All of my adult life, I’ve been a bit phobic about making the pinched biscuits my mother made at least daily when I was growing up. She showed me her process (there was no recipe) repeatedly, and every batch I made was a crushing disappointment (to me, anyway).
Fast forward thirty years, and I’ve been making my own bread—amongst other things—for the last several months. At first, I had to. I couldn’t afford to buy groceries for a while immediately following my contract ending in June. But I’ve come to genuinely enjoy the process as well as the result.
So tonight, on a whim, I made biscuits. The term we used as kids was cat heads: lumpy, unattractive biscuits. Nothing at all like Moma’s smooth perfect little morsels. But you know what? The interior was perfect, and I learned a thing or two.
And there was no fear. None. I just went into the kitchen and made biscuits like there was nothing to it.
And truly? There was nothing to it. I needed to fail. I’ve said it a hundred times a hundred times to students in knitting classes. Adults hate being beginners, but it’s good for us. We don’t know everything. We can’t know everything. But especially as adults, we really have to work against thinking that because we haven’t done a thing that we can’t do a thing. We’re probably going to screw the pooch a time or twelve, and that’s ok. We learn from our mistakes. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot.
So tonight, I made cat heads. They taste good, and the crusts are fucking divine. The interiors are dense but fluffy. The taste was ok. The shapes definitely need some work. And the sizes were all over the place. Now I have ideas for how to improve them. For next time. Because practice may not make perfect, but it brings us closer to where we really want to be.
I drove into Rockford to visit Valli Produce and picked up some small (roughly racquetball-sized) eggplants along with a jar of prepared pesto. I also got several cheeses including one that I’d never heard of before: incanestrato.
Today for lunch, I cooked one of the eggplants sliced with a handful of sliced mushrooms and halved cherry tomatoes, julienned sun-dried tomatoes and shallot, and a single fat scallion in a large skillet along with a large dollop of the pesto. I served that over whole wheat spaghetti topped with a generous grating of incanestrato.
I’m generally not a great fan of licorice or anise flavor, but there was a sharp but very pleasant note of licorice in what I’m assuming was the cheese (seems unlikely it came from the pesto). Incanestrato is a hard Italian cheese made from cow or cow and goat milk, salt, and herbs. It seems plausible that one of those herbs might be anise, and if so, I’m impressed. It made a believer out of me. I really enjoyed even that specific part of this dish.
Turns out it was the pesto, but the cheese is still excellent.
I have floundered as a writer. I’ve been cautious and cognizant that, in these days of constant scrutiny and universal access to practically everything we publish (and much we’d prefer not to), anything I wrote could make it more difficult for me to find work somewhere down the road. So I’d sit at my keyboard looking at a blank screen and just … well, flounder.
Certainly there are less personal things I could write about. Come on. After over fifteen years in an industry that the majority of my readers support, there are limitless topics of interest that I have working—even extensive—knowledge of. But those things don’t generally inspire me to write. They inspire me to work. They inspire me to teach. They inspire me to create, design, and even to publish, but that isn’t the same thing.
Some of the most passionate, eloquent, and effective prose I’ve ever written has been in social media posts dealing with current events—topics that truly matter to me and that feel critical in this time of social and political unrest. I write from the heart about race, sexuality, abuse, and abuses. I write about struggle and heartache. I write about loss and finding one’s way after loss. What I write about, put simply, is life. That’s where my writing shines.
So that’s the point to which I’ve come, yet again, to either pick up the torch and let its light shine thoroughly onto the things that hide in the shadows or to walk past yet again and to let those creeping things in the dark continue their ugly work. I choose light. I’m no Herodotus. I’m neither Edward R. Murrow nor Molly Ivins. Hell, I’m not even Arianna Huffington. But I have a torch. And I’m here to use it.
I have had the great fortune of falling many times over the course of my life. The knees of the soul I walk around in are scarred and more than a little swollen. I’ve been known to use a cane, and frankly, it’s a very good thing that there are friends beside me to keep me upright on occasion.
This is reality, and as my own personal bard once put it, reality is Ralph.* It doesn’t make great fiction, but it’s definitely inspiring—educational, even. It’s ridiculous and nonsensical and utterly mind-boggling. And it keeps going.
This is a blog. It isn’t the first that’s resided here, and it may not be the last. It is, however, a new beginning. An exciting one.
I’m a writer, you see—and a fiber artist, a graphic artist, a designer, an editor, a geek, an entertainer, a hard ass and big softie, a patron of all things delightful, a pretty damned good cook, and a dreamer of impossible dreams. But ultimately, I write. I talk. I run my freaking gob until the cows come home. And amazingly, some of you actually listen.
What comes next? Well, life does. Obviously. What does that entail? Ha! You’re funny. I don’t have those answers. But I’m mightily full of questions.
* From Lisey’s Story by Stephen King