Day One-Hundred-and-Two: We all need therapy (a post involving brownies)

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What’s this about bacon?

I had a stress dream last night. The finer details elude me, but I know that I was trying to escape from something/somewhere/someone. This may be attributable to all the Walking Dead I’ve been watching lately, or the impending job interviews on the horizon. Either way, it’s not a great way to get your nightly rest.

Breakfast and a shower are sometimes all it takes to set things right. Not today. Today called for more intense therapy.

Enter baking.

Baking for me is kind of a double-edged sword. I should mention that I have zero natural flair for cooking. I have no sense of how long to cook things, which flavours will go together (although this is improving with time), and the combination/ratio of ingredients required to ‘just wing’ a dish. I like recipes. No, that’s not true. I love recipes. I love that recipes are freely available on the internet. I love that I can type ‘paleo desserts’ (the diet name that covers all of my intolerances, despite my not actually being paleo) into Google, and get pages upon pages of delicious and bizarre creations to drool over.

I really enjoy baking. When it works. When it doesn’t work, and I have rock-hard pancakes, soggy brownies, or wrong-tasting raw chocolate, it’s not good to be around me. There are knives in the kitchen, and you know…

The funny thing is that my failures never put me off. I just resolve to find a better recipe, to trust my gut (taste-buds) more, and get back on that horse.

The real therapy comes in the final stages, where your ingredients have met in the bowl, and you pour that delicious goop into a tray/tin/mould and watch it become something else in the oven (or fridge – the raw stuff inspires the same kind of awe despite the lack of viewing window). It’s out of my hands at that stage, and all I can do is trust that the recipe is a winner, that my oven is consistent, and that I remember to set the timer.

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This is where the magic happens.

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Damn, baby, you look goooood.

 

Part two of the baking therapy (and this is the part that actually kind of feeds into my obsessive nature and probably isn’t therapy at all) is the clean-up. This is what oven time is for, people. Sure, you’re going to want to spend at least five minutes staring into the oven, enjoying/hating the waves of heat, and wondering if it’s possible to speed this shit up in any way. What you should be doing instead is putting away all the ingredients, washing up the mixing bowl and measuring equipment, and wiping the benches until they sparkle. There’s something satisfying about a clean kitchen. Especially when you pull that baked treat out of the oven. You do not want to place that beauty to cool next to an explosion of flour and a pile of dishes, do you? (If yes, you’re a monster, and you don’t deserve baked-goods-babies.)

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Can you feel the zen? Can you?

 

Part three is the hardest part: waiting for that sucker to cool. Since you’ve already cleaned the kitchen, you deserve some relaxing time. Of course, there’s nothing relaxing about resisting the scent of baked goods wafting through your house. You’ll be telling yourself that third degree burns are worth it to experience the flavour just five minutes earlier.

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Hint: use the exhaust fan to speed up the cooling. Or just to make yourself think you’re speeding up the cooling.

 

Part four is bittersweet. Sometimes your baked goods are also bittersweet; this is a success. Mmmm bittersweet. But I digress. The final stage of the therapy is the most nerve-wracking. You’re finally going to taste the thing that occupied the last hour (usually more) of your time. Will it be worth it? Will your baking dreams be validated? Did you use enough sweetener? The first cut is the deepest. Or, like, the most important. This usually determines the inner texture of a baked good, and whether it cooked all the way through. It’s like on Masterchef, except there’s no irritating ad break, and the only fat judge in your kitchen is you. (Not that you’re fat, but when it comes to food it’s surprising that you’re not enormous.) A failure is disappointing. It leaves you wondering where you went wrong, and who the hell is going to want to eat weird-tasting chocolate sludge. (If you have a brother, that one’s not so hard to answer.) A failure makes you hungry, not only for better-tasting goods, but also for redemption. You will try this again, and you will succeed! Yeah, cook power!

A success? Well… Have you ever made love to an angel on top of a mountain while Elton John plays Your Song on a chocolate-coated piano? I haven’t either. But I imagine the two are similar. Baking successes are those therapy sessions where you walk out smiling and fist pump the air like you’re in a romantic comedy. “I think I’m gonna be alllllll right, Doc,” you tell your bemused therapist through a mouthful of molten chocolate (your therapist in this case being your oven).

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The dampest cake I’ve had all year!

 

Today’s therapy was sweet potato brownies from Eat Drink Paleo (http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/chocolate-brownies-that-blew-me-away/). And they are good. See? I already took a bite. (Excuse the terrible photography. Not so pro at food blogging. I was going to stack them on a plate all artistic-like, but I don’t want to wash a plate.)

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Pull focus from gnarly chewed-on brownie. Good call, auto-focus.

 

If you now feel like some baking therapy, I would encourage you to get onto this. Brownies have double therapy points because, well, brownies. And these ones are healthy, too.

(If you’re interested, I subbed coconut oil for the olive oil, only used a tsp of baking powder and half a tsp of baking soda, and just over half a cup of raw cacao – tasting after each quarter cup. Cue bittersweet, fluffy brownies. Look at me, trusting my gut over here.)

Therapy: success!

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go “clean” the brownie pan.

 

TB

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Day Sixty-Nine: Hey, adulthood, what gives?

I should have realised by now that this ‘grown up’ thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I’m calling bullshit on a few things that adulthood has dished up. In fact, I’m considering suing adulthood on the grounds of false advertising. You see, there are things that were fabled when I was just shy of 20 that have not come to pass.

 

The following are entirely unacceptable and require immediate explanation:

 

Bad skin

ImageI’m calling it: 23 is too far from your teens for pimples to be attributable to teenage hormones. You know that acne is a teenage problem when you get diagnosed with ‘adult acne’. I suffered pretty badly with it through my later teens, hoping against hope that this was just a phase, that there would be a time soon where my skin would be smooth and glowing and people would stop and say, “damn, that’s some nice skin.” It’s not that I’ve lapsed back into full-blown acne at any stage in the last few years, but I am pretty consistently plagued by little bumpy skin demons who love nothing more than to arrive unannounced before big photography-heavy events (think school formal, graduation, significant birthdays). Some days I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I’ll still be fighting spots when I’m 60, my arthritic fingers fumbling to apply globs of concealer over the offending blemishes before I head to bingo. Maybe my friends will even be jealous. Zits are super youthful, right?

I think it’s about time my skin just settled the fuck down and got its life together.

 

Money (or lack thereof)

ImageNobody in my family was ever especially rich, and, while we had some nice things and didn’t struggle, I was hardly growing up a Kardashian. Nevertheless, simple maths told me that based on the number of hours each of my parents worked, we should have been totally rolling in it. Well, they should have been totally rolling in it. I did always suspect they had more up their sleeves than they were letting on. Keep in mind that this was during a time of my life when $10 was a small fortune. I couldn’t wait–well, still can’t wait–for a time when I was making a couple of grand a fortnight and buying like 100 Ghost Drops at a time whenever the hell I wanted. Alas, adulthood has greeted me with a continuing run of casual employment, incredibly modest paychecks, and not nearly enough small flavoured lollies. It’s probably got something to do with six-year-old me’s assumption that by now I would have a job as a singer/actress/model, split my time between London and Paris, and appear on the cover of magazines (I had big plans, ok?).

Since I’ve only just finished studying, I’m going to give adulthood six months grace to address this little hiccup.

Oh, and a tiger. I want a tiger.

 

Cooking skills (or severe lack thereof)

ImageI’m not sure why, because I never was particularly involved in helping my parents with dinner, but I was working under the impression that when it came time for me to get my own place and feed myself I would be some kind of Jamie Oliver-Nigella Lawson hybrid, as beautiful as I was culinarily talented. All I can say is thank god for Google. I shit you not, I had to look up how to boil an egg. Ok, I’m not brain-dead; I get that there is water, a pot, and an egg involved, but I had zero idea how long to put it in, whether to boil the water first then add the egg (turns out to be the wrong way), or why you had to stir the water after you put the eggs in (to centre the yolks, it seems, which would have been helpful to know before I went ahead and let them sit). I sound incompetent or spoilt (the former is probably true), but I really just never had to think about this kind of stuff before now. I didn’t boil too many eggs at the family home, as it turns out. Cooking meat to non-charred, non-bleeding perfection, experimenting with flavours without poisoning myself and others, and learning the difference between a pan that is hot enough and a pan that is instant-stick-and-burn are all coming to me slowly and with much trial and error (mostly error).

I get the feeling that adulthood is going to be reading a lot of recipe books this year…

 

Being disorganised/unmotivated

ImageMy parents are both neat, orderly people, who write things down, manage hectic schedules, and stay on top of bills and birthdays. It seemed that Mum never did something unless it had a purpose, and every spare minute could be effectively used to complete a pending task (no doubt child-related, sorry Mum). I don’t know whether it’s this example or a deep-down knowledge that I only have a finite amount of time on this earth, but I feel like a total waste of space when I’m just sitting down relaxing. Not that this mentality is conducive to achievement. It’s almost the opposite. My mind seems to think that guilt is code for “fuck this, let’s eat chips”. Disorganised may be the wrong word for it. My days are heavily scheduled, just not with stuff that’s immediately important or useful for my future/present. How can I possibly tweak my resume while there’s a fingerprint on that window? I can pay that bill next week after I get paid–ooh, pretty dress, must buy! I have so much washing/cleaning/writing to catch up on on my day off *texts friends to see what they’re doing*. I’m going to get up and go for a run tomorrow–zzzzzz.

If there was a gene that was supposed to click on when I turned 20, I am yet to feel its effects.

 

Maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world that I haven’t crossed irreversibly into some realm of joyless, clear-skinned, freakishly-organised humans. I get the feeling that I’ll look back in ten years’ time and laugh that I’d entertained the notion that I was an adult. Actually, it’s just as likely that I’ll look back and laugh at all the fart jokes I’ve made. Hehe, farts.

 

TB

Day Two: Adulthood, any day now

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(Photo source: Flickr)

When I was a kid, adults were 15. Hell, they were 13 if they had a bit of height and a semi-broken voice. I liked to watch the high school students in my mum’s classes walk by and listen to them talk about assignments and boyfriends and driving lessons. Luckily the mobile phone hadn’t landed, or I’d have sworn they were all famous. Man, they had their shit together. Anyone over 20 was inconceivably grown up. When I hit 13 and wasn’t immediately invited into the inner sanctum of maturity and actually still thought poo was hilarious (it really is), I knew something was up.

15-year-old me was a helpless, hormonal basket-case, dependent on my parents for pretty much everything, and in no way versed in the mysteries of life (unless you count a woman’s ‘special time’ or the paradox of overcleansing causing more pimples as mysteries of life).

Surely by 18, something would click, right?

Then, if I could just finish that degree I’d be well on my way to… what?

My parents got married and bought a house at 22. Admittedly, I’d found ‘the one’, but, based on funds, our wedding venue would be the driveway with reception catering by Subway, and the most significant life purchase I made that year was a snowboarding trip to New Zealand. Expectations are a funny thing (or traumatic if you want to look at it that way); the grass is always greener–though, in this case, the grass was much older and cooler.

I should start by saying that I’m 23 years old and not, in fact, a two-day-old infant. (Apologies to any developmental paediatricians who thought they’d found a fascinating new study subject.) I know that the concept of saying that my life has just begun is kind of the equivalent of a ‘spiritual rebirth’ or ‘life begins at 40’ mentality, but I promise this is a totally pragmatic and logical thing. For the previous five years of my (legally) adult life, I’ve been in child-adult limbo: working part-time but studying and living at home; conducting an adult relationship that involved commuting and sleepovers; and generally maintaining an air of grown-up-ness despite the fact that my parents still did my washing and made my dinner.

Last week I cooked my first meal by myself in my own kitchen.

On Sunday I officially moved in with my boyfriend. (By officially, I mean brought the rest of my crap over.)

Two days ago I submitted my final assignments in my degree.

Yesterday was the first day of my adult life.

You know what?
It’s going well.

The List of Things that Adults Do and Don’t Do has a few more checks beside it:

  • Don’t live with their parents
    To be fair, plenty of adults do live their folks, and I’m certainly not judging if you’ve had to move back there during tough times–if you’re pushing 40 and you never left, there may be a smidgen of judgement. In my case, the excuse was being a poor student (and sharing a car with my mother – see below)
  • Do own their own vehicle
    Strictly speaking, this won’t be true until I actually pay my parents for the car, but rego is looming, the thing needs new tyres, and I’m happy to report that petrol prices are on the increase. At last, I can join the rest of the world in bemoaning the cost of owning a car! I might even get ripped off by a mechanic!
  • Don’t base a meal around toast
    I can also cook pasta and rice, and the other day I even made a chicken stir-fry… from a recipe.

Credit cards applied for: 1
Credit cards approved: 0
Meals burned: 1
TIme spent on phone organising internet (hours): 10293285890
Loads of washing done: 2
Stupid gleeful grins exchanged between my boyfriend and me: 150

Bring on Day Three!

Feel free to swing me some pointers on being an adult. (For example, “adults don’t say ‘swing me some pointers'”.)

The Bopf (TB)