn't claim me before I have a chance to finish!
Just a glimpse into the secret things going on inside my cookbook.
More to come.
Now that the kids are back in school, I really need to get going on this manuscript of mine. According to the schedule I drafted for myself, I need to develop 10 awesome dessert recipes each month to meet my deadline. That's 2-3 recipes finalized per week. *gulp*
I'm not panicking. It'll be a piece of cake. One hundred and twenty pieces of cake each month, if my calculations are correct, and that's not including pie and cookies! Which brings me to my next important goal: exercise. If I am to maintain my girlish figure in the face of constant sugary temptation, I need to do more than run once a week for a few months out of the year. I need a routine. Peer pressure, if possible. Hence, I've rejoined the YMCA after a 6-year hiatus.
I've made good use of the pool, so far. TeenNiece, who has returned to her island state, gave me lots of good pointers this summer. My strokes aren't breaking any speed records, but it's how I feel that counts, right? And, frankly, I feel like a goddamn mermaid. (Swimming laps adjacent to water aerobics for the elderly does a lot to boost one's self-esteem.)
I've also been tempted by several aerobics classes (non-aquatic) listed on the fall schedule. Zumba, for example, seems like just the kind of embarrassing dance- based workout I can really get behind. The more embarrassing, the better, I say! Then there's Pilates. I still don't know what that is, but I guess now would be a good time to find out. My friends think I should take yoga. Ninety-nine percent of them think yoga is the best thing ever. What kind of a person ignores the advice of 99% of her friends? A mule-ish one, I suppose. What can I say? Yoga goes against every fiber of my being with its core components: breathing, stretching, and peace of mind. Whenever I'm in a painfully awkward yoga pose, instead of maintaining a clear and focused breath, I wonder who invented this excruciating torture and how much I'd like to punch them in the face. That possibly defeats the purpose of yoga.
No, I've always been more of a martial arts kind of girl. Karate. Kickboxing. Kung fu. Controlled thrashing, but thrashing nonetheless.
Wait, what's this I see? Tai chi on Wednesdays? Slow, controlled thrashing in the form of an embarrassing dance routine?
I think we have a winner!!
P.S. The recipe for that cheesecake in the photo above (almond cheesecake with fig confiture) can be found here. You can bet that one will be in the cookbook!