-Vladimir Nabokov (Laughter in the Dark)
It's been one of those crazy semesters--in a lot of ways, I think, crazier than most. For one, I'm moving; I've got to be out of my apartment by December 10th. I won't lie to you either; something shrivels up inside my chest when I think of the behemoth task of putting all of my stuff into boxes and packing it up between now and then. But it's also really exciting. When the Greek and I went to look at the apartment last Tuesday evening, I think we were both 99% sold. Not only is it in a nice neighborhood with shops, a movie theater and lots of restaurants, it's also 15-20 minutes by foot to campus. And that doesn't even begin to explain how huge the apartment is; if my current apartment stole my heart thanks to its shiny wooden floors and large walk-in closet, well, this new place--with its decorative fireplace, dining room with built-in bookcases (my cookbooks need a home!), view of the hills and 3 storage closets--nearly made me swoon. The Greek also had the "kid in a candy store" look that he gets when he's excited about something. There was no other option but to take it. And, despite my minor concerns about how so much life will happen in the next 30 days (and kind of in the midst of Thanksgiving!), I'm ready for a change and excited to begin my "new life." Although I strongly suspect that, when all is said and done, this new life will probably be quite similar to my "old" life. Just minus the 4+ mile commute to campus everyday...and that's enough of a reason to cheer.
I love Just West of the Sun and not only because I know Kana-chan personally. She's a great cook, an inspiring friend and, often, she features lovely photos of Maine, which, long ago when she and her then fiance were waiting for news of where he would do his residency, I nicknamed "The Dream State." Also, she's a thoughtful writer and cook; what other blogger do you know who writes about slaying chickens and fabulous cocktails?
I don't know this next blogger personally, but I found out about her through Just West of the Sun: Megan from Interchange25. Her blog is beautiful and her photos make you want to step inside them and become a part of the scene. I was seriously jealous when I saw the photos from her apple picking excursion, which is something I've been wanting to do all fall, but have not yet had time to do (and my chances are looking slim).
I'm also a huge fan of A Plum By Any Other Name. Maybe it's my recent prune fetish, maybe it's the fact that she always has interesting and inspiring recipes that scream New England to me. There have been Lavender Blueberry Scones, Goat Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms and Pasta Fazool. The recipes veer from the classic to the creative. And, best of all, the writing is smart and introspective.
And, for my final two, I will return to friends--to the bloggers I know personally, which, yes, is half the reason I so enjoy reading them. The first is Evening Prose at Ongoing Composition for Cello and Pen. Sadly, now that she's become a real professor, Evening Prose doesn't update as often as she used to. However, if you, like me, are coming around to the idea that patience leads to good things, you'll understand what I mean when I say that her posts are worth the wait. The writing is lovely and the stories--particularly her most recent update about the Bach Suites!--are like something out of a novel. Plus, you can't help but admire somebody who suddenly, in her late 20s, decides she's going to learn to play the cello.
And, finally, I turn to Josefina at Nothing But Perfection. Josefina is prolific and, even better, as she has said herself at times: a citizen of the world Through her blog's archives and her reminiscences, you can experience that strange and sometimes wonderful place that people like me and my fellow graduate students have dedicated our young lives (and maybe even our future lives) to. Her writing is both raw and passionate; in one post she will tell you about literary theory and perhaps dissect Swedish pop music; then, in the next, she will teach you how to make Swedish Mushroom Quiche.
Yes, the blogging community can seem vast and overwhelming, but it's also remarkably inspiring. And, because I want to blog while I can--I sense that things will begin to fall apart as December 10th nears--I offer you a recipe that may well and truly be the best cornbread recipe you'll ever eat in your life: Custard-Cornbread or, as it's sometimes called in New England, Spider Cake. The idea is that the cream you pour into the center of the batter spreads out--perhaps like a spider's eight legs or, as I like to imagine it, more like a spiderweb that expands over the cake. The Greek and I had this for breakfast on Saturday and, to make the long story of the almost caramelized, crisp edges and barely sweet flavor short, after his first bite, he told me I had "golden hands." I don't know if the cook is ever better than her recipe, but suffice it to say that this cornbread is everything and anything you could ever want on a crisp fall morning. And, with a little maple syrup, it's capable of rivaling pancakes. Yes, change is nigh!
Custard-Filled Cornbread, or Spider Cake
From Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life (her own recipe was inspired by a similar one in Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book)
Yields 6 to 8 filling pieces of cornbread that will make you want to put another batch in the oven before breakfast is even over (seriously)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably medium ground for texture
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups 2% milk (the original recipe called for whole milk, but this is what I had)
1 1/2 Tbsp. distilled vinegar
1 cup heavy cream
Maple syrup, for serving
-Preheat the oven to 350.
-Butter an 8-inch square or a 10 1/2-by-7-inch rectangular baking dish. Place the dish in the oven to warm while you make the batter.
-In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.
-In the meantime, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda and baking powder in a small bowl.
-After the butter has cooled a little, add the eggs and whisk to blend.
-Add the sugar, salt, milk and vinegar and, again, whisk well.
-Then, add the flour mixture while whisking constantly. The batter is quite runny and may foam slightly (because of the vinegar and baking powder/soda combination); also beware of lumps. Make sure that you whisk until no lumps are visible (scrape the bottom of the bowl to be sure).
-Take the heated pan from the oven and pour in the batter.
-Then, take the cup of heavy cream and pour it into the batter's center. Do not stir and be careful not to move the pan around too much on your trip to the oven (use a deep dish so as to avoid potential spills and/or baking overflow in the oven).
-Slide the pan into the oven and bake for about 50 minutes to an hour. N.B.: While it may not look as done as it could when you take it out of the oven, once it's brown around the edges and it's sizzling, remove it. You want the top to be crispy and for the bread at the bottom to be well baked and firm.
-Definitely serve this while it's still hot and, depending on your tastes, with a little maple syrup, maybe with honey and with some fresh fruit on the side.
-Breakfast glory awaits!