Well, I got some bad news about that thing that happened a few weeks ago. Now that the universe doesn’t depend on my silence, I think it’s safe to say that the thing was a job interview and the bad news was a polite no. Though I was not exactly surprised, the news that they had “opted to pursue another candidate” was still a downer. It was the first job I’d been excited about in a long time and oh, how I wanted to be pursued.
My reaction to the rejection included an unusually emotional response to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the consumption of a (mostly) Gin and (very little) Tonic, and then the obligatory oh-God-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life panic. And I baked. I baked a lot.
I like baking when I’m upset. I can get frustration out through the aggressive whisking of ingredients, or during a forceful round with a rolling pin and some dough. Or, I can be calmed by the careful cracking of eggs, the familiar comfort of recipe cards written by my aunt, my grandma, my mom’s cousins. There’s something satisfying about gently measuring sugar, but I also like to pretend I’m as good a cook as my mom and grandma and eyeball things as they’re poured into our big red bowl. That looks like a cup, I think. Or , That was about a tablespoon. Breezy. Confident. And then at the end of it all, you’re rewarded with something good to eat. I can think of no better therapy.
So, the day after the job letdown, I baked. I made candied nuts, and mercilessly picked apart my interview as the walnuts bubbled and became glittery, crusted vanilla and sugar fossils. I had been nervous, my voice a little higher than usual. I had rambled while answering one question, hadn’t responded long enough during another. My outfit was boring. My shoes were too big. Maybe I should have bragged a little more? I stirred up Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip muffins (more like cupcakes without the frosting) and, spooning the batter into cupcake wrappers, thought about fate and signs and doors that open and close. The recipe should make a dozen muffins—I got eighteen and had to fetch another pan for my runovers.
I zested lemon for my version of Lemon Sugar Cookies (similar to the recipe found on the wonderful blog Let’s Talk Cookies) and the kitchen immediately radiated a crisp citrus smell. I considered making a Lemon Pudding Cake, a favorite of my family’s. Stirring vigorously, I accidentally sloshed some of the liquid onto the counter. I scooped dough onto sheets and growled to the dogs, always hopeful kitchen helpers, to get out of the way.
Then, I dropped an egg. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal—but it threw me off my game, disrupted my rhythm. I grabbed paper towels violently, and swore louder than necessary. For the first time in hours, I sat and broke into a muffin. I crunched a few nuts and waited for the cookies to turn golden.
In the book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, the main character can taste the emotions in everything she eats. They are the emotions of the person who made the food, and upon the first bite she immediately knows all the intimate feelings that swirled during the stirring, measuring, heating, kneading. My candied walnuts and Raspberry White Chocolate muffins didn’t taste like any emotion, but imagine if they did. No amount of sugar would cover those insecure nuts. And I definitely wouldn’t want to sample the feelings in those muffins.
I gave half of my baking results away, some to my grandma and some to her neighbor Pete. I feel a little protective of Pete. His wife died recently, and you can see how it weighs on him. Last week, Pete gave me a ride to pick up my car at the garage where it was being serviced. I felt badly, taking him away on an errand (and a little embarrassed that my grandma had roped him into it), so when I thanked him for the lift, I really meant it. “No, thank you,” he said. “Thank you for saving me from a lonely afternoon.” There was silence for a few seconds, then he said quietly, “I’m lonely most of the time, these days.”
So when I was done with my cathartic cooking, I made sure to give Pete a pretty little jar of nuts and an assorted plate of muffins and cookies. Out of a job disappointment, I got tasty gifts for a sweet, lonely senior who, luckily, won’t taste any turbulent emotions in them. I’m not sure if that’s a silver (cupcake) lining, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment.
Looking for some similar kitchen therapy? Scroll this way……
Stop Acting So Candied Nuts
a.k.a Bavarian Sugar Almonds/Candied Nuts from My Baking Addiction.
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (1 tsp. of vanilla extract if you are using regular granulated sugar instead of vanilla sugar)
1 tablespoon water
1 pound nuts (normally like to use almonds or pecans, but this time all I had was walnuts–still good!)
3/4 cup vanilla sugar, or regular granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons of fine grain salt (or vanilla fleur de sel, if you’re the type that would have it)
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
2. In a large bowl, combine egg white, vanilla extract, and water. Beat mixture until frothy. Stir in nuts and mix to coat.
3. Gently combine sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt and stir into nut mixture, thoroughly coating all nuts.
4. Evenly spread nuts onto prepared baking sheet and place in oven.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring/shifting nuts every 15 minutes. (The stirring part is very important, otherwise the nuts will stick together into one brittle mess.)
6. When cool, pack in an airtight jar. They will keep at room temperature for about 2 weeks.
Shared Joy is Doubled Joy, Shared Sorrow is Half a Sorrow Raspberry and White Chocolate Chip Muffins
a.k.a Raspberry White Chocolate Muffins from one of my favorite cookbooks, Peace Meals
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pint raspberries
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray, or line with wrappers.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the yogurt, then the white chocolate chips.
4. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt (the batter will be stiff). Overmixing the batter makes muffins tough, so use only 10-15 strokes to incorporate the dry ingredients.
5. Gently fold in the raspberries. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin cups.
6. Bake for 22-24 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.
When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Sugar Cookies
a.k.a the cousin of The “Can’t Eat Just One” Lemon Sugar Cookie
Here, I adapted the recipe from Let’s Talk Cookies. Once I figure out how I merged the LTC recipe with another one I had, I’ll type it out and share. The problem with merging/experimenting is trying to get the same result a second time!