Rhubarb for others

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Last week was a busy one at the cookbook store where I’m lucky enough to work. Spring has an incredible lineup of new cookbook releases and Book Larder is hosting fantastic authors to promote their work. Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen stopped by to a packed house to chat about her new book, Bowl + Spoon and something she said struck me.  Ashley asked her how she deals with falling into a “food rut”. I imagine a food rut for a food blogger happens a fair amount of time and can be incredibly frustrating, since you kind of need to keep cooking to continue creating the content that is your livelihood. Sara said that when she feels stuck and uninspired, she cooks for others.

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You know that book/thing “The Five Love Languages”? It is supposed to tell you the specific way you communicate and receive love best. They are Gifts, Touch, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation and Acts of Service.  None of those ever felt quite apt for me and also don’t stick me in a category corner. I decided that Food was my love language. Edible art is can cause me to tear up while clapping with glee. That is how I feel the most loved. Creating food for others is how I express to them that they are worthy of being spoiled. Worthy of time being spent recipe hunting, shopping, cooking and cleaning up for them. My inspirational sister-in-law  just birthed a child AND became a doctor, all in one week! My initial instinct was to create a week’s worth of meals for them as a way to bolster and congratulate. Unfortunately we live thousands of miles away from each other so that is a bit impossible at the moment.

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The post winter/ pre spring season had caused me to fall into a bit of a food rut. Looking through all these incredible cookbooks at work, made me at once antsy to cook, and simultaneously too overwhelmed and (ironically) uninspired. So many dishes were middling, intimidating or their ingredients just weren’t in season yet.  Recipe after recipe just created a glaze to fall over my eyes while reading books that had previously incited ooohs! and sparked brain whirrings. Then two things happened that helped yank me out of this stupid attitude of foodish boredom. Sara encouraged me to remember how connecting and communal food is when creating it for others. Also, rhubarb showed up at the farmer’s market. Armed with magenta stalks and a semi-selfless attitude, I invited a couple friends over for dinner. Dinner, rhubarb galette, a hysterical movie and dear friends de-glazed my eyes and brought my attention back to viewing food as an offering of my affection to others.

Rhubarb Galette

Pie crust is still a Herculean task in my mind, so I all about the free wheeling nature of a galette, be it savory or sweet.

I followed Food52’s tips of galette creation, and subbed half the AP flour with whole wheat flour because health. You can do the same or keep it all AP. You be you. 

Chop up about a 1 to 1.5 lbs of washed rhubarb. Mix in a bowl with a tablespoon or 2 of sugar. I like my rhubarb more tart than sweet. Add a bit of vanilla extract and a bit of ground cardamom. Grate fresh ginger* ( to your liking) to the rhubarb and mix it all together. Add rhubarb mixture it to the chilled, rolled out dough you created with Food52’s help. Fold over the edges, paint on an egg wash and sprinkle a bit of brown sugar to the crust. Bake for 40 minutes or so, checking to be sure it is adequately crispy and bubbly. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and alongside friends. 

 

 

 

* I keep my ginger in the freezer which I find makes grating much simpler.

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Practice makes … better

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Though there are endless quotes and stories of people who achieve incredible things after a myriad of failings, it is still intimidating to begin or jump in to something new. Sure, these stories and quotes are inspirational and motivational for a moment, but what keeps you working, toiling, searching and plodding along in failure or mediocrity until you reach something akin to success? Obviously, it must be due mostly to some innate tenacity within the individual which is how they, the few, become lauded. I’m really not trying to say anything vital here, just thinking in writing and lately I’ve been asking myself why I get intimidated to begin something new.

“Well, I don’t know how to do that!” is what I tell myself. But that isn’t a good enough excuse not to begin to learn something! How are you  supposed to just KNOW something without any learning, experimenting, practicing and exploration?

“But I’m not talented enough!” Pfft, so damn what. Is something only fun, challenging and exciting if it comes out perfect and world changing? Sure, that is exciting, but it isn’t the point of creating and doing something you enjoy, to actually ENJOY it?

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For our 1 year anniversary, the spouse got me a little light so I wouldn’t have any more excuses not to practice food photography. For a while now, I’ve blamed the lighting and the grotesque countertops that populate our kitchen as the reason why I cannot possibly play with food, camera and photoshop. Sure those are real, but they are just stupid excuses because I know that the photos I take in this unpracticed state won’t look amazing. Which is why I don’t practice. WHERE IS THE LOGIC? Precisely. There is none in this argument.

As someone who prizes logic and sense above all, I shouldn’t let it continue. I love following food bloggers with incredible photography ( Cannelle et Vanille, Local Milk, Leela Cyd), which is inspirational but it also tends to shut me down since I assume the first photo I take won’t be as good as their most recent one. And why should it without the education and carefully practiced skill they have? Anyway, this entire rant, Gollum style, is just to say that I want to push myself to practice many different skills, projects and techniques in the future. And I want to post it here as a way to see the growth that will (hopefully) occur and to not let non-perfection damper practice.

The practice

 

 

I’ve been taking Skillshare classes on Indesign, hand lettering and food photography. While watching the hand lettering one, I almost fell into the another trap after seeing how incredible  Mary Kate McDevitt’s lettering was. Because obviously she came out of the womb with a freshly sharpened pencil and a perfectly calligraphied message, “Hello World”. But as I kept watching, she continued to erase, and start huge chunks of her project over if they didn’t look right. Her gorgeous final project was not a first draft, or a second or even a 10th. She erased, started over, traced and re-sketched continually. Her exquisitely whimsical end was the result not only of an official education and personal talent, but a dedication to her craft and the hard work it will take to get there. I’ve learned many fun things from that class, but I keep going back to that “lesson”.

 

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Another story that I keep going back to is Julia Child. Anyone who has turned on a stove to cook something probably looks to Julia, but I recently read “My Life in Paris” which just shocked me with how (relatively) late in life she officially learned how to cook. She started taking cooking classes at age 37 and it took 10 years of intense writing, cooking and experimenting to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Just think of that when you are like 23 and dramatically lamenting that you don’t know what to do with your life. Also, this quaintly illustrated book about her life looks delightful.

What are you too intimated to begin for lack of knowledge and experience? Lets both through nonsensical intimidation out the window and get to work.