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Baking thoughts

Friday Tip|Benchmarks


This is one of my favorite video clips.  To me, this is the pinnacle of success.  And not because it put a few guys into space.

Today’s tip is a bit philosophical, but I promise to make it up to any and all reading with four straight weeks of practical tips that don’t make your brain hurt.

I want to talk about benchmarks.  I’ve always sort of known what the word means, but never thought about it much until I went back to school.  Even then, I thought about it more in the context of “will knowing what the word ‘benchmark’ means get me a good grade on this exam/paper?” than I really thought about it.

Take Fountain|Simple Scrambled Eggs and Mac & Cheese

The legendary story is that Johnny Carson asked Bette Davis “the best way an aspiring starlet could get into Hollywood,” to which the actress replied “Take Fountain!”*

It’s a wonderful quote, one that I think of a lot while driving here.  I love it because it speaks to the fact that the question is impossible to answer, and yet Ms. Davis does answer with the simplest and easiest solution.  I also like it because, although you could interpret it as being flip, it  has a sense of “don’t be intimidated.”  Just take the first, simple, easy step and go from there.

Food Photography & The Learning Process

I’ve been thinking a lot about learning.  This morning I got sucked down the internet rabbit hole and wound up at this article, from Derek Sivers’ blog.  It’s about memory and learning, mostly focusing on how fast we forget and what the optimal amount of time is before studying something again for maximum retention.  Fascinating stuff.

But the thing that struck me about the article wasn’t so much that someone had figured out that people have an algorithm for learning; what I thought was interesting was that this understanding flies in the face of how we generally perceive progress. In a great post on Facebook, Derek explores the idea that when practicing something, it’s really when we sound/look/feel our worst/sloppiest/crappiest that we are making the most progress.  If we’re doing it perfectly, we’re not stretching.  No stretching, no learning.

What I’ve learned from the husband and cooking


My mother loves this photograph. A lot. She told me today that I should enter it in a photo contest (you may or may not know my mother, but her saying this is a pretty big compliment). The thing about the photo is…it’s great. But I really didn’t do it.

Know Thyself

~This is the sixteenth post in a series running through the month of June 2009 in which I attempt to post once a day for the month.*~

From “The Tao Of Poker” by Larry W. Phillips:

Rule 79: In the whole poker process, the least stable part is the player.
The true glitch in the system is the human element. The weak link in the chain is us. Everything else is pretty well scripted and defined. The hands you should (and shouldn’t) play, starting cards, stats, rules, probabilities, and best plays are all well known, tagged, and identified. The loose cannon in the process is the player. Therefore this is the part we have to work on and get under control.

Challah FAIL


~This is the fourteenth post in a series running through the month of June 2009 in which I attempt to post once a day for the month.~

I think it’s important to remember failures as much as successes. Focusing on failure is frustrating and depressing, but in the midst of success, it’s easy to forget how difficult it is to master new skills. As adults, I think this tendency can really hinder our learning. We forget how hard learning can be and we’re afraid of looking stupid, so when we’re just starting out, we get overly concerned about not being good at the thing we’re learning.

Being Neighborly


Our neighbors recently came over to borrow an ingredient they needed for their dinner. No big deal, something we had on hand and something we willing handed over, being neighborly. Today, one of the neighbors came by to “return” what they had borrowed – that is, they had gone to the store and bought a replacement for us. And that made me kind of sad. It was a polite thing to do, to be sure, but something about it felt very isolating – as though what we gave them was thought of as a debt to be repaid instead of a kindness. It was something to “get off the books” instead of an ongoing…for lack of a better word, conversation. An ongoing trading of favors. It felt as though they were saying “yes, we needed you once, but we paid you back, and now the relationship is over.” They may very well not have meant that by their gesture, but that’s how it felt and it struck me as odd, standing there with the “return payment” in my hands.

Happy Birthday Fannie Farmer


Considered the “mother of level measurements,” Fannie Farmer gave precise amounts in her recipes at a time when most called for things like “a piece of butter.”  Like Julia Child, she was a teacher above all who wanted to give women the skills they needed to make their way around the kitchen, and in some cases, the knowledge they needed to take care of themselves with a “respectable” career.  She also believed that diet and nutrition could make a huge difference in a person’s life, particularly the sick and those with life-changing illness like diabetes.  She did not let her own physical ailments (paralyzed for a time at 16 and permanently walking with a limp for the rest of her life) stop her.

Tuesday light bulb|You know more than you know

I just got back from my walk about and stopped at the fridge (after plowing down an ample helping of last night’s leftovers standing right there in the middle of the kitchen) and noticed this list on an envelope, magneted (is that a word?) to the fridge door:

This is what it says:

3-4 sliced garlic

Zest on lemon
med heat
1/2 cup water fr/noodles
squeeze lemon completely

fresh Parmesan

Pie crust

Doing it by heart…

Pie was never my favorite food when I was growing up, but for some reason, I asked my step-mother for an apple pie one day when I was about 8…

Confession time – this whole baking thing happened by accident.  I was not the kid with the easy-bake oven and I don’t have any memories of baking cookies with all the women in my family.  One day while we were at the grocery I asked for apple pie, likely having just laid eyes on some Hostess pre-packaged thing full of green filling, and my step-mom led me to a life-time of baking by misunderstanding what I wanted – how cool is that?