Friday, March 14, 2008

As Expected

I feel like I’m approaching one of those scary crossroads in life, a time when one decision will have such far-reaching consequences that I just want to lie down and take a nap. Assuming I finish this beast of a degree called a Ph.D., I have to decide what I want to do with my career: teach? research? write? All of those things? None of them?

More important, I think, is the question of what kind of impact do I want to make in the world. Surely, teaching/researching/writing all have great potential to impact lives, but how do I want to impact lives? As a scientist? As a food writer? Both?

As fuzzy as this process is, the more I think about it, the clearer the answer becomes in my head. I want to teach. Much as I love science, I love people more: I like the interactions between people that science not only encourages but virtually requires due to the complexity and volume of its knowledge. Life in the lab has been hard for me because it can be so mentally isolating; I don’t want to be isolated any more than I have to be to get my work done. My teaching experiences thus far have been limited. As a science student, I don’t have to teach to support myself financially, unlike my colleagues in the humanties. I think the financial support is both a blessing and a curse. Science students tend to be more closely tethered to their advisors by the leash of money; I do many things simply because my advisor asks me to do them. Humanities students may struggle to find time to do their research because they are so busy teaching and grading. I am jealous of the time they get to spend in the classroom; they are probably jealous of the time I get to spend in the lab. In the end, we all earn Ph.D.s and wonder what to do next.

What to do next. It begs the question, “What do I expect out of my degree?”

All I really want at this point is an interesting day job that leaves me time to write. I am hoping my degree will give me that much.

But writing is a funny thing. The more I write, the more I am compelled to write. Most days the words come easily, crystallizing the story in my head into a story on the page. I wonder if it’s even necessary to wonder if my future job will allow me time to write; writing Life, Love, and Food has become such an integral part of my life now that I cannot imagine not writing it for lack of time. Let the ungraded papers pile up, let the data remain unanalyzed, let the dirty dishes sit in the sink, but most of all, let the words flow and the stories be told!

Some stories practically tell themselves. Here’s a story about blondies. Frankly, I feel like I deserve a blondie after contemplating my future. I’m sure you also deserve a blondie! To me, blondies ought to be categorically similar to their darker-hued cousin, the brownie. Both are rich, fudgy, sweet, laced with an interesting flavors and perhaps tidbits like chocolate chips. Unlike cookies, they shouldn’t be too cakey or doughy; they should yield easily to your fork and melt in your mouth. I realize these expectations are a lot to ask of a dessert, but there are plenty of dessert-makers out there who are up to the challenge!

I keep saying I’m not much of a dessert-maker. The blondie recipe I bring you today practically invented itself. After buying a very expensive bag of almond flour, I realized I had the perfect brownie recipe with which to tinker to make the blondies of my dreams. The original brownie recipe is from my dear friend Shawn Marie; by substituting almond flour for cocoa powder and adding a dash of almond extract and a handful of white chocolate chunks, I now have a blondie recipe that lives up to my exacting standards. Thank goodness that unlike much of life, some things actually turn out exactly as expected.

Almond Blondies
Makes ~9 medium blondie squares

These blondies are just delicious. I should know: I polished off the pan in record time! They are buttery, sweet, and just a little bit nubbly from the almond flour. Almond extract and white chocolate chunks add flavor and texture without overwhelming your palate. I like them with a big mug of tea after dinner.

½ c. butter (1 stick)
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
2 eggs
1/3 c. almond flour
½ c. all-purpose flour
3/8 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
~1 oz. best-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Melt the butter over low heat in a medium saucepan on the stovetop. Beat in the sugar, extracts, and eggs. Set aside for a moment.
3) Whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Mix these dry ingredients into the butter mixture (the batter will be quite thick). Stir in the white chocolate.
4) Scrape the batter into an 8-inch square pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let the blondies cool in the pan on a rack. Eat warm or at room temperature. If you want to be really decadent, top blondies with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


JD said...

Unfortunatly, this comment has not much to do with your atricle. I wanted to let you know that last weekend I made some Rosemary Focacia Bread out of Crecent Dragonwoman's book that you gave us. Tasty Indeed. It was so good we demolished it without taking pictures. I will make it again soon and put up a post about it with a picture. Hope all is well...

Rosiecat said...

Oh, JD, I LOVE focaccia bread! That's excellent. I'm glad you liked it. I've made focaccia once before and thought it was fantastic, but I haven't tried Crescent's recipe. It sounds like it's worth trying!

I like the random messages, especially when they are about bread. If you want, leave a note on Life, Love, and Food with the link to your post when you make the bread again!

JD said...

Kale is weird, it kind of freak me out. It a member of that veggie family entitled "strange and weird veggies that James did not eat growing up because his family only had the veggies that come out of a bag."

Rosiecat said...

If it makes you feel better, JD, I didn't grow up eating kale either. I cooked with kale for the first time last fall when I made my Garlic, Chickpea, and Kale Soup while visiting family.

As far as greens go, I think kale is pretty mild. It does have a little bit of a grassy taste, but it's good. And it softens and wilts really easily, so you don't feel like you are actually eating grass! It goes really well in soups and stews because its flavor is mild enough that it doesn't dominate. It becomes more of a texture. If you are nervous about trying kale, start small. Try just a bit in a soup or a stew and see what you think. Don't try to eat a plateful of kale until you are sure you like the flavor.

I believe your wife wanted me to convince you to try kale...consider this my attempt!

One more kale pitch: as a leafy green, it probably takes more calories to digest it than kale actually contains, so if you eat enough kale, you might have a sufficient calorie debt to justify a bowl of ice cream for dessert!